Starting with Halloween and straight on through the holidays to the end of the year, we’re in the “sweet season” … complete with its peppermint bark, chocolates, and candy canes (1.8 billion candy canes are made each season).[i]
Then, once this season’s sweets are behind us, up comes Valentine’s Day … then Easter (Easter candy sales make up 28 percent of total U.S. candy sales each year)[ii] … and the list goes on and on. Not to imply that holidays are the only days Americans eat candy … 50 percent of Americans surveyed (and 55 percent of those with kids in the house) said they eat 10 or more servings of candy each month.[iii]
You’re probably aware that candy isn’t healthy … but if you’ve got a sweet tooth you give in to more than you’d like to admit, you should know that some candy might be worse than others. The sweets that follow are among the worst, unhealthiest candies on the market.
7 Unhealthiest Candies
1. Sour Patch Kids
The first three ingredients are sugar, invert sugar (a glucose/fructose mix) and corn syrup, which explains why just 16 of these little pieces have 26 grams of sugar (the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults consume just 25 grams of sugar – or less – a day. Artificial flavors and four types of artificial colors round out this candy’s atrocious ingredient list.
One original Butterfinger bar contains 29 grams of sugar, and while its manufacturer, Nestle, plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from their chocolate candy products by the end of 2015, Butterfinger still contains the preservative TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone), which is also used in fragrances and varnish and was described by Michael Pollan (author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) as a form of butane (aka lighter fluid).
High in sugar (19 grams for four twists) and controversial ingredients, Twizzlers earned an “F” ranking from FoodFacts.com.[iv] In addition to corn syrup and sugar (the first and third ingredients, respectively), Twizzlers also contain partially hydrogenated oil (i.e. trans fats), artificial flavors and colors, salt and preservatives …
4. 3 Musketeers
Although these are marketed as a lower fat candy than other chocolate bars, don’t be fooled. One bar contains 36 grams of sugar and hydrogenated palm kernel oil, which means these “lower-fat” candies contain some of the worst fat of all – synthetic trans fats.[v]
5. Take 5 Bars
Hershey’s Take 5 candy bars’ lengthy list of ingredients includes sugar high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat), artificial flavor, TBHQ, caramel color and more. Hershey’s, like Nestle, has plans to remove artificial flavors and colors and high fructose corn syrup from their chocolate products, although a definitive timeline hasn’t been given.
Dots gumdrops are made of corn syrup, sugar, artificial flavor and artificial colors, including FD&C Red 40, Yellow 5 and Blue 1. Each Dot contains about 2 grams of sugar,[vi] which means even a small handful will send you over your daily recommended limit.
Made of artificially flavored milk chocolate, sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup and artificial colors (nine different varieties), M&Ms are a high sugar, genetically modified (sugar and corn ingredients are often full of GMOs) “treat.”
Are There Healthy Candy Alternatives?
A piece of whole fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth while providing your body with valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber. These healthy snack options can also satisfy your hunger pains … but if only candy will do, try these healthier alternatives:
- Dark chocolate: Cocoa beans contain potent antioxidants that are quite good for your heart. One study even found that those who ate the most chocolate had a 37% reduction in heart disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared to those who ate the lowest levels.[vii] As a general rule, the darker (and more bitter) the chocolate, the healthier it is.
- Dark chocolate-covered fruit: Dark chocolate raisins, cherries or blueberries combine the antioxidant power of dark chocolate with that of berries – a particularly healthy combination. Just be sure you don’t overdo it (dried fruit is high in sugar).
- KIND bars: KIND bars are low in sugar and high in protein and fiber. Plus, they contain only ingredients you can pronounce. Many other protein and granola bars on the market contain as much sugar as a candy bar, so be sure to read the labels before assuming it’s a ‘healthier’ choice.
- Shredded coconut: Rich in healthy fats, coconut is naturally sweet and satisfying. Be sure to look for unsweetened varieties. If you like, you can use it to make your own healthy trail mix by combining unsweetened coconut with nuts and dark chocolate chips.
Please share this info above with anyone you know who can benefit!
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[i] Indiana University, Christmas by the Numbers
[ii] Statista, Statistics and Facts on Seasonal Candy
[iii] Experian Simmons National Consumer Study, Candy Consumption in America
[iv] FoodFacts.com Hershey’s Twizzlers, Strawberry Twists
[v] The Daily Meal, The 10 Unhealthiest Halloween Candies
[vi] LiveStrong November 2, 2015
[vii] BMJ. 2011 Aug 26;343:d4488.