Between tradition and food security, how much room is there to enjoy candies? It happens that Halloween trick or treating is unfolding, but mostly for every other day of the year, are we supposed to pick between fun and health? How about both? After all, we don’t just want to enjoy sweets (for rewarding, comforting, celebrating… or whatever purposes) on Halloween day.
There has been a number of articles regarding the dangers linked to the ingredient lists of US candies… For some aspects of the topic, like sugar content (or should we say sugar-like content), it is all about moderation. For others, like artificial flavors or Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-based ingredients, effects on our health may include at best numerous medical conditions (like hyperactivity, ADHD… for the ones with short term effects), and at worst, some still completely unknown effects (that is, for the longer term ones, after many years of combining and building layers of dangerous ingredients in our bodies).
Here is a quick non-exhaustive list of 3 ingredients you should always check the ingredient lists for:
- Sugar- In its most common forms, high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, sugar is risky because 88% of corn is GMO corn in the US, and we do not know GMOs’ long terms effects on human health. Do also monitor the actual quantity of sugar, regardless of the type, and compared to the total weight of the candy.
- Artificial ingredients- Some of the most common candy ingredients from this grab bag include neurotoxic artificial food dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, yellow 6…) and vanillin. The first ones are known triggers for ADHD symptoms, and while vanillin sounds like high end vanilla, it is nothing like it. Vanillin is a cheap ingredient made from oxidized-in-a-lab wood pulp and possibly carcinogenic. And there is no data on the long term effects from ingesting it…
- GMO ingredients- Corn, soy(bean) and canola are usually found in the form of partially hydrogenated oils, i.e. transfats that directly hit arteries and possibly cause heart diseases (hello Snickers…). All three are among top US GMO crops. Soybeans are also used to make soy lecithin, an emulsifier that keeps ingredients from separating…
A quick look at all the usual suspects in the candy aisle is quite alarming, but there is a life outside that aisle. Here are 3 ways to healthier “sweet” solutions:
- Organic dark chocolate and healthier organic candies- If the occasion absolutely requires candies, get to know existing healthier candy brand options. It is strongly advised to not choose between non-GMO or organic candies, but to combine both instead. If not candies, go for some healthy dark chocolate. It is stronger than milk chocolate in taste so you’ll need less to satisfy your sweet tooth. Natural Candy Store could be one convenient online store to dig into ingredient lists and where one might find the perfect combination of organic AND non-GMO treats.
- Go with organic fruits- Sweet and healthy, you cannot go wrong and still get to satisfy your sugar craving, only in a naturally occurring way! Enjoy a whole fruit, squeeze one for a homemade juice, combine several for a smoothie delight, so many possibilities beyond and excluding the boring and not that healthy boxed orange juice…!
- Treat yourself in a sugar-free way! It does sound rather extreme, but craving sweets is often associated with taking a moment for yourself, breaking from the routine or rewarding a job well done, all things that can be done without putting our health at risk. How about taking a break, a power nap, calling a friend, treating ourselves with something useful… We know our needs, we name our prize. And if we’re talking Halloween here, a little useful toy can go as long a way as too quickly eaten too bright-colored lollipops!
Do you eat “junk candies”? Make exceptions, for Halloween in particular, or eat them all year round too? If so, what would be, if any, a convincing reason to reconsider that habit? What food items do you/could you successfully use to reward yourself or respond to a sweet tooth craving ?