You are what you eat

Pink Flamingo – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Flamingoes are one example of how ‘what you eat’ can be reflected in your appearance. We associate flamingoes with the color pink or orange when in fact they are born a dull greyish color. The lakes and wetlands they live in are breeding grounds for algae, shrimp and mollusks – tasty munchies that these beautiful birds spend their days consuming. Each of these tasty treats are loaded with beta-carotene, an organic chemical which is a reddish-orange color and is famously known for making carrots orange. Beta-carotene gives shrimp their orange color when cooked, and shrimp-eating salmon their pink flesh. This chemical is an important one which gets converted into vitamin A in our bodies and contributes to healthy skin, teeth, bones and good vision. Interestingly, farmed salmon and zoo flamingoes which are not necessarily fed a ‘wild’ diet are made pink by the addition of canthaxanthin to their food, yet another naturally occurring carotenoid which is well known to give Chanterelle mushrooms their yellow/orange coloration.

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