A Guide to Feeding our Future

Posts tagged ‘health tip’

Health Tip: Add Colour Without Chemicals

By: Kimberley Record, Health Coach, RHN – Campbell River BC


This time of year, I start to cringe at the variety of “treats” in stores, bakeries, and restaurants – those coloured treats, created to honour the upcoming celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, that seem mostly geared towards children (green beer being an exception of course!). They are eye-appealing to our little ones, but they taste no different from their colour-free versions.

So why am I cringing? Because food colouring is toxic, plain and simple. But try explaining that to a 5-year old…

Unfortunately, we’ve only been taught to focus on examining labels for their calorie, fat and/or sodium content. There’s been very little focus on reading into ingredients for the “little things” like unecessary added chemicals, because they have been approved for safe consumption in the quantities listed. But we need to look further, especially where our children are concerned.

There have been multiple studies on the links between artificial food colouring (particularly Yellow #5, a.k.a. Tartrazine) and children’s behavioural disorders , including ADD and ADHD. Their little bodies are particularly sensitive to synthetically-produced chemicals. I have personally seen the effects on my daughter, whom I’ve raised on a relatively clean diet: a well-behaved child turns into a bellingerent, hyperactive one, within minutes of consuming anything with food colouring in it. Fascinating, and scary – and it’s no coincidence that the rates of behavioural disorders in children are increasing as these food additives are also increasing in prevalence.

My daughter knows why I regularly refuse to buy artificially-coloured treats. But it doesn’t mean that she won’t continue to request them (they are pretty after all)! So rather than fight it,  I find natural alternatives – which is actually easier than you may think.

natural colours

Here are some guidelines:

In stores:

Read ingredients! You won’t likely find the natural alternatives mixed in with the regular candies/cookies, but many stores now cater to shoppers with natural food sections that offer chemical-free treats. Natural colours, which are non-toxic, include: annatto, beet extract, caramel, beta-carotene, turmeric and grape skin extract. When you see these in a product’s ingredient list, that’s a better choice. Click here to see the most common artificial food dyes used and their names, which you can look out for in labels (although many labels may simply indicate “artificial colours”) – if any of these are listed in the ingredients, opt out!

In restaurants/bakeries:

Always ask! Some establishments are starting to make an effort to keep chemicals our of their products, especially if they make their goods in-house. Although many still opt for colouring to make their products more visually appealing, so you may need to shop around until you find one that uses natural colour alternatives. Custom ordering (for birthdays and other special occasions) may allow you more options. I’ve personally always loved the bakery at Whole Foods, which never uses any artificial colours, so if you have one if your area, it’s a great choice for the occasional treat!

At home:

Add natural colours to your own homemade treats! You can buy natural food colouring in bottles at health food stores (for ease, but they tend to be very pricey), or you can make your own. My favourite colour staple is liquid chlorophyll (for vibrant green) – I keep a bottle in my fridge at all times and use in drops as needed. It has virtually no flavour, and dyes very effectively (and makes a great green beer!).

Here’s a quick reference list for easy homemade food dyes – try them out in our Easter recipe for Crispy Bird Nests:

RED: beet or pomegranate juice
PINK: cranberry juice
PURPLE: blueberry or grape juice (concentrated)
GREEN: liquid chlorophyll
YELLOW: turmeric powder
ORANGE: carrot juice
BROWN: cocoa powder or steeped black tea


Health Tip: Getting your vitamin D!

By: Susan Kingston, RHN – Montreal, QC

Vitamin D – Essential and Scarce!

We all know the value of vitamin D to absorb calcium, but not everyone is aware of its many functions and the co-nutrients needed to absorb and utilize this essential fat-soluble nutrient.

Vitamin D is vital for our endocrine system (system of hormones). It is also essential for our nervous system – without it, neither system would function properly our ability to handle stress would diminish drastically. Our immune system is also weakened without it, allowing all kinds of pathogens to take over, and leaving us susceptible to stronger reactions to food intolerances.

In Canada, Vitamin D becomes quite hard to get because our skin absorbs it from the sun, and as we lose our long hours of sun and warmth, there is a great reduction in the amount of time our skin is exposed.

Some ways you can keep your vitamin D levels up to par is through food. The best sources are salmon, mackerel, and other fish. Cod liver oil (just as Grandma said 😉 ), is an excellent source, as well as a great source of vitamin A and Omega 3. For those with food intolerances, Vitamin A is essential for digestion, and Omega 3 reduces inflammation caused by intolerances.

An important co-nutrient required to absorb and utilize vitamin D, which may actually surprise you, is cholesterol. Cholesterol and vitamin D combined are crucial to brain function, and studies have shown a link to Alzheimer’s with low levels of vitamin D.

So please try to get as much sun as possible, and in the winter, if you only supplement with one thing, make it vitamin D for your body and brain function! And please don’t be afraid to include healthy cholesterol/saturated fats in your diet such as egg yolks, raw cheese, kefir, yogurt, poultry, grass fed beef, butter, wild fish and coconut oil – to get the best out of the Vitamin D that you do get!