Pick Your Poison: Added Sugars

The weather is cooling down, the leaves are changing, and pumpkin-everything is on the horizon! As autumn begins, Halloween decorations clutter neighborhood yards and store windows.

…And with hundreds of bags of candy piled onto store shelves, Jack-o-lanterns aren’t the only faces that are lighting up!

Whether you’re buying candy for the neighborhood kids or picking through the candy bags of your of your own kiddos, most of us appreciate the treats circulating on Halloween.

Giving out food or treats on Hallow’s Eve has been a tradition in the United States for many years. In fact, according to the Smithsonian Institute, the term “trick or treat” dates back to the 1920s, when people would go door to door demanding edible plunder and rejoicing!

Many of us carry on the tradition today.

A few pieces of candy on Halloween is nothing to lose sleep over. But frequent trips to the trick-or-treaters’ candy bowl or continually ransacking the office candy stash in the days leading up to or proceeding the holiday might raise some concerns – and maybe an eyebrow or two as well!

For starters, sugar can wreak havoc on a person’s teeth if there is frequent exposure to it. Bacteria in the mouth will feed on the ongoing sugar supply, turning it into acid. This acid can eat away at the teeth and eventually cause calcium depletion, loss of tooth integrity, tooth decay, and cavities. Because of this, it is a good idea to limit the number of exposures your teeth have to sweets throughout the day. This means channeling your inner super hero and spreading that sweet plunder out over several days.

Additionally, bear in mind that candy and sweet treats are largely empty calories. Empty calories are okay to consume every once in a while; however, they aren’t recommended as part of a healthy, daily routine. The reason for this is that they often replace other more substantial or healthful foods in the diet, while offering little nutritional value of their own. Some candies, like chocolate bars, contain added bulk in the form of nuts, whey, and other ingredients, but they are still composed predominantly of carbohydrates and sugar. Factor out these added ingredients, and the sugar content soars!

Compare a fun-size peanut-buttery Butterfinger bar (4.6 grams of sugar, 46 calories), a Babe Ruth (5.6 grams of sugar, 56.6 calories), or Snickers (8.5 grams of sugar, 80 calories) to a fun-size Skittles (11.4 grams of sugar, 61 calories) or Super Blow Pop (27 grams of sugar, 130 calories)!

All of these contribute empty calories and sugar to the diet, and some of these contribute a pretty significant amount.

It has been well documented that frequent consumption of foods that are low in essential nutrients can lead to adverse conditions. Empty calories often lead to excessive caloric consumption and weight problems. Likewise, it is suspected that sugar may be one of the biggest contributors of cholesterol-related heart disease!

These health concerns are echoed by the nutrition and health industry. The current 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a healthy eating pattern that limits sugar. In fact, according to these guidelines, only about 10% of the average person’s calories should come from sugar. And organizations like the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association recommend even less!

To put this into perspective, most individuals should be making efforts to consume no more than 25-50 grams of sugar daily. This is about 1 or 2 of the aforementioned candies, with no room for additional sugar from other meals or snacks! Additionally, most American adults already consume well over this amount daily – About double this amount! With this in mind, consider the sugar-saturated typical American diet combined with a sugar-central holiday. Also consider the subsequent months of post-Halloween-sugar-laden holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s easy to see how uncontrolled extras here and there can really add up in the course of just a few months.

The best recommendation may be to pursue a healthy, balanced diet the majority of the time, so that you can enjoy those special treats now and then.

Have a happy Halloween, and make sure that the only spooky thing creeping up on you this month is a group of wily trick-or-treaters – not sugar-induced health problems!

 

Resources

The History of Trick or Treating is Weirder than you Thought
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-history-of-trick-or-treating-is-weirder-than-you-thought-79408373/

Halloween and the Surprising Truth About Cavities

Halloween and the Surprising Truth about Cavities

The Sugar in Halloween Candies
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/27/halloween-candy-sugar_n_6056282.html#gallery/565644/1

Diet, Nutrition, and Prevention of Chronic Diseases – WHO
http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/

Sugar and Sweetener – The American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugars-Added-Sugars-and-Sweeteners_UCM_303296_Article.jsp#.WctdgyuQwtX

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/

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