Filling your plate with a vibrant array of colors can help guarantee that your body gets the key vitamins and nutrients it needs. In one of this holiday weekend's most creative traditions, a typically-white (although still nutritious!) food -- the egg -- will don a wide range of colors, meant to disguise it in suburban backyards and display it proudly in showy baskets.
Okay, so dyeing Easter eggs isn't exactly what they mean when nutrition experts tell you to eat your colors. But it turns out that some healthy, natural ingredients that you probably have around the house can help make the festive activity just a bit healthier.
First, a look at what you're actually doing when you dip those eggs. The first food dyes were sometimes toxic and even used to cover up rot, according to the New York Times. For over a century, the FDA has been cracking down on artificial dyes, banning Orange Number 1 after it was found to be toxic and Red Number 2 after it was suggested to be a carcinogen.
Today, some studies suggest a link between food dyes and ADHD in children. Consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest has, since 2008, been pushing to ban food dyes altogether, and petitioning the FDA to require warning labels on foods containing dyes. The FDA concluded last year that there was still not enough substantial evidence to warrant the addition of warning labels.
But, should you discover upon cracking open your dyed, hardboiled eggs, that the egg whites are now egg pinks or blues, are you in trouble? Not necessarily. "The likelihood of harm from some dye on one occasion a year is apt to be very remote," Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center and a HuffPost blogger told Healthy Living in March.
As we saw in this now-notorious video of digestion, food dyes aren't absorbed by the body; the blue Gatorade this study participant drank stays blue as it travels through the body (which, according to one expert, might actually be a good thing).
Still, it's best to follow a few general words of egg-dyeing wisdom: If you're going to eat your dyed eggs, you'll want to opt for food-grade dyes, liquid food coloring or a commercial egg-dyeing kit. Just make sure to store them properly. Eggs can last up to a week in the fridge, Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., writes for FoxNews.com, but if they've been left out for more than two hours, it's best to toss them.
However, if you'd rather not risk the possible implications of artificial dyes, there are some healthy ways to dye your eggs naturally, with foods you probably already have on hand. The longer you leave the eggs in the dye, the deeper the hue you'll ultimately be left with. You can even consider leaving them soaking overnight in the fridge.
There are many different "recipes" for stirring up a batch of your own natural dye. We found a few good ones here:
Click through the eight natural egg-dyeing alternatives below, then tell us in the comments how you like to dye Easter eggs.
Although tiny, cranberries offer huge health benefits, thanks to their polyphenols, which produce their <a href="http://www.npr.org/2010/11/12/131272331/bow-down-to-the-medicinal-power-of-cranberries" target="_hplink">antioxidant effect</a>. Research has found the tart red berries can prevent urinary infections, prevent plaque buildup on teeth and fight stomach cancer, according to the AP. They may also <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15814415/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/research-shows-health-benefits-cranberries/#.T38Fc5rC6II" target="_hplink">raise "good" HDL cholesterol</a> and lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and slow tumor growth. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/halfchinese/305095614/" target="_hplink">Andrew Yee</a></em>
Chili peppers, cayenne and paprika all <a href="http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/nutrition/health-benefits-of-spices-herbs/" target="_hplink">contain capsaicin</a>, which not only gives them their heat but also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A little spice may also <a href="http://www.oprah.com/health/Hot-Peppers-Dr-Perricones-Superfood-No-7-Superfood/2" target="_hplink">relieve joint pain and sinus pressure</a>.
A key ingredient in many Indian curries, this golden spice may <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/turmeric-health-have-a-happy-new-year_b_798328.html" target="_hplink">protect against cancer</a>, and is thought to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/" target="_hplink">prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia</a>. Spices, including turmeric, are also great ways to add flavor to food without packing on additional calories or fat.
Packed with antioxidant vitamins A, C and K, this leafy green is also <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale" target="_hplink">rich in fiber and iron</a>. A 2010 study suggested that a diet rich in vitamin K -- also found in spinach and other dark, leafy greens -- <a href="http://www.ajcn.org/content/early/2010/03/24/ajcn.2009.28691" target="_hplink">may reduce cancer risk</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joyosity/3322910677/" target="_hplink">joyosity</a></em>
These bite-sized superfoods are rich in antioxidants that can <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-b-clegg/foods-to-boost-mental-health_b_969085.html#s368395&title=Berries" target="_hplink">reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease</a> and dementia, reduce cancer risk and fight infections. They're also low in calories, but rich in fiber, so they'll help you stay full for longer. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/2849200817/" target="_hplink">thebittenword.com</a></em>
You've surely heard that a little daily alcohol is good for you, and that red wine gets a particularly hearty nod of approval due to its <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2000-03-31/health/wine.heart.wmd_1_grape-juice-nonalcoholic-wine-john-folts?_s=PM:HEALTH" target="_hplink">heart-healthy benefits</a>. If you don't want to waste the vino, pick up some purple juice instead. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/23/health/23real.html" target="_hplink">Resveratrol and flavonoids</a>, the substances thought to give red wine its healthy punch, are also found in grape juice. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/383086799/" target="_hplink">Muffet</a></em>
It might be tricky to convince little ones to eat this deep red veggie on its own -- but it's a great source of fiber, potassium and folate, nutrients that might seep into an egg dyed with beets or beet juice. Research suggests that betacyanin, the compound that gives beets their rich color, could <a href="http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/theres-no-beating-the-beet" target="_hplink">protect against cancer and heart disease</a>, according to WebMD. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/orcaman/4451606184/" target="_hplink">Or Hiltch</a></em>
For a rich brown color, a cup of java will do the trick. Coffee is rich in antioxidants, and has been linked to <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coffee-and-health/AN01354" target="_hplink">protecting against Parkinson's</a>, diabetes, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/coffee-health-benefits_n_1064577.html" target="_hplink">some cancers and depression</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/porsche-linn/7025307281/" target="_hplink">porschelinn</a></em>
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