With a rich red color and a distinctive spicy flavor, the benefits of annatto have been used for centuries to improve palatability and make dishes that appear on the plate. Although food coloring has earned a bad reputation for its possible adverse health effects, achiote stands out as a natural way of giving food color and flavor without the long list of hazardous chemicals and ingredients. In addition, this natural dye may even provide some additional health benefits. Filled with carotenoids and other beneficial compounds, it has been shown to kill bacteria, strengthen bones and even accelerate wound healing. While there are some people who may want to avoid achiote, for most it can be a nutritious, healthy and colorful addition to the diet.
1. Help Fight Bacteria:
When we talk about the particularities of the benefits of Annatto, we must highlight the fact that they have powerful antimicrobial assets that can help in the eradication of some of the harmful bacteria that cause infections and diseases. One study measured the effects of achiote extract against various types of bacteria and found that it was especially effective against some of the specific types of bacteria that cause staph infections and foodborne illness. Another study found similar results, demonstrating that the extract was able to fight against certain strains of bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties. That is why, thanks to its antimicrobial effects, the benefits of annatto can help, among other things, prevent bacterial infections and promote better health.
2. Contains Antioxidants:
The benefits of Annatto are rich in antioxidants or compounds that help neutralize the effects of harmful free radicals that can accumulate and cause damage to cells. Antioxidants have been linked to a decreased risk of several chronic conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Adding annatto seeds to food can also help provide natural antioxidants, most studies have taken for granted that annotte seeds that are added to meat or pork burgers increase antioxidant activity significantly.
“Annatto also has a high content of carotenoids, or pigments of natural plants that function as antioxidants to promote better health”.
It is especially high in bixin, a carotenoid that has been studied extensively for its potent antioxidant properties.
3. Prevents Bone Disease:
Osteoporosis is an incredibly common condition that causes bones to become porous, weak and fragile. Each year, approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer fractures caused by bone diseases. Similarly, it has been proven that the benefits of Annatto, in addition to the aforementioned, have a high content of tocotrienol, a kind of vitamin E that according to some studies could help keep bones strong and healthy. In a study in an animal from Malaysia, treating rats with achiote tocotrienol helped prevent some of the symptoms of osteoporosis, such as bone loss and decreased bone formation. Although more research is needed to observe the effects on human bone health, achiote can be a promising complementary treatment for osteoporosis when combined with a balanced diet, regular physical activity and adequate vitamin D.
4. Keeps Your Heart Healthy:
Heart health is an integral component of overall health. Your heart pumps blood throughout your body to supply nutrients to your tissues and maintain the functioning of your body. Given this, there is a series of investigations that have found that the bixin present in the annatto, is the main carotenoid that has this dye, so much so, that it could help protect the health of your heart by decreasing a large number of risk factors of heart disease. In a study with animals, rabbits were fed a high cholesterol diet that was supplemented with bixin; this helped reduce plaque buildup in arteries by 55 percent. It also lowered several inflammatory markers, lowered triglycerides by 41 percent and raised good HDL cholesterol by an impressive 160 percent. In combination with a nutritious diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, in addition to a healthy lifestyle, achiote could be beneficial for optimizing the health of your heart.
5. Help Heal Wounds:
In addition to increasing the taste and aroma of food, annatto seeds are also sometimes ground and applied topically to help improve the health of your skin. Bixin, in particular, is a carotenoid that has been shown to help accelerate the wound healing process in some studies. In an animal study, bixin was found to reduce inflammation effectively, stimulate the regeneration of skin cells and improve healing of ulcers in the mouth of rats. Another test tube study showed that the application of bixin to skin cells prevents damage from ultraviolet light. Although found primarily in food, achiote is also added to many skin care products and facial masks to help nourish and improve the skin.
6. Promotes Eye Health:
The benefits of Annatto are rich in carotenoids, plant compounds that can benefit many aspects of health. In particular, however, carotenoids are known for their ability to help protect against eye related disorders. Norbixin is another type of carotenoid found in the annatto and has been linked to better eye health. An animal study showed that rat supplementation with norbixin for three months reduced the accumulation of a compound associated with macular degeneration, a type of eye disease that leads to vision loss.
7. Protect the Liver:
Known for its ability to detoxify, produce proteins and metabolize drugs, a healthy liver is a crucial component of overall health; precisely, it is thanks to these empowered antioxidant properties that the carotenoids found in the benefits of annatto can have a defending effect on the liver. In one study, rats were injected with a chemical that induced liver damage as well as bixin, the main carotenoid in achiote; He was able to effectively prevent liver damage and oxidation by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Although more research is needed, these results suggest that the incorporation of annatto seeds into a healthy diet could help keep your liver in optimal condition.
Precautions on the Benefits of Annatto:
Annatto is safe for most people, but it is always better to introduce new foods slowly and gradually increase their intake to assess tolerance. Some people may have exaltation or unexpected reactions to achiote. If you develop adverse side effects such as itching, swelling, diarrhea or abdominal pain after consuming a product that contains achiote, you should discontinue use and talk to your doctor. People with irritable bowel syndrome may want to be especially aware of their intake, as they are known to trigger symptoms in some cases. For those who do have sensitivity, be sure to check the label of food products and also avoid ingredients such as bixin, norbixin, bixa arellana, achiote and bixaceae.
Is the Annatto Safe?
The dangers in dyes will always be a topic of discussion, and, surely on more than one occasion you have heard about the subject, moreover, there are many reports that ensure that the consumption of dyes can lead people to suffer from diseases chronicles such as cancer; However, you should keep in mind that the side effects that are usually associated with artificial dyes that are usually processed with a lot of chemicals and other questionable ingredients. For your peace of mind, the Annatto comes from a seed which makes it a natural dye in every sense of the word, therefore, it is considered quite safe and helpful. Even so, there is a small margin of error that can cause some inconvenience at the time of consuming it, for example, it is recommended to ingest it in moderate amounts to avoid undesirable symptoms such as indigestion or chest pains.
Dangers of Annatto Seed:
Although it is something that does not happen regularly, there is evidence that some people may manifest allergy or exaltation to achiote. One study reported on a patient who suffered symptoms such as hives, swelling and low blood pressure, just 20 minutes after eating a type of cereal that contained achiote dye. Others with intolerance have reported that it has triggered symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a common disorder that can cause a variety of digestive symptoms. A woman, for example, suffered symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and swelling for three years before discovering that it was the achiote that was in her coffee cream that caused her symptoms. If you notice negative symptoms after consuming a product that contains achiote, you should discontinue its use and consult your doctor. However, people can mostly consume it without fear of suffering any of the side effects linked to this dye.
Should you Use Annatto?
Annatto can be an easy and natural way to add an extra dose of color and flavor to dishes, in addition to containing additional antioxidants and health benefits. In the same way, it has been certified that it works as one of the best options to replace industrial manufacturing dyes, which, as we mentioned, are loaded with various chemical substances that are generally negative for health in general. It may not be for everyone. If you try, consider starting with a small amount and going up to make sure you can tolerate it. However, although it can trigger intolerances and allergies in some people, for most it can be a healthy addition to the diet.
How to use the Benefits of Annatto?
Although it seems curious, this magnificent coloring can be found in a wide variety of processed foods, because they tend to be used to add color and brighten them. Some common sources include:
- Salad dressings
- Yellow cheeses, such as American, cheddar and Velveeta
- Roast chicken / barbecue ready to eat
- Microwave popcorn
- Powder donuts
Of course, I do not recommend consuming processed foods. However, you can also use achiote in homemade and healthy versions of these snacks and common foods, omitting all artificial and harmful ingredients. It is also a conventional ingredient in many cosmetics and skin care products and is even used to color some capsules, pills and vitamins. The Annatto is also used to impart its bold color, flavor and aroma in many types of kitchens around the world. It is responsible for the brightly colored rice dishes found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and is used in many traditional dishes such as those found in Venezuela and cochinita pibil in Mexico, among others.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Annatto:
- If you’re looking for a simple way to increase the color and flavor profile of a dish, while adding some additional health benefits, the Annatto might be what you’re looking for.
- This natural food coloring is often used as a condiment, condiment and flavor enhancer in kitchens around the world.
- From improving antioxidant activity to keeping your heart strong, annatto can be an excellent dietary addition to satisfy your taste buds, improve palatability on your plate and provide some additional health benefits.