Why I’m going to avoid artificial colors from now on. (Update 8/31/17)

 

I have been hearing all sorts of bad things about artificial and synthetic food colors for a long time. I had heard that they were tested on animals at some point, that they’re harmful to our health, that they’re not environmentally friendly, and that they are unnecessary. Yet, I kept seeing products labeled as vegan that had them in them and I assumed I could eat them despite what I believed were rumors. They are in, after all, in some of my favorite mainstream candies that are widely accepted as being accidentally vegan.

Realizing that many people avoid synthetic food colors for the reasons I listed above, I set out to begin to find some alternatives when I cook for other people and for the cookbook I am writing. I was not thinking I would decide to avoid them for the most part until I began to research them more as I was writing this.

However, I discovered some facts that upset me and convinced me otherwise:

Synthetic colors can be present in almost any product in the market, from food and drinks to toothpaste, chewing gum, medications, cosmetics, and even tattoos. They are typically made in a laboratory from petroleum products (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10) or Coal (FDA, 2007). The petroleum and coal industries are destructive to our environment, and produce products and byproducts that are not exactly considered food!

To identify an artificial food coloring in your foods’ ingredients lists, you must look for the prefixes FD&C, D&C, or Ext. D&C, followed by the name of a color, and a number. Sometimes the artificial color may be listed just as the color and number. These labels mean that these colors have been “certified” by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been approved by them to be safe for use in food (FDA, 2007). Today, there are nine dyes that are approved to be used in food, and these are (minus the prefixes): Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

However, the FDA does not require certain colorants derived from plants, animals, or minerals, though some are still considered artificial colorants and need to be regulated differently (FDA, 2007). This list includes some unappetizing options for colorings such as carmine and cochineal extract (which are produced using beetles and therefore not vegan), canthaxanthin, Sodium copper chlorophyllin, Toasted partially defatted cooked cottonseed flour, ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate, synthetic iron oxide, mica, etc. The same list includes ingredients we vegans are more familiar with, such as beets, turmeric, vegetable and fruit juices, spirulina, saffron, paprika, carrot oil, and annatto (FDA, 2015). For more information on these lists you can check them out here.

In order to certify a synthetic colorant’s safety, they are tested on animals. The FDA requires that there are tests on at least two different species of rodents (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). That alone may be a reason to avoid these dyes. However, if it does not sway you for whatever reason, know that even scientists are critical of the ways in which animal testing is used and applied in research. In order to test the carcinogenicity of these colorful products effectively, scientists believe that more animals needed to be tested, that the tests need to be performed on pregnant animals and their fetuses, and have a longer duration than the two years they are conducted for at present (Potera, 2010). Personally, I would rather avoid or even encourage a ban these questionably safe products than advocate for more extensive animal testing.

Scientists, medical doctors, nutrition experts, and even psychologists, teachers, parents, and other concerned folks also take issue with some of the research findings of some dyes when the FDA has not. For example,  Potera states, “Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain free benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe levels” (2010). However, benzidene has also been found to be bound to the chemical structure of the dyes at a greater level than the free benzidene. The tests the FDA does do not consider or identify bound contaminants, only free ones (Potera, 2010). Yellow 5 (also called tartrazine), can cause allergic reactions that can be severe in some people. Tartrazine is now required to be listed by name on food labels, but that isn’t the only concern with this colorant. In a majority of the test-tube and animal experiments for it, this yellow colored dye was shown to damage DNA, which may indicate that it is a carcinogen. Unfortunately, the studies that showed the data was not considered by the FDA (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). Furthermore, it has been suggested by researchers that artificial food colorings can increase hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, as well as children without the diagnosis (Arnold, Lofthouse, & Hurt, 2012).

Some food dyes used today are even banned for use in cosmetics and topical drugs but not food. Red 3 has been banned from these applications by the FDA. It has been shown in animal testing to cause thyroid cancer. Today, five million pounds of Red 3 are present in the food supply (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

It is, as always, up to you to decide what you will tolerate ethically and put into your body. Personally, now that I know that these products are harmful to my health, animals, and the environment, I am going to try to do away with synthetic food colorings as much as I possibly can. I will use natural colors instead.

References

Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

Jacobson, M. F., & Kobylewski, S. (2010, September). Color Us Worried. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 37(7), 10-11. Retrieved from Nursing & Allied Health Database.

Potera, C. (2010). Diet and nutrition: The artificial food dye blues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp/118-a428

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2007, December 10). How safe are color additives? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048951.htm

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2015, May). Summary of color additives for use in the United States in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm115641.htm#table1A

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For the purposes of the cookbook I am writing, unfortunately, I had bought a bunch of sprinkles that were labeled vegan that used the artificial colors before I did this research. I feel guilty letting them go to waste and so I plan to use them. However, I feel the need to point out that there are naturally colored vegan sprinkles available. Let’s Do Organic… brand makes a fairly easy to find variety. India Tree makes some too, but not all of them are vegan. You will need to look out for ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze or beeswax (made from insects) before buying. Additionally, there is an Etsy store called Naked Sprinkles that makes a beautiful range of vegan and naturally colored sprinkles that  I’m really excited to support in the future!

Since my cookbook is all about creating fun, rainbowy, unicorn-inspired foods, I felt it especially necessary to provide options for creating these beautiful colors without the cruelty, environmental destruction, and health risks involved.

If you are short on time or these are not cost effective for you or difficult to find, there are pre-made natural colors that you can buy as well. India Tree, Color Garden, and Color Kitchen, all make natural and vegan food coloring that you can buy in stores or online.

The following are my alternatives to artificial dyes, using natural ingredients. I recommend that you mix each color in a small glass jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed to color all sorts of foods, such as smoothies, cakes, donuts, frostings, cookies, etc. Always shake the jar before using as separation will occur. I will be using these dyes I created in many of the recipes in the book I am writing.

*Though I have not included it in the official recipes, you can make orange colored dye by mixing the beet color with the turmeric color until you get a satisfactory shade of orange. It may be easier to mix into the food item you are making rather than in a jar, as the colors appear darker than they will in the food you are mixing them into.

Vegan Friendly Natural Food Dye Recipes

IMG_3692

Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Blue

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp butterfly pea tea powder

Purple

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ¼ tsp butterfly pea tea powder
  • ¼ tsp beet powder

IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.

 

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“Milking the almonds” and making crackers

almond milk jar.JPG

Have you ever heard the joke about vegans, that says “the most difficult part about being a vegan is waking up at 5 a.m. to milk the almonds”? I have always found it rather funny, although now that I have actually made my own almond milk (!), I find it funnier.

After Christmas, I visited Sur La Table, where I got a really good deal on an appliance I’ve wanted for awhile now, an air fryer (more on that in a later post!) While I was there, I came across a nut milk bag, which had a recipe and procedure on the back. I had to try it. I wondered how hard it would be to make.

Honestly, the hardest part was waiting 24 hours while the raw almonds soaked in water. The rest was a breeze. Basically, you soak a cup of almonds in water, rinse off and drain, then blend the almonds with 2 cups of fresh water for 2 minutes. I also added a half tablespoon of vanilla extract into it, and next time I am going to add some liquid stevia. Then, you take a large bowl and position the bag inside so that you can pour the almond and water mixture into the bag. The almond milk will start to seep through the bag into the bowl. Once the mixture is in the bag, you tighten the drawstring and start squeezing the bag from above. You continue to squeeze until you have gotten as much of the liquid out of the bag as possible.

This leaves you with the rich, creamy almond milk in the bowl, and a bag full of almond pulp. You can place the almond milk in a jar and place it in the fridge (it will separate a bit, but you just need to shake it up before drinking or using in recipes). As far as what to do with the almond pulp, there are so many recipes online for what you can create with it! I ended up making sweet crackers! They’re the best gluten free crackers I have had in a while. I can’t wait to make some that are savory rather than sweet, though!

almond-crackers

Here is the recipe for the crackers:

Ingredients:

  • almond pulp left over from the above almond milk-making description
  • 1 tbsp sugar (a vegan liquid sugar would work well too, such as maple syrup or agave)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vegan butter flavoring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix together almond pulp and other ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. On a piece of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet, roll the dough into a ball. You may need to knead it a bit with your hands first.
  4. Place another piece of parchment paper over the dough ball and flatten with your hands a bit. Then roll it out to a thin layer, between 1/8″-1/4.”
  5. Take off one side of the parchment paper, leaving one piece of parchment on the cookie sheet with the rolled out dough on top. This was a challenge for me…I was adapting this from a recipe that didn’t explain this part that clearly and I had to repeat this several times. The dough gets rather soft and sticky, so be careful and patient.
  6. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into even squares in a checker pattern. The crackers do not need to have space between them yet. Leave them next to each other as they are. You will be flipping and separating them later. It will be impossible to do at this point.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes. It’s possible that you may need to check to see if they are beginning to brown earlier than that. If they are (checking after 10-15 minutes), separate and flip them with a spatula. Bake for another 5-10 additional minutes (or more if necessary…do not let them get too golden or brown).
  8. Voila! Experiment with other flavors, adding spices or herbs, etc. Cinnamon would be a good addition for this recipe.

 

 

Foodie (Photo) Friday! I made a lot! Especially from the cookbook Isa Does It!

This week was a big week for my cooking. Not only did I create my own original recipe for a favorite, typically very non vegan appetizer, but I also tested tons of other people’s recipes.

I mostly tried a bunch of recipes from the Isa Does It cookbook though, which I have not found a single recipe that wasn’t amazing or really yummy yet. My only complaint is that the recipe names are not easy to remember because they are usually named after the ingredients and not that creative/specific so I feel like I sometimes write about them and name them different than what is in the cookbook. So apologies if I am not using the actual recipe names to a T, I am currently too tired and somewhat lazy to go get the book and double check! Woops. How unprofessional of me…

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ Brussels Sprouts and Tarragon Cashew Cream Sauce

The most impressive recipe  I have tried  so far was definitely the Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Tarragon Cashew Cream and Brussels Sprouts. I have made my own gnocchi from recipes before, but it seemed so difficult and was such a long process. Maybe my cooking skills have drastically improved over time and I just do things faster and in a more organized time saving manner, but I still think this recipe is by far an easier and simple way of making you own vegan gnocchi from scratch than the previous recipe I tried. It only really takes awhile because you have to bake the sweet potato (or potatoes…but I found a 1 lb sweet potato that worked out very well). The sauce is also simplistic yet has a very fancy flavor/touch to it with the tarragon. And a cashew based sauce makes almost any pasta recipe rich and luxurious. The Brussels Sprouts were the perfect finishing touch, and add to the dish to make it a complete healthful meal.

I love the bowls so far in this cookbook. I think I forgot to post about the cucumber ranch tofu bowl I made New Year’s Eve? Well that was pretty good. Even better was the pizza bowl, though.

Image

Not the prettiest looking pizza bowls

I used tofurky italian sausages (Which, to my delight, do not contain soy protein isolate in them which I am really trying to avoid as much as possible now.  My nutritionist said she believes that it is that form of soy that causes the most problems for our hormone balance, and it is very highly processed (and typically g.m.o I think?) so it is good to avoid or eat irregularly. Tofu is fine unless you have digestive/other sensitivities to it, whIch I do not.

Anyways, this was absolutely delicious and comforting. The sauce is really, really good. It reminds me of pink (or vodka cream) sauce, which was one of my favorite sauces before I went vegan and I have found difficult to replicate as a vegan despite trying . Actually now this gives me an idea to try and make an even more authentic version of it! Yay!

Paired with the kale (which I actually seemed to cook right for the first time ever…I typically only eat it raw), rice, sausage, garlic, red onions, olives, etc it is just so wonderfully filling and tasty!

My pictures of it are not the prettiest, but believe me, it is so yummy!

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edamame hummus tofu wraps…before I wrapped them 🙂

I also made the tofu wraps with edamame hummus. It somehow tastes kind of like a Japanese-inspired egg salad wrap to me which I thought was pretty cool. I will definitely be making the edamame based (instead of chickpea) hummus on it’s own again multiple times. The tofu was really good too though! I love anything with sesame oil in it, and it crisps the tofu perfectly. Isa Chandra Moscowitz doesa really good job through writing her recipes teaching people the proper methods of cooking her dishes without having them fail horribly. Hopefully I can get there myself too!

I did not use sprouts because when I buy them they seem to go bad too fast, instead I used greens. When I use up the leftovers tomorrow though, I am probably going to use baby arugula. Yum!

Aside from cooking from Isa Does It, I found this recipe on a facebook group I belong to and was intrigued so I gave it a try. Behold, Green Pancakes!

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not the prettiest again but behold green pancakes!

They look kinda gross, but I felt really good about eating them for my breakfast and do not taste too different from unhealthy versions of pancakes…especially when you add some maple syrup, ha, ha. I kept thinking of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and thinking this would make a good vegan story like that, especially for kids while eating these. So it was fun, healthy, and fed my belly all at once.

Finally, I made a really delicious salad today.

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my delicious salad with chickpea “bacon”

The centerpiece of the salad was the Chickpea Bacon recipe from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! Gosh do I love that book!

I put 2 cups chopped romaine, 1/2 cup baby arugula, 1/3 cup sliced cucumber, 1/3 cup chopped hearts of palm, 1/4 of the chickpea recipe, a slice of red onion that I chopped into smaller bits, 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast, and 2 tbsp Organicville Non Dairy Ranch! I made a similar version for my dad and he really liked it too! He was trying to refuse eating it because of the non-dairy ranch, but now he says I have to make him a salad every day! (Though fat chance…but I will make an extra for him when I have one from now on!)

Ta da! And now you know what I cooked up this week!

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can follow me on these social media outlets where I post related (and unrelated) things to my blog.

Banana Curl, Vegan Girl’s Facebook Page

Follow me on Pinterest (the blog has it’s own board if you just want to follow that)

Twitter

And I think that’s everything for now! I will be adding these to the end of my blog every so often for new people to click on and explore. Also, I love comments and feedback and love it when people spread and share my work I am doing here, so do not be shy about that!