Artificial food colouring is a big part of many sweets and snacks on the shelves in any given local supermarket. However, did you know that these food dyes have been linked to brain tumours, bladder cancer and allergies of consumers?

What’s more, research has shown that the effect of food colouring on the brains of young children can lead to behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorders, lower IQ and increased anti-social behavior.

food colouring

So the next time you find yourself reaching for that little bottle of food coloring, do consider concocting some natural food dyes from some very basic ingredients in your kitchen/refrigerator instead. Alternatively, look for 100% natural food dyes off the shelves, which are sometimes available at organic supermarket sections or online. These are dyes or pigments extracted from natural sources like vegetables, plants and insects.

Remember that all of our needs can be met using original, pure produce instead of laboratory engineered chemical products.

Take our advice and throw out your artificial dyes – you and your child’s bodies will really thank you for it!

How to extract plant dyes

Get your plants ready, soak them gently in simmering water, add in the food you want to dye (or you can add this in later, depending on what you are making) and there you have it!

These dyes can also be used to dye fibre such as silk or wool.

Not sure what plants give you the shades you want? Here’s our colour list to help you.

PINK & RED

carrots and beets

Beets; use the juice from canned beets, or boil or juice the raw vegetable. Other red fruits like raspberries or pomegranate can work too, but may change the overall flavor. Puree the berries in a blender, then strain the coloured liquid out to use with a mesh sieve.

ORANGE

Carrots are the best for achieving a beautiful pastel peach tone. Citrus fruits like orange don’t allow for much color saturation. Use ready-made carrot juice, or juice the raw vegetable yourself. Also try Pomegranates. Note you you need the Pomegranates skin to achieve a beautiful soft and creamy yellow or grey dye. This means you can eat your pomegranate and dye with it too!

RED & BROWN

onion

Don’t throw those onion skins after peeling your them. To get rich and warm browns, use red onion skins.

YELLOW

Both saffron flowers and turmeric powder are great choices for a sunny yellow tone. Just a little goes a long way. Do taste as you go, to avoid changing the taste too much, as these spices pack quite a punch! You can also try brown onion skins.

GREEN

spinach

Guess what? Good old spinach is ideal for creating a lovely green hue, and doesn’t affect the flavor at all. Plus what a great way this is to get some vegetable goodness into little (fussy) tummies, eh? You can use the juice from the leaves, or even blend up whole leaves. Alternatively, look for liquid chlorophyll, which is considered a health food supplement, available at certain supermarkets.

BLUE & PURPLE

blue berries

Blues and purples are a bit harder to create. You can blend blueberries and blackberries and strain the coloured liquid out, but this may affect the overall taste. A better option is to cut and boil red cabbage until the water is very dark and concentrated – this will give you a purple dye. If you want blue, slowly stir in baking soda, bit by bit. The soda reacts with the juice to produce a pretty blue.

Do note that natural food colouring generally tends to appear lighter and more pastel in hue than artificial food dyes.

If you like to buy natural dyes online, do check out:

By Dorothea Chow