Most parents know that cheap red cordial drinks, candies and snack foods heavily laden with various artificial dyes and colorings causes hyperactivity in their kids at parties and on other occasions.
Some kids are allergic to various dyes. Although extensive research over more than 30 years has failed to find conclusive evidence of a causal link between food colorings and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is good evidence that artificial food colorings can cause hyperactivity.
A study by the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom in 2007 showed that drinks containing artificial food colors increased the hyperactive behavior of children from 3-9, particularly the older children.
Red and yellow dyes appear to be the most problematic.
Other behavioral changes that have been linked with artificial dyes and colors, which are essentially inorganic chemicals, derived from petroleum, are:
The good news is that there are many fabulous natural, organic food colors available that are derived from natural foods that provide healthy alternatives. You can make many of these yourself or buy them from health food stores.
Various natural food dyes are now being produced as alternatives to the synthetic and petroleum derived ones. Of course, natural food colors, while organic can sometimes trigger allergic reactions in some people, just like the allergic reaction caused by peanuts and other foods. Natural colors known to cause problems include cochineal, annatto and carmineare. Some examples of commercially available natural food colors, derived from spices, vegetables, fruits and insects include:
Natural, homemade food colorings are never going to have the intensity of the artificial chemical dyes, nevertheless they do an excellent job for most foods and dishes. You can simmer various fruit and vegetable extracts to concentrate the color.
Beets are the best option for purples and pinks. You only have to look at your hands after handling beets to know the strength and intensity of beet dyes. You can use the juice from tinned beets or kind, or make your own by boiling, juicing, or homogenising the raw or cooked vegetable.
For many dishes adding pureed beets adds nutrients as well as color. Beets, mashed or shredded add a slight sweetness and intense purple or pink color to frosting, puddings and cakes.
Another option is grape juice concentrate.
Red cabbage can be used to make both purple and blue food coloring. For purple, cut and boil the cabbage until the water is very dark and concentrated. This will give you a pretty purple dye. Adding a little baking soda changes the color to blue.
Red colors can be derived from any red fruit such as like raspberries, cranberries or pomegranate. These fruits can be juiced or homogenized to yield the colored juice. For baked goods, lemon juice reacts with cocoa powder to produce a red color. You can concentrate the red color of raspberries or other red fruits by heating gently to evaporate some of the moisture. The thick syrup will have an intense color.
Carrots are the obvious source of orange colors, but you can also try golden beet juice. Citrus peel dies not yield much color but it can be used to create orange spots.
Mix fine turmeric powder with a little hot water to form a paste. You can also try golden beet juice. Saffron is also excellent, but it is expensive. Vanilla extract also provides a yellow color. The outer skins of yellow onions can also be used to make a yellow color. Various yellow flowers such as daffodil and buttercups can also be used.
Cook frozen or fresh blueberries gently over low heat, stirring frequently, until a thick syrup is formed. Sieve the mixture to remove pulp. Reduce again. Allow to cool.
Cook blueberries or blackberries over low heat, sieve to remove the pulp. Red cabbage can be used to make both purple and blue food coloring. For purple, cut and boil the cabbage until the water is very dark and concentrated. This will give you a pretty purple dye. For blue, stir in some baking powder which will change the color to blue.
Homogenised or freshly juiced spinach or other green leaved vegetables, provide dark green colors. Use turmeric paste to get lighter green colors. Blueberry juice can also be combined with turmeric to make green
Sifted cocoa, carob powder and coffee are the obvious ways to get brown colors.