Coloring Easter Eggs: Ditch the Chemical Food Colorings and Try These Toxin-Free Alternatives
Coloring eggs is such a fun holiday tradition. I remember always loving this time of year because I love to color and draw and do just about anything creative!
I didn’t think much back then about what we were using to add all those pretty colors to our eggs, but I sure think about it today! After all, hardboiled eggs are permeable, so whatever we use to dye them will get on the egg that we later eat. You can tell as the white of the egg is usually tainted with the color that was put on the shell. Even if you don’t eat them, the coloring gets all over your fingers—or your children’s fingers.
The most common way of dying eggs is with food coloring, but I wouldn’t use them today. Here are just a few reasons why:
- The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has urged the FDA to ban artificial food dyes, reporting that they can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer.1
- Common dyes such as Yellow 5 and Red 40 are made from petroleum and often fool people into thinking there are real fruits in food products.
- Studies aren’t consistent, but Red 40 (the most common dye) may accelerate tumors in mice, and Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals.
- Other governments are already taking action—Great Britain asked companies to phase out most dyes by the end of 2010, and the European Union will require a warning notice on most dyed foods mid-2011.
- Reports just a month ago revealed that an FDA advisory panel recommended that the agency further study the link between food coloring and childhood hyperactivity.2
- Our consumption of food dyes has greatly increased, with foods like drinks, snacks, cereals, desserts, chips, and more all containing one or more of them.
If you, like me, think we’re exposed enough to food dyes and don’t need to add them to our pretty Easter eggs, I have some alternatives for you. Yes, there are other ways to color our eggs without chemicals.
Here’s how to make natural dyes: Using one of the dying items below, add it to about one cup of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain if you need to, pour into a liquid measuring cup, and add 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar to each cup. Put in a bowl big enough to completely cover the eggs you want to dye, and you’re ready to color.
- Blue: canned blueberries, red cabbage leaves, or purple grape juice.
- Gold: turmeric (curcumin spice).
- Green: spinach leaves or liquid chlorophyll (from vitamin store).
- Brown: strong coffee or black tea.
- Orange: carrots or paprika.
- Red: pomegranate juice, canned cherries with syrup, beet juice, or raspberries.
- Yellow: orange or lemon peels, green or chamomile tea, ground saffron, or celery seed.
If you try using natural colorings on your eggs, let us know how you enjoyed the results!
1. David W. Freeman. “Food Dyes Linked to Allergies, ADHD and Cancer: Group Calls on U.S. to Outlaw Their Use.” CBS News June 29, 2010. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20009228-10391704.html.
2. Mary Clare Jalonick, “FDA Panel Votes to Study Food Dyes, Hyperactivity,” Bangor Daily News, March 31, 2011. http://new.bangordailynews.com/2011/03/31/health/fda-panel-votes-to-study-food-dyes-hyperactivity/?ref=relatedBox.
Photo courtesy the maliburachel via Flickr.com.