Sure, St. Patrick's Day-themed green treats are a refreshingly festive sight as we dig ourselves out of the depths of winter. But if you're opting for green donuts a la Krispy Kreme and downing green lattes, candy, and beers on top of that, your stomach might not be so happy. So how much havoc are you going to wreak on your body with this emerald buffet?
Surprisingly little, it turns out. Although you don't wanna be overloading on sugary, artificially-dyed treats every day, Lisa Young, Phd, RD, adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU Steinhardt, tells Refinery29 there's no need to worry if it's just one day.
Despite certain internet health claims that food coloring causes cancer, there's really no evidence for that link in humans. Even the idea that food dye causes hyperactivity — a mainstay of '80s and '90s health hysteria — hasn't been conclusively proven. Unless you have an (extremely rare) allergy or intolerance to a specific food dye, there's no reason to think consuming them in your food in normal amounts is going to hurt you.
Of course, that doesn't mean those green donuts won't make their presence in your body known: Get ready for some fun and festive green poop. And, if you're chowing down mostly on sugary treats and beer, your tummy might be pretty upset with you (yes, that means diarrhea).
So in reality, the real concern isn't the dye — it's the food itself, which tends to be full of simple carbs, sugar, and/or alcohol that we shouldn't be eating in excess at every meal anyway. "You want to make [those] the exception, not the rule," says Dr. Young. "And you want to make the rule fruits and vegetables."
That's why Dr. Young suggests getting your green fix today with more nutritious items, which are especially tasty in the form of a green smoothie. Today is the day to go full force with the spinach, kale, and green apple concoctions, she says. Feel free to add in kiwi and pear for a little extra sweetness.
That said, obviously, the fun of today's green madness is eating green foods that aren't normally green. So if you want green-dyed foods that aren't full of sugar, you can try adding spinach to pretty much anything, says Dr. Young. You don't even have to take the pancake route like Chelsea Clinton — muffins, pasta, and even eggs are all fair game. There's a whole (potentially green) world out there to explore.