Have you thought about switching to natural food colours? Introducing chemicals into the diet can carry health risks. Some synthetic food additives, such as artificial colours, have been associated with adverse effects in some people, such as allergic reactions, digestive problems and behavioural disorders in susceptible children.
For this reason, there is a growing demand for natural food colours as an alternative. Looking for a healthier but equally attractive option to reduce exposure to chemical additives in your diet?
What are natural food colours and where do they come from?
Natural food colours are obtained from plant, animal or mineral sources and do not undergo intensive chemical processing. Ingredients such as beetroot, saffron, turmeric and spirulina can provide vibrant and safe colours for food.
Today, consumers are looking for more natural and less processed options, and are more attentive to the composition of the food they eat.
It is important to note that while natural dyes are considered safer than synthetic dyes, they may also cause allergic reactions in some sensitive individuals. In addition, it is essential to ensure that the natural dyes used are of reliable origin and meet food safety and quality standards.
Synthetic food colours and their risks
Food colours are important in the food industry because they improve the visual appearance of foods and beverages, making them more attractive to consumers. Food colours help to maintain or enhance the natural colour of foods and ensure visual consistency in processed products.
Several common synthetic food colours are widely used in the food industry. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used ones and the possible adverse effects associated with their consumption in some sensitive individuals:
- Tartrazine (E102). It is a bright yellow dye found in a variety of products, such as beverages, candies, desserts and baked goods. Some people may be sensitive to tartrazine and experience allergic reactions, such as hives, asthma, itching, skin redness and difficulty breathing.
- Twilight Yellow (E110). It is an orange-yellow colouring used in foods such as ice cream, soft drinks and confectionery. It can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and has been associated with hyperactivity in some children.
- Quinoline Yellow (E104). It is a greenish-yellow dye found in foods such as ice cream, desserts, beverages and bakery products. Like other dyes, it can trigger allergic reactions in some people.
- Azorubin Red (E122). It is a red dye used in products such as jellies, candies, soft drinks and dairy products. It has been associated with allergic reactions in susceptible individuals and may have adverse effects on activity and attention in some children.
- Allura Red AC (E129). It is a deep red dye used in beverages, dairy products, desserts and processed foods. It has been linked to allergic reactions, such as hives, and some studies have suggested a possible association with hyperactivity in children.
It is important to note that the adverse effects of synthetic food colours can vary according to individual sensitivity and the dose consumed. In addition, health authorities set limits and regulations for the safe use of food, and manufacturers must comply with these regulations.
In general, it is recommended that people who are sensitive to food colours avoid consuming foods containing them. In addition, it is important to read product labels and be aware of possible allergic reactions or adverse effects after consuming foods containing synthetic colours. In any case, it is better to take precautions, try to avoid their consumption and opt for natural food colours whenever possible.
Advantages of natural food colours
The use of natural food colours offers several advantages compared to synthetic colours. These are some of them:
- Plant or animal origin: these are ingredients that come from recognisable sources and are minimally processed.
- Lower likelihood of adverse effects: Natural food colours tend to have a lower likelihood of causing adverse effects compared to synthetic colours. While some people may be sensitive to certain natural colours, they are generally considered safer and less likely to trigger allergic reactions or health problems. This is because natural dyes are found in foods and plants that have been consumed for centuries without causing significant health problems.
- Consumer recognition and acceptance: Manufacturers need to take into account that products using natural colours may have a commercial advantage in meeting consumer preferences and concerns.
- A variety of colours are available: natural colours offer a wide range of vibrant and attractive colours that can be used to enhance the visual appearance of foods and beverages. Natural ingredients, such as fruits, vegetables and spices, can provide intense and diverse tones, allowing for a wide variety of colour options in food formulation.
While natural food colours have several advantages, it is important to note that they also have limitations. Some natural colours can be more sensitive to light, heat and pH, which can affect their stability and durability in food products.
Types of natural food colours:
There are different sources of natural food colours, such as fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs or flowers, among others. Here are some common examples:
- Curcumin. It is a bright yellow dye found in turmeric, a golden yellow spice. Curcumin is used to add colour and flavour to foods such as mustard, soups and baked goods.
- Carmine. Carmine is a deep red dye obtained from the cochineal, an insect of the beetle family found in tropical and subtropical regions. Carmine is used to give red, pink or purple colours to products such as yoghurts, ice cream, sweets and confectionery.
- Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a natural pigment found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkins and mangoes. Beta-carotene is used to give an orange or yellow tint to products such as juices, soups, baked goods and dairy products.
There are different methods used to extract and process natural dyes, depending on the type of dye and the source from which it is obtained. Some of the most common are:
- Maceration: This method involves immersing the source of the dye, such as plants, fruits or vegetables, in a liquid solvent, such as water or alcohol, for a period of time. During this process, the pigments are dissolved in the solvent and a coloured extract is obtained. The extract can then be concentrated, filtered and purified to obtain the natural dye.
- Distillation: used to extract essential oils from plant sources. It consists of heating the plants and collecting the vapours that are generated. The vapours are then condensed and the essential oils, which may contain the pigments responsible for the colour, are collected.
- Solvent extraction: organic solvents are sometimes used to extract pigments from natural sources. This method involves mixing the dye source with a suitable solvent, which allows the pigments to be extracted selectively. The solvent is then separated and recovered, and the pigments are obtained by evaporation or drying.
- Fermentation: In some cases, natural dyes are obtained by fermentation processes. This involves the use of micro-organisms, such as bacteria or yeasts, which break down the components of the natural source and produce coloured compounds as a result of metabolism.
After the extract or pigments are obtained, they may undergo filtration, purification and concentration processes to obtain the dye in its final form. These processes may include the use of separation, filtration, clarification and drying techniques.
How to eat tastier, healthier and prettier with natural food colours
Eating richer, healthier and prettier with natural food colourings can be a satisfying experience and beneficial to our diet. You can use them to add a touch of colour to drinks, sweets, baked goods, dairy products and many other foods. For example, you can use beetroot juice for a deep red colour, saffron for a warm yellow tone or spirulina powder for a vibrant green.
Natural colours can also be used in decoration techniques, such as icing cakes or decorating desserts. You can experiment with different natural ingredients and combine them to obtain unique and attractive colours for your dishes.
Although natural food colours offer many advantages, they also present some challenges. Variability in colour intensity is one of them, as natural ingredients can have different shades depending on their origin and quality. It is important to test and adjust the amounts of colourant used to achieve the desired result. In addition, their stability during processing and storage can be a challenge. Some colourants may fade or lose intensity over time or when subjected to high temperatures. It is advisable to protect foods from light and to store them properly to preserve their colour.
Another potential challenge is the influence on the taste or texture of food. Some natural colours may have a distinctive taste or aroma that can affect the organoleptic profile of dishes. It is important to consider this when choosing and combining natural ingredients to avoid the dominant taste or texture being negatively altered.
However, these drawbacks are outweighed by the benefits of this form of colouring compared to synthetic dyes. Its advantages are closely related to the natural ingredients used to obtain the colours.
Natural food colours are often derived from fruits, vegetables, spices or other plant-based ingredients, making them a healthier option. They provide additional nutrients and beneficial compounds to foods, such as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
By replacing artificial, processed or industrial components with natural food colours, you are adding nutritional value to your meals without compromising health. They are also in line with the trend towards a cleaner diet free of artificial additives. And, if you want to enrich your diet with natural and sustainable options, don’t forget about supplementation. Do you know the health benefits of Silicium G5? This supplement improves the quality of the skin, providing elasticity and consistency to the tissues, as well as boosting collagen production and helping to eliminate the aluminium that accumulates in the body. The balance it gives you on the inside is reflected on the outside, thanks to healthier, better-quality hair, skin and nails.