Food is good. Beautiful food is better. At least that’s kind of how our brain processes it. A beautiful spread of food at a cookout makes you want to eat it. The same goes for all those online pictures we spend hours drooling over while we look for a new recipe to make. That’s why Pinterest boards are full of pictures of pretty food or why a friends picture on Facebook of what they had to eat at restaurant makes you want to go there.
We eat with our eyes first. In fact, how food looks is one of the first sensory criteria that we use to make decisions about the food we eat. That’s why processed food manufacturers try to make the food look more appealing with artificial colors.
Unfortunately, those synthetic dyes and chemical compounds are made from coal-tar or petroleum derivatives to enhance the color of food. Needless to say, neither of those are naturally occurring in our food. What’s worse is they add absolutely nothing to the value of the foods we eat but do carry some serious risks!
By now you’ve probably read that artificial colors and dyes are linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity, and headaches. If you’re a parent, you should also know that these chemicals are linked to or can contribute to hyperactivity, ADHD, ADD, visual and learning disorders, and nerve damage in children. Studies are now showing that these substances are both toxic and carcinogenic.
The good news is with a little know-how you can make food look good without the artificial colors!
I just made a great new treat with all the sweet but none of the artificial colors or flavors with my girls. Try these homemade watermelon popsicles. They are so good your kids won’t miss all that other stuff and you can feel good about giving it to them.
I’m always on the lookout for ways to color our foods naturally. Check out my Pinterest page for some inspired creations like a recipe for raw sprinkles I found that is simply dried raspberries and the zest of oranges, lemons and limes.
More companies are getting the message about the dangers and opting to find another way to make their food more appealing. General Mills, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Panera, Kraft Foods and Subway have all announced they will phase out artificial flavors and colors from their food.
It’s a good start, but the problem is bigger than that. Artificial colors aren’t just in our food supply. They are often used in Vitamins, pet food, cough syrup, toothpaste, shampoo, even some make up.
Unfortunately, until EVERYONE makes the decision to remove artificial colors you still need to read labels.
Here are a few to AVOID.
Blue #1 and Blue#2
are banned in Norway, Finland and France but you can find them in the U.S. in candy, cereal, soda and sports drinks. Research has linked them to brain cancer and inhibiting nerve-cell development.
Red #3 and Red #40.
Red #3 wasn’t deemed safe to be used topically but the FDA says can still eat it! What? I have no idea how that even makes sense? Red #40 isn’t much better. In the UK it is not recommended for children. In the U.S you can find it in ice cream, fruit cocktails, cherry pie mix and other bakery products. I believe this is completely unacceptable.
Yellow #5 and Yellow #6
They are two other dyes allowed here but banned in Norway and Austria for containing cancer-causing compounds.
Now, you know I would never depress you with the sad state of our food then leave you without any hope. There is always hope. You can use all kinds of foods to naturally color your food in baking. I’ve listed several options in My Healthy Lifestyle Guide along with some amazing swaps that will help you eliminate foods with artificial colors like, using Cascadian Farms Fruitful O’s instead of Fruit Loops.
Look, we all have to help each other find better ways. If you have a great natural swap or way to enhance the color of food naturally I’d love to hear from you! You can find me at [email protected]