Annatto, derived from the seeds of the achiote plant (Bixa orellana), has been used as a natural food coloring agent and mild seasoning for centuries. It’s reddish orange color and peppery flavor adds a unique kick to savory dishes from many cultures around the world. This edible dye is free of the long list of chemicals and additives found in most food colorings and packs a handful of bonus health benefits. From strengthening bones to improving vision, the naturopathic ingredient is chock-full of beneficial antioxidants and carotenoids that help improve overall wellness.
The annatto pigment is comprised of fat-soluble bixin and water-soluble norbixin, both of which are classified as carotenoids. Its dual solubility is unusual for caroteoids and gives annatto its distinctive yellow to orange color. Annatto’s lipid solubility allows it to pass through the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain, where it acts as an appetite suppressant.
Annatto’s antimicrobial properties may help stave off bacterial infections and reduce symptoms of the common cold. It is also high in vitamin A, which can aid in eye health and maintain a healthy skin appearance. The plant’s carotenoids and fatty acids may also protect against heart disease.
Although annatto is likely safe for most people, it can trigger food intolerances and allergies in some. It is also recommended to avoid consuming it if you have diabetes, as it may affect your blood sugar levels. Otherwise, this natural food dye is a great addition to most diets and can help strengthen your bones, promote vision health and keep your heart healthy.