Drinking Green Beer Doesn’t Make You Irish

But you knew that, right? So let’s think outside the stein this St. Patrick’s Day and ditch the artificial food colouring in favour of some foods that are naturally green – or naturally Irish – or both.

I’ve never really been a fan of St. Patrick’s Day…mostly because people use it as an excuse to get loaded before the bars even open and parade down the middle of the street wearing little more than a few strategically placed green boas. I guess that’s what I get for living in a university town.

Wild leeks

Anyway, what I’m not against is celebrating occasions of your choosing with food and drink (alcoholic or not). Adding green food colouring is a gimmicky way for restaurants to entice patrons in for a pint or a shake or whatever else can hold a tint, but let’s be honest and acknowledge that is pretty uncreative.

You might not think twice about eating large quantities of food colouring  on one day of the year, but if you indulge in more than one drink or if you’re giving green-hued food to kids, it might not be as benign as you think.


Not only have few tests been done on the food dyes that are so prevalent in our diets,  but the tests have been limited to rodent studies on whether or not a colour is carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Obviously knowing whether a substance causes cancer is important before approving it for use in food – but it also highlights just how narrow the focus is when it comes to assessing food “safety”. We are only starting to explore how food additives may cause an immune response and inflammation (which can start a cascade of other health conditions), gut function, and neurological problems like ADHD. The problem is that we have to know what to look for before we find it.

Ingredient list on Candian food colouring  DSC_0026

Keep in mind that food dyes have no real purpose other than to trick your eye into thinking a food is tastier or more exciting than it actually is. And of course, in the case of St. Patrick’s Day, to make you feel like you’re celebrating.

So by all means enjoy your Guinness this week. Order some Irish nachos or baked potato skins; cook up a homemade leek and potato soup to eat with your Irish soda bread (here are some awesome recipes to get you started). Wear a green hat and green tights and talk like a leprechaun if it pleases you. But please, please, ditch the green dyes for a more authentic experience.

Sauteed greens with Irish (waffle-cut) fries


References and resources:

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