Food additives serve a number of purposes. Some additives help to preserve your food. Others improve taste or appearance. But many food additives, like artificial colors, can have dangerous side effects and should be avoided.
Artificial Food Colorings Explained
Artificial food coloring additives are chemicals that don’t occur naturally–they’re created in a lab. They’re made from petroleum and contain coal tar and acetone. In addition, chemical food coloring may contain lead and arsenic.
Dangers of Artificial Food Coloring
Studies have shown that rats who eat artificially colored foods display hyperactivity and an inability to focus on tasks. Scientists believe that artificial food coloring may be behind cases of ADHD, ADD and autism. Artificial food coloring has also been linked to various types of cancer. Here are some of the most popular artificial colorings and the dangerous side effects associated with them:
- Blue #1 is used in baked goods, sweets and sodas. It can cause cell damage on a chromosomal level, leaving you vulnerable to cancer.
- Green #3 is sometimes found in sweets and soft drinks. It may cause bladder cancer.
- Red #40 is found in many types of foods ranging from candy to meat products, including pet food and breakfast sausages. It may cause cancer.
- Yellow #5 is the second most popular artificial food coloring. It’s been shown to contribute to attention deficits in children and may cause allergic reactions in many. Yellow #5 is used in pet foods, baked goods and candy.
- Citrus Red #1 and #2 are used to color Florida oranges and they may cause cancer, especially if you eat the orange peels.
- Red #3 is used in pie fillings and ice cream. It may cause nerve damage and cancer of the thyroid.
Avoiding Artificial Food Coloring Additives
Artificial food colorings are added to a wide range of processed foods, usually to make the foods more appetizing in appearance. Artificial colorings are also common in foods made for children. Here are some tips to help you eliminate artificial colors from your diet.
- Read the labels. Look for Blue #1 or #2, Green #3, Red #40, Yellow #5 and #6 and Red #3.
- Avoid processed foods, especially if their colorings are unnatural or bright.
- Look for foods made with natural colors like beet root extract, fruit juice, paprika, saffron, caramel color, beta carotene and tumeric.
- Avoid flavored milk.
Not all food colorings are artificial, so be sure to read the labels carefully. Many food colorings are made naturally from vegetable and other plant extracts. Use your common sense where bright, unnatural colors are concerned. Many companies have already begun using natural food colors in the place of artificial ones. Be aware that processed foods marketed to children are especially high in artificial colors, and that these chemicals can adversely affect your childrens’ health.
The best way to avoid artificial colors is to eat whole foods, like fruit, vegetables, meat and legumes that you buy fresh and prepare at home yourself.