Amaranth as a supplier of natural food coloring – healing practice

Amaranth as a substitute for artificial food coloring

artificial food colorings in foods have been linked to numerous health problems in several studies. Some dyes are said to reduce the risk for, among other things hyperactivity, allergies and Krebs increase. Amaranth could serve as a natural alternative, according to a recent study.

researchers of University of Illinois found in a recent study that the red dye Betalainthat from Amaranth can be obtained, is suitable as a natural food colouring. The research results were recently published in the journal “Frontiers in Plant Science” presented.

Potential risks from artificial colors

A recent study showed that the red food coloring Allura red AC (E129) a potential trigger for chronic bowel diseases how Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis could be (see: Food coloring E129 can trigger inflammatory bowel disease).

Other research has linked food coloring to an increased risk of hyperactivity in children, allergies and certain types of cancer connected. With this in mind, it’s appropriate to start thinking about natural alternatives to artificial food colors.

Amaranth is a good source of red color pigments

According to the University of Illinois working group, amaranth plants are a good source of red pigment. In 48 different amaranth varieties, the team discovered several promising candidates that could be used in the food industry.

“Our work serves as a global review of plant amaranth to determine the diversity in hue, concentration and chemical structure of the magenta dyes”explains study lead author Jay Howard. According to him, the study results provide a solid basis for the commercial use of the natural coloring agent in the food industry.

Dyes are stable for weeks

The 48 selected amaranth varieties cover the entire spectrum of leaf coloring from deep burgundy to lime green. The color pigments were extracted from the stem and leaf tissue.

“We created a chemical profile for each extract by looking at the ratio of the dominant pigments”adds study co-author Chance Riggins. Some of the extracts are stable for days or even weeks without fading.

This aspect is particularly important for industry, since a natural dye that turns brown after just one day would be unusable for mass production.

Until now, betalain has been obtained from beets

Betalain is already known as a natural dye. Currently, it is mainly obtained from beets. According to the working group, however, beets are problematic as a source of betalain, as the earthy flavors of the beet are often transferred to the product with the coloring agent. Most amaranth extracts, on the other hand, were odorless and tasteless.

Another advantage of amaranth over beets is that the plant is very resilient and can therefore be grown under less favorable conditions than beets.

Approval shouldn’t be a problem

“Amaranth is already approved by the FDA for food use and may also be approved as a natural food coloring under these guidelines”, insists Riggins. Currently, the plant is mainly used as a gluten-free alternative to cereals cultivated.

Amaranth suitable as a natural dye supplier

“The move away from synthetic ingredients requires a diverse range of natural options to enable the food industry to achieve the hue and stability of synthetic colors at an effective cost of ownership”Howard clarified.

“Amaranth is an interesting crop that ticks all of these boxes – it’s scalable, resilient, antioxidant rich and produces impressive biomass yields”, sums up the study author. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of medical specialist literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • University of Illinois: Want a natural food dye? Amaranth delivers, according to Illinois study (veröffentlicht: 09.01.2023),
  • Jay E. Howard, Maria B. Villamil, Chance W. Riggins, et al.: Amaranth as a natural food colorant source: Survey of germplasm and optimization of extraction methods for betalain pigments; in: Frontiers in Plant Science (2023),
  • Kwon, Y.H., Banskota, S., Wang, H. et al. Chronic exposure to synthetic food colorant Allura Red AC promotes susceptibility to experimental colitis via intestinal serotonin in mice. Nat Commun 13, 7617 (2022).,

Important NOTE:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.