Eat the Rainbow – how to use natural colourants
By Melissa Lainn, an Integrative Nutrition, Health and Wellness Coach
Special occasions seem to call for brightly coloured foods. Birthday cakes and colourful candy, holiday cookies and Easter eggs are a favourite in most households.
It’s fun to have a colourful treat occasionally, but you don’t necessarily need artificial food colouring or dyes to do it. Especially since conventional food dyes are petroleum based and are linked to side-effects such as hyperactivity in children, increased food sensitivities, and even rashes and eczema. For these simple reasons, it’s so important to learn how to make your own homemade food colouring.
Natural is definitely the way to go!
When you use more natural options, you’ll find more benefits than just beautifully coloured food, you can enhance nutrition at the same time.
Many healthy foods, such as vegetables or fruit, already have rich pigments that easily blend right into your favourite recipes.
The four families of plant pigments are:
- chlorophyll (green)
- carotenoids (yellow, red, orange)
- flavonoids: anthocyanins + anthoxanthins (red, blue, purple)
- betalains (red, yellow, purple)
The most popular options to use as natural food colourants are:
- powders made from deep coloured vegetables;
- juice from intensely coloured fruits, vegetables, or herbs;
- concentrated syrups from 100% fruit or vegetable juices.
Start with a small pinch or a few drops of these natural colourants and add more according to your desired shade.
- Rugani’s 100% Beetroot Juice
- beet powder
- pure pomegranate juice
- red raspberry purée, strained to remove seeds
- Rugani’s 100% Beetroot Juice
- pure cranberry juice
- pure raspberry juice
- Rugani’s 100% Carrot Juice
- carrot powder
- fresh turmeric juice
- ground turmeric
- liquid chlorophyll
- matcha powder
- spirulina powder – use sparingly due to sharp taste
- parsley juice
- wheatgrass juice
- spinach juice
- spinach powder
- parsley powder
- cucumber juice
- red cabbage juice
- stir a bit of baking soda in with red cabbage juice or a purple dye for a brighter blue
- pure blueberry juice
- purple grape juice
- cocoa powder
- pure espresso
- instant coffee granules
- heavily steeped black tea
- activated charcoal powder
Here are a few tips & ideas of how to use natural colouring:
- Use vegetable juices. Include things like Rugani’s 100% beetroot or carrots juice. Or make your own with kale, spinach, parsley, or bell peppers. Veggie juices also pack a nutritional punch.
- Simply mix the vegetable juice into light-coloured dressings or even cake batters to add a hint of colour. Two to five teaspoons is all you need.
- Use water from boiled veggies or fruit. You can boil green vegetables like peas, or red fruits like cranberries for example, to extract the colouring. Then use the coloured water that’s left behind to colour other foods and recipes. It’s an easy, natural way to add colouring to food.
- Try Chlorophyll, Spirulina or Matcha tea, which is a finely milled or powder green tea from Japan. Besides being high in nutrients, you can use it directly as an ingredient in many recipes. They’ll not only turn foods green or blue, have a rich flavour that goes with many things but are also rich in nutrients, antioxidants and fiber.
- Make green mac ‘n cheese with greens! Some kids love the idea of green macaroni and cheese, and it’s a sneaky way to include some extra greens in your child’s diet. Make your macaroni and cheese green by taking a spinach puree or even avocado and mixing it with the cheese sauce to get that green colour.
- Beets or beet juice like Rugani’s 100% Beetroot Juice or Zobo infused Beetroot Juice offer a natural way to colour foods red or pink. They’re also a good source of vitamin C, iron and magnesium. If you’re making your own cake or cupcake frosting, add the juice to your frosting and blend!
- Turmeric or saffron can make foods yellow. As your rice is cooking try adding turmeric for a golden yellow colour. Saffron works too but is a more expensive option.
- Paprika can give an orange or deeper orange-red color. Depending on the peppers used in the paprika, there will be different color variations. Heating paprika releases both colour and flavour.
Keep both flavour and color in mind. Natural colouring made from foods tends to be less vivid than artificial color additives. So it can be harder to control the color and consistency. Also, using food-based colour can introduce other flavours. But this can work well if the flavour enhances the food.
It’s a good idea to experiment and a lot of fun, too. You can even have your kids take part as a fun family activity. Start by making colourful Pancakes/Crepes and see how many natural colourants you can use.
Melissa Lainn is an Integrative Nutrition Health and Wellness Coach, certified Meditation Practitioner, certified NLP Practitioner and the host of The LifeKraft Podcast. She is passionate about helping people ditch diets, transform their health holistically and find the freedom with food, the energy in their bodies and vitality in their minds that they’ve always wanted.