Colors and Food

colorful food

We eat processed foods and almost all of it contains food dyes. Manufacturers add colors to enhance the food’s taste and to make it look more appealing than in its natural state. Foods that have been altered also last much longer.

Can you imagine eating foods that had no added coloring perhaps you’d have a gray burger or some colorless lettuce? No! Tomato sauce has to be red, and lettuce has to be green.

Why are humans so picky when it comes to food colors?

People complain about things but would never imagine eating the food they enjoy if it looked different from what they are used to. We first delight in looking at the food that is served to us or that we are making. We already imagine how it will taste when it is ready.

No one could imagine having a meal made with food that had no color or had a different color than what we are used to. Our brains always associate the food and drink we know with the colors we see. If you want a cold glass of milk, you expect to see that it is white. The same goes for a cold glass of orange juice that has to be orange in color. When we bake healthy oatmeal cookies we expect them to be golden brown.

Natural food colors

Over the centuries natural dyes have been used to color different kinds of food.

Carotenoids add red, yellow, and orange coloring to foods. Beta carotenoids can be found in dairy-based foods which often account for the yellowish hue of some cheeses. That’s also why a Lemon pound cake will have a lemony yellow color. Unfortunately, if we eat too many foods with carotenoids our skin can become yellowish orange but this condition is only temporary.

Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives a green coloring to plants. There are many mint/candy based foods that use chlorophyll for coloring.

Different types of grapes and berries possess rich coloring due to an organic compound known as anthocyanin. This is often used to color soft drinks, jellies, corn chips, and other foods.

So whether food is colored naturally or employing food dyes, we know what we expect and we prefer to have food the color we are used to. We would never consider eating blue bread or drinking green milk. Both milk and bread were meant to be white. Only bread that is dark or pumpernickel and rye bread are of a different color. So our eyes see the food first, our brains translate what we see. This is one of the survival mechanisms that evolution of our species has set in our genes.


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