RED & GREEN: The Holiday Colors That Can Kill You

~by Sheila Garcia

For some time now, companies have been adding dyes to a slew of products including food, candies, drinks, toothpastes and shampoos. They do it because these dyes are cheaper, more stable and brighter than most natural colorings. But how safe are these chemicals? Could they be putting your family at risk?

Red food coloring (Citrus Red, Red #3 [Erythrosine], Red #40 [Allura Red]), is the most commonly used dye in the U.S., according to Center for Science in the Public Interest. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in candy, cereal, baked goods, gelatin powder, drugs and cosmetics. It is synthetically derived from petroleum – yes, PETROLEUM – and although most of the dye you ingest is excreted from your body, Red #40 has potential for serious side effects, states the CSPI.   New studies show that it also contributes to cancer in lab animals, including brain and testicular tumors, colon cancer, and mutations.

Evidence also suggests Green 3, or Fast Green, causes cancer -more specifically, bladder tumors – in animals.   Because this artificial dye is not meant to be absorbed by the body, it instead weighs heavily on the bowel.  This is the very same color that they use to turn your beer green on St. Patrick’s Day.  Cheers?

Of course, food dyes and their potential health hazards aren’t limited to red and green.  The risky relatives to watch for are: Blue #1 (Brilliant Blue), Blue #2 (Indigo Carmine), Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), and Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow).

How can you avoid these harmful hypnotics?

* Stick to whole fresh foods and avoid the processed ones
* Use natural food colorings, such as beets, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, berries, red cabbage, turmeric, saffron, and paprika
* When buying the occasional packaged food, check the ingredient list to avoid synthetic dyes

As the holidays come quickly, and all the beautiful colors catch our eye, let’s remember that part  of the health and fitness legacy we want to build is to be part of many more holidays to come!  Avoid dangerous synthetic chemicals, eat and drink wisely, and you’ll be much merrier!

Some sources for this article:
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Natural Sciences Degree Program

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