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Cracking the Perfect Natural Easter Egg Dye

Health + Wellness
arinahabich / Stock / Getty Images

By Sydney Swanson

With April hopping along and Easter just around the corner, it's time for dyeing eggs (and inadvertently, dyeing hands.) It's easy to grab an egg-dyeing kit at the local supermarket or drug store, but those dye ingredients are not pretty.


Typical kits contain dyes loaded with artificial colors, like FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Red #40 and FD&C Blue #2. Although these colors are appealing, Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives highlights the many questions that have been raised about their safety, especially for kids.

The scientific community continues to debate the potential health impacts linked to artificial colors. Some studies show a correlation between them and increased hyperactivity in children.

According to a 2010 report from the Food and Drug Commission's Food Advisory Committee, "Certain food additives may exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity and overactivity) in some groups of children." Scientists from the University of Southampton, in the UK, have also found that artificial colors and sodium benzoate, a preservative used in some egg kits, resulted in elevated hyperactivity in 3- and 9-year-old children.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization focused on food safety, an estimated half-million U.S. children show adverse behavioral reactions after consuming food dyes. CSPI also reports an association between artificial colors and hypersensitivity reactions, including urticaria, sneezing, sweating and a variety of other symptoms.

So if you're dyeing eggs this season, we recommend avoiding artificial colors, if possible, and choosing natural alternatives instead — especially if you plan to eat the eggs. Look for a natural egg-dyeing kit or, for more fun, try making your own dye. To make egg-cellent natural egg dye follow the recommendations below:

What you'll need: Eggs, food for the dye, water, vinegar, pots, a strainer and bowls.

Assembling Dye Ingredients

  • Orange: 2 cups yellow onion skins, water to cover skins by an inch, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.
  • Yellow: 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon turmeric, 1-2 tablespoon vinegar.
  • Light green: 2 cups red onion skins, water to cover skins by an inch, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.
  • Blue: 2 cups purple cabbage, water to cover cabbage by an inch, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.
  • Pink: 2 cups water, 2 cups peeled, chopped beets, 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.

Making the Dye

  • Bring water and dye ingredients to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15-60 minutes or until the desired color is reached. Deeper water color will produce darker eggs.
  • Let the water mixture cool, then strain the liquid into dyeing bowls. Add one tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of liquid.

Dyeing the Eggs

  • Place hardboiled eggs into the dye and let them soak in the refrigerator until they reach the desired shade. Soaking them overnight will result in richer colors.
  • Retrieve the dyed eggs from the dye and place them on a drying rack or in an egg carton.
  • Admire your work!

For extra credit, wow your friends at your next Game of Thrones viewing party, and use these dye recipes to make deviled dragon eggs!

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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