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Food coloring matters: should you forego the foods with food dyes?

food dyes in cerealAre synthetic food dyes damaging your health and livelihood? Could they be a factor in your lack of focus? Your kid’s inability to sit still? The cancer of your dear friend?

Yes. Synthetic food dyes could be contributing to those issues and more.

What’s the connection between food dyes and behavior or cancer?

Recent studies are proving that synthetic food dyes may be linked to both our physical and mental health. Some of the health problems connected with the consumption of food dyes include:

  • hyperactivity
  • lack of concentration
  • ADD/ADHD
  • aggressive behavior
  • tumors

The behavior issues quickly become a triple play when you’re the batting team. So not good! First you’re dealing with the distraction. Then the delay or lack of finishing the task at hand. Plus, if you’re taking a prescription medication for the issue, you’re dealing with whatever that drug may be doing to your body over the long-term, which I’m willing to bet is not good.

Granted, sometimes medication is absolutely necessary. But what if it’s the food dyes that pushed your kiddo over the edge and into that diagnosis and prescription? What if those symptoms would go away once he stopped eating and drinking the food dyes?

Now when a tumor is involved, patients are often advised to stop eating potentially carcinogenic foods. Food dyes are one of them. Why give your body even more to battle?

Then why do we have synthetic food dyes?

food dyes st pats cookiesFood dyes were created to add color to foods – so we would be more drawn to buy them and eat them. Think about it. Which cereals do kids point at first – the tan Os or rainbow of colors? The light purple popsicle made from organic grape juice or the velvet purple one shaped like a rocket? The ice cream treat with sprinkles or without?

In parts of Europe, manufacturers must put warnings about the effects of food dyes on product labels. But in the U.S., manufacturers still only have to list the food dyes in the ingredients. Common man-made food dyes may be listed as:

  • Blue #1 (Brilliant Blue, FD&C Blue No. 1)
  • Blue #2 (Indigo Carmine, FD&C Blue No. 2)
  • Citrus Red #2
  • Green 3 (Fast Green, FD&C Green No. 3)
  • Orange B
  • Red #3 (Erythrosine)
  • Red 40 (Allura Red, FD&C Red No.40)
  • Yellow 5 (Tartrazine)
  • Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow)
  • annatto
  • caramel coloring
  • FD&C Lakes
  • artificial color

You may find these food dyes in beverages, baked goods, cereals, gelatin desserts, dessert powers, candy, gum, ice cream, maraschino cherries, pepperoncini and other jarred foods, sausage casings, pet food and personal care products such as medicines and shampoo. Note this is not a complete list. And you may be surprised at how even some brown or white foods contain food dyes as well.

What if these food dyes were never created in the first place? If only.

How do we avoid food dyes?

The good news is that you can change your shopping habits and your kids’ desires.

  1. Say goodbye to the foods with food dyes. Tell your kids the truth about the dyes  and that you only want what’s good for them and yourself (literally and figuratively). Make it a team mission to toss them out together.
  2. Shop mostly the outside aisles of the grocery store, focusing on whole foods – those foods that will rot in a few days. If you buy a few packaged goods, look for those without bright colors or at least ones with organic or non-GMO labels. (Some organic products may contain color from natural sources such as beets, beta-carotene or turmeric.)
  3. When out, opt for treats without the dyes. Think funnel cake (though the mix may have some food dye) instead of sno-cone and popcorn instead of candy.
  4. Celebrate your healthier lifestyle by finding recipes for treats without the food dyes. For St. Patrick’s Day, try these healthier recipes for green pancakes, Shamrock smoothies or green ice cream!

Ideally, foods with food dyes would be boycotted until banned, especially for kids and in schools. The food dyes only entice us to put harmful stuff into our bodies, possibly adding to our struggles while sucking away our livelihood. So be your own kind of bright and avoid the fake colors!

Read about other foods and the symptoms they cause in my blog post “Are food allergies and behaviors linked?”.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.