Just imagine your food as black and white! Or some dull colors like muddy Grey! Will you be tempted enough to eat them? Most of the people would not. Seeing is very significant for us human beings and that is a known fact since ages. Early civilizations introduced color into their food and that too very naturally. Ancient Egyptians made their food yellow with saffron. Wines were also colored in 400 BCE using saffron only. Romans colored their white bread by mixing alum to the flour. There are many other such examples from the history of food coloring that we will discuss later in this article to help you know how you can use natural food colorings but before knowing that, we must know what today's food colors are and how are we consuming them ?
Food Colors of Present Day
Today our food processing industry uses many types of food colors, the main being- Food Dyes and Lake Food Colors. Not only food stuff but pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, inks, plastic food containers etc. are also colored with these artificial colors. So when you are having those colorful vitamin pills or using that lipstick, you are consuming these artificial food colors. It's not that only synthetic food colors are used in processed foods and other materials, there are many organic lake colors (organic lake pigments) too that are widely used for coloring food, thanks to the awareness about organic living! These organic lake pigments are obtained from natural sources. Some of the examples of such organic lake food colors include caramel, turmeric, beet and berry juice, paprika, saffron etc.
Natural Food Colors
As I promised earlier, I will now let you know what all natural food colors were used historically to make food interesting and soulful. In fact, in Europe there was a common belief during early Renaissance period that color in food not only showed its nutritional value, but also pointed towards medicinal power connected to spiritual, celestial substances. For example, eating sweet red grapes was considered effective for having full rich blood, black food like pepper or fungi induced melancholy, and golden colored foods promoted divine solar healing!
- Turnsole – or folium was a dyestuff prepared from the annual plant Crozophora tinctoria ( "dyers' crook carrier," from its use and the curved tip of its spike of florets).
- Turmeric – is a bright yellow colorant made from the roots of the herb Curcuma longa. It is an ancient Indian spice and a traditional remedy that has been used as a medicine. Turmeric is still used for everyday food preparation in Indian homes.
- Red Pepper – Paprika oleoresin is extracted from the pod of sweet red pepper. Capsicum annum is called Paprika. Paprika imparts a bright orange to red-orange color in food products.
- Red sandal wood – The bark of red sandal wood tree is blackish brown and exudate a deep red juice when cut. It is the source of a brilliant red dye. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-septic, wound healing agent, and anti-acne treatment. Redwood as a natural food color has a wide use in cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals for coloring tinctures.
- Saffron – Saffron is a spice native to Asia, with 80% now being produced in countries like Iran, Spain, Greece and Morocco. Saffron had been used not only for excellent yellow-orange color that it gives to food but also for its pleasant smell!
Marigold, safflower, parsley, spinach, fruits, and flower petal extracts were and are some of the other natural food colors that are healthier options as compared to artificial food colorings.