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Easter Candy: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

by   -  April 16th, 2014

by iofoto, despositphotos.com
by iofoto, despositphotos.com
Easter is right around the corner, and who among us doesn't love indulging on a Cadbury Crème Egg or a Peep or two (or four)? The candy industry gets a huge boon this time of year, in fact a 2 .1 billion dollar one. Yes, that's spelled with a B.

No one is really sure where the tradition of hot cross buns morphed into another commercialized frenzy for confectionary, but one thing's for sure; overindulging in this tradition can hit more than just in your wallet. What I'm about to tell you isn't as sexy as satisfying that sweet tooth, but a little food for thought never hurt anybody.

THE GOOD

I nearly started this post off with the ugly first, perhaps I should have so I could scare the crap outta you. But really, if you read anything at all – it should be this section and the ways you can make healthier choices.

The likelihood you cut out Easter candy and baskets of sweets in exchange for an egg salad sandwich is pretty much nil. I get that. So here are some ways you can have your sweets and feel good about giving them to your kids, too.

Steer clear of the crap

If you're going to buy candy for yourself or your kids, make sure the candy is free of the bad stuff.

Artificial colors – These have all been linked to tumors, cancer, and/or other serious diseases. Eating them is not worth the risk in your Easter candy or any other time.

HFC (high fructose corn syrup) – This stuff is nasty and it's in everything from your sodas and candies, to bread and more. Because our bodies cannot process HFC like it does real sugar, a whole host of problems occur. HFC's have been linked to "fatty liver" disease, intestine leakage, metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more.

TBHQ (tertiary butyl hydroquinone) – This is a derivative of petroleum that's found in cosmetics, wood varnish... and candy. The FDA approved the drug at less than .02 percent of a food's fat content because higher doses can be toxic. In fact, 5 grams of the stuff can be deadly and 1 gram can cause reactions like nausea, vomiting and ringing in the ears. Sounds great, right?

Gelatin – This is made from collagen. What is collagen? Basically, skin and bones and hoofs and cartilage and intestines. No thanks.

Castoreum – Be warned: this is in that yummy Cadbury Crème Egg of yours, amongst other things like ice cream. You may not wanna know its derivative, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Beaver anus glands. Yes, seriously. They get away with it, because... get this... it's considered a "natural" ingredient. Beaver bums come from nature, I guess. Steer clear!

Shellac (or confectioner's glaze) – This is derived from the secretions of female lac bugs and is found in things like furniture polish. Yeck.

Go for the green

There are plenty companies out there who make decent stuff that isn't pumped full of crap. Look for organic candies, fruit snacks, chocolates, etc. and watch those labels closely. Maybe it's just me, but I will be utilizing these clean candy kings wherever possible, not just this Easter season. If that means buying less for the same price tag, I am all for that. Who needs the health hassle or extra calories anyway? Besides, there are lots of other fun things to shove in an Easter basket – like bubbles, a deck of cards, stickers, or even a small toy.

THE BAD

There are numerous reasons sugar consumption in kids (and us grown-ups) needs to be quelled into submission. Here are some of the not-so-fun ways sugar can cause chaos.

Cavities

Yup, shocker, right? I'm sure you already know the drill. Excessive sugar intake causes tooth decay, which is the most chronic childhood disease in America, according to the American Dental Association. Every time the bacterium in your kid's mouth comes in contact with sugar, acid is produced, which then wreaks havoc on their teeth for 20 minutes or more. Eventually, this process causes a cavity. Candies that expose your children's teeth to sugar for a long time are especially bad, so avoid when possible.

Obesity

We've heard this one before, too. Researchers have found that children who consume a lot of sugar have the highest probability of being obese. This is because sugar causes a spike in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are high, any calories provided by these sugars that are not used right away are then stored for later use as fat.

Malnutrition

Nevermind the fact that many children who consume excessive amounts of sugar are overweight, they can still be malnourished. Sugar is a source of empty calories that provide little to no nutritional value. Kids who fill up on empty calories are likely to miss essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which would be provided by a nutrient-dense meal. This could lead to malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies. So be careful and take an active role in what your children consume.

Hyperactivity

This is no myth. If you're one of the parent's out there saying that sugar doesn't affect your child, chances are they are already consuming way too much. Sugar is to kids what alcohol is to adults. While hyperactivity may be the least of your concerns, if they've built up a tolerance to sugar, it's time to reign them back in for the bad reasons already mentioned and the ugly reasons to come.

THE UGLY

We need to start our kids out the way we intend for them to lead the rest of their lives. This means setting them up with healthy habits – even when celebrating. Below are some of the scary ways sugar can and will affect the body if left unchecked.

Heart Disease

This goes right along with obesity, but if left unchecked we get heart disease. Here's how sugar affects this: when we eat excess carbohydrates, our bodies turn sugars into fat. The reason is the body is storing most nutrients as a safeguard against starvation. We are still somewhat evolutionarily primitive in the way we handle our food and digestive habits. People who eat too much sugar tend to have higher blood tryglycerides, and this increases the risk of heart disease.

Diabetes

Sugar doesn't directly cause diabetes, but a high-sugar diet increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition. Overworking the pancreas, which produces insulin, brings on this risk. Know your family's medical history. Your genes will really dictate whether or not the risk is dire, but why push it?

Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Going back to diabetes for a moment: remember insulin? Well, it's also one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth in cells. Many scientists believe because of this, having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer. On top of that, metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption are a known cause of inflammation, another potential cause of cancer.

So after this crash-course, I hope you take The Good and leave the rest. Your health and the health of your children isn't worth the risk.

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is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.

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