Food Dyes

One of the most widely used and most DANGEROUS additives used – food dyes.

Food dyes are artificial chemicals added to foods to change and enhance their color.  These dyes are created synthetically from burning coal tar or from petroleum.  I’m sure most people wouldn’t intentionally eat or feed byproducts of petroleum to their family.  The issue here though is that it is hidden in a lot of our foods.

Food dyes have been controversial for some time.  Ironically enough, most have been banned because of their adverse effects on laboratory animals.  However, approved dyes used in our foods still pose health concerns.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) states that every year, food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into U.S. foods.

I admit that when I was younger I never questioned how certain foods or drinks got their color, I mean most people don’t right?  Grocery stores, gas stations, etc. have shelves filled with foods that can sit for long periods of time without spoiling.  Have you ever wondered how that’s possible?  These foods are far from their original state.  They are highly processed and filled with additives and preservatives to give them a longer shelf life and make them look more appealing.

As a mother, it makes me sick that artificial food dyes are added to our foods (that are already nutritionally void) to target our children.  Look at “kid friendly” foods next time you’re shopping, a lot are brightly colored to get your child’s attention.  It’s hard for most children to resist rainbow colored candies, cereal, or brightly colored juices.  Now this leads me into food dyes and behavior.  Artificial food dyes have been linked to behavioral problems, various types of cancers and other problems.  Here is one study showing the link between food coloring and behavior:

In the European Union (EU), foods that contain artificial food dyes are required to carry a warning on the label saying: “Consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”  This is not the case in the US, but can you imagine how that would influence a person’s decision to grab for such a “food.”

Research on dyes and behavior is still developing however I know parents who have noticed drastic behavioral changes with removal of artificial dyes from their child’s diet.

The phrase “taste the rainbow” is one I completely agree with however this needs to be with whole foods that are found in nature.  In other words, NOT foods that have been altered and processed to be such.

Tips moving forward to avoid food dyes:

  • Stick to real foods that are in their whole form
  • Buy organic whenever possible
  • Read your labels
  • Check Personal Care Products – toothpastes, mouthwash, makeups, etc., as these can contain artificial dyes as well
  • Use Natural Alternatives – buy dyes that are naturally derived or better yet make your own at home from food sources like these:
    • Red: Beets (juiced or powder)
    • Orange: Carrots (juiced)
    • Yellow: Turmeric
    • Green: Spinach (juice or whole leaves)
    • Blue: Red cabbage boiled + baking soda
    • Purple: Red cabbage boiled

Artificial food dyes do nothing to improve the nutritional value of a food rather they enhance the color of processed foods to make them more appealing (especially to our young children).  There is a lot more information out there than I have given you so I challenge you to research more of the harmful effects that food dyes pose on our health.  If you haven’t heard me say it before – you are your own health advocate – it’s important for you to do your research for you and your family’s health.

-Dr. Stephanie

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