4 Weeks to a Healthier Family – Avoiding Artificial Colour and Flavour

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Have you ever noticed the variety of colour on your dinner plate? One of my top suggestions for healthy eating is to eat a rainbow of colourful foods every day. Natural colours though, from real fruits and vegetables. With the amount of artificial colouring and flavouring found in processed-but-pretending-to-be-real foods these days, unless the food is in it’s natural state, following my advice can be challenging.

What are artificial colours and flavours?

Artificial colours and flavours are concoctions of chemicals used to enhance food to look more vibrant or give a certain taste. They mask any natural variations in colour. After foods are processed (by being cooked, canned, frozen or dehydrated) they lack their original flavour. The expectation of processed foods is that it tastes like homemade, but this is hard to do on an assembly line. Chemical combinations created by “flavourists” infuse original flavours back in.

Have you ever used boxed chicken stock? They usually contain extra flavouring – sometimes MSG (monosodium glutamine) as a flavour-enhancer so it can be produced in larger quantities with less actual stock from chickens and more flavour additives. It works out cheaper for manufacturers that way.

Side effects?

It’s wildly argued whether these chemicals have any detrimental effects. In the natural health arena, it is believed that they contribute to behavioural issues of ADHD, decreased attention span and other disruptive behaviours. I posted a question on Sprout Right’s Facebook Page and on Twitter asking if anyone’s child had experienced reactions, and there were many who said yes. Stef C. commented that her daughter reacts to jelly bellies: “she was CRAZY hyper almost instantly”. After seeing the same reaction three times, she read the label and saw the note that kids may react to colours. As more and more countries like the UK move away from artificial additives, it strengthens the questionable correlation between cancer and brain tumours as well as allergies, asthma and rashes.

For years, I’ve asked parents of sensitive children to lessen artificial colours found in sweets and treats. My daughters know that we don’t buy candy with artificial colours in it.

Are Natural Flavours better?

In an article about artificial and natural flavourings on HealthyChild.org, they summed this up by saying: “Unlike artificial flavors, natural flavors are created from natural products – fruits, beef, chicken, spices – and transformed into chemical additives. And though it might make you feel better to see “natural flavouring” on a label, it isn’t necessarily better for you. Indeed, it’s a signal that the real thing is not included in the product.”

With so many products on the market with both natural and artificial colour and flavouring, it is tough to eliminate them altogether. Try to follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, have home-cooked foods including muffins, cakes and cookies. When it’s not possible, perhaps when out or eating with family or friends, enjoy what’s served without asking to read ingredient lists.

Watch out for reactions in children and avoid Yellow 5 or tartrazine, that seems to cause the worst reactions.

Strawberry Maple Ice Cream
3 cups organic strawberries (can be previously frozen, partially defrost)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream (organic if possible)

Puree strawberries with a hand blender or food processor. Add cream and maple syrup to combine. Pour into ice cream maker and leave to churn for 20 minutes or until frozen through. Store in the freezer or serve immediately.

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