There are more and more initiatives by companies like Mars, General Mills, Kraft and Panera Bread to remove food dyes from their products because they are listening to their consumers who are voting with their dollar. Diligent consumers and concerned parents are starting to recognize how harmful these food dyes are to their physical and mental health.
“The pigments that make grapes purple and pumpkin orange protect brain cells, while the artificial ingredients that mimic these colors in processed foods can impair brain function.” Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, M.D., the authors of The Happiness Diet
On a recent broadcast, the prominent Doctor Oz also warns us about the many dangers of these artificial colors. Made from coal tar and petroleum these carcinogenic dyes can be cause everything from hyperactivity to behavioral problems to cancer. We all need to be on the look out for and avoid all synthetic coloring. These include Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. Some processed food sources may seem more obvious, but where else might these food dyes be lurking? And, how can we avoid them?
You might be surprised to learn of all the products containing food dyes.
Oranges – In 1956, the FDA approved the use of Citrus Red 2 for use on oranges. California and Arizona have banned the use of Citrus Red 2 but states like Florida use the dye to give their oranges a more appealing, uniform color. To avoid Citrus Red 2, buy oranges that were grown in California or Arizona, or buy organic. Also, avoid buying oranges from Florida at the beginning of the orange season when the oranges are more likely to have dyes sprayed on them.
Movie Theater Popcorn – Ever wonder how that movie theater popcorn got so yellow? It’s not from real butter! Most movie theater popcorn contains yellow dyes, either in the butter or in the oil they use to pop the popcorn. Opt to bring your own home-popped popcorn or other snack instead. We love using an old-fashioned Whirly-Pop style popcorn popper on the stove. Tastes better than movie theater popcorn, and without carcinogenic chemicals.
Yogurt – You might think you’re eating healthy by eating yogurt because it contains probiotics, but next time you reach for your yogurt, check out the ingredients. Many contain artificial food coloring. Opt for the more natural versions that do not contain dyes like Dannon All Natural or Wallaby Organic.
Marshmallows – But wait, marshmallows are white! That’s true, but some white products achieve that bright white color by using blue dyes. Most marshmallows sold at your local grocery store contain blue dye. Companies like Dandies and Elyon make dye-free versions.
Pickles – Make a quick run to the fridge and check out the ingredients on your jar of pickles. Many contain yellow dye. Stores containing more natural products like Whole Foods or your local health food store sell dye-free pickles from manufacturers like Bubbie’s. Or you can ferment your own quite easily with an organic cucumber, fresh dill, sea salt, vinegar and water. Not only don’t these contain nasty chemicals or preservatives, they taste better too.
Cheese – Some cheeses are colored naturally with annatto, while many others are colored with yellow dye. In April, 2015, Kraft announced they would be making the switch to natural color alternatives for some of their macaroni and cheese products but many of the macaroni and cheese mixes on the shelves still contain yellow dye. Read the ingredients on your cheese and cheese-flavored products including cheese popcorn, cheese puffs, and cheese slices. Steer clear of those containing yellow dye.
Kid Snacks – While some food companies are working to remove food dyes from their products, many kids snacks like Nutri-Grain bars and other healthy imposers still contain them. Studies have shown that these dyes can trigger everything from depression to anxiety to hyperactivity to cancer. Please note that dye-free is not the only criteria for choosing snacks and drinks. Also watch for items that produce similar affects like artificial preservatives (TBHQ/BHT/BHA), artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose), MSG, olestra, HFCS, nitrates/nitrites, sulfites, or potassium bromate. To avoid this dilemma, make sure to check labels, buy organic and choose wisely.
Toothpaste – Most people don’t even think twice about their toothpaste but many contain dyes and even such a small amount can have an impact on health and behavior. Tom’s of Maine is one company that sells dye-free toothpaste for both kids and adults and can be found at Target.
Soaps and Detergents – Another product that most people don’t even think about are the dyes in their soaps and detergents. You may think, “But wait, I’m not eating it.” True, but anything placed on the skin gets absorbed by the body and goes right into the bloodstream. Switch to soap bars like Ivory Original instead of the brightly colored soap bars, and Free and Clear versions of laundry detergent like Tide Free, All Free Clear, or Seventh Generation products.
Salad Dressing and other Condiments – If you’re like most Americans, your refrigerator is filled with colorful condiments from salad dressing to BBQ sauce. Many do not realize that commercial condiments often contain food dye and other harmful additives. Time to clean it out the fridge. Head to your local health food store or make your own.
Switching to a clean diet can help you avoid these products altogether. This involves avoiding foods that have unnecessary preservatives, additives or chemicals, like artificial dyes. If there is a mysterious ingredient you can’t pronounce or if it evokes images of scientists in white lab coats, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.