Recently I heard a story on the Baltimore News that parents should switch their child’s Halloween candy for sugar free type sweets because it is a healthier choice. It may be true that we shouldn’t allow our children to consume a huge bag of candy, but how much healthier is sugar free?
According to Live Strong’s website, sugar free candy contains artificial sweeteners, such as mannitol, sorbitol, isomalt, maltitol, lactitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, all of which are sugar alcohols. They belong to the family compounds known as polyols and are naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Besides their use of being a sugar substitute they are also found in mouth-care products because they do not breakdown in the mouth and therefore, do not cause tooth decay or break down into decay-causing acids. They also are claimed to not affect blood sugar levels within the body.
However, one article on Newser.com, “Why Sugar-Free Sweets are a Bad Move”, references LA Times for some reasons why sugar free products may not be the best choice. Sugar substitutes can cause laxative effects and they do not save you from many calories. Furthermore, sometimes these artificial sweeteners cause you to crave more food than you would normally eat and they still contain refined carbs that cause diabetes, heart disease, and cavities.
Since this information can cause you to be ambivalent as to whether sugar or sugar-free is the way to go, perhaps you can make your decision based off the effects these products have on the environment…or maybe not.
According to HealthNewsDigest.com, “Environment: Sugar vs. Artificial Sweeteners”, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that sugar has a great impact on the earth. Large amounts of land on tropical islands and coastal regions are used to grow sugar, causing a great loss of biodiversity on these lands. Sugar is also the cause of major soil erosion, degradation, and the introduction of pesticides and fertilizers into our ecosystems.
The alternatives to sugar use that HealthNewsDigest.com lists are natural and artificial sweeteners, but stevia seems to be their top choice. It is sustainable and 30 times sweeter than table sugar without any calories. Other natural sweet ingredients that you can look for is coconut palm sugar, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, and raw honey.
As for synthetic sweeteners, such as those mentioned earlier, little is known about them and some still question how safe they are for consumption. Aspartame is made from the fermentation of corn and soy, which majority of these crops are genetically modified. A recent study performed by the University of North Carolina (UNC) found that Sucralose, or Splenda, is ending up in the Gulf Stream and is traveling through the ocean current to other parts of the world, such as waters off of Europe and Africa. Sucralose is not broken down by the bacteria within our digestive tract; therefore, once we consume it, we excrete it through our waste where it then ends up in sewage systems and released into our water sources.
Then there is saccharine, or Sweet ‘N Low, which was shown to cause cancer in lab rats in the 1970s. The FDA did remove warning labels in 2000 and the EPA took it off the “hazardous constituents and commercial chemical products [list] in 2010”, but it is found to still cause problems in pregnant women and infants when large amounts have been ingested.
So if you are looking for candy that has little impact on the earth and may be a little healthier for children, and yourself as you sneak a piece of candy or two, look for those that are labeled Fair Trade, organic, or made with stevia or natural sweeteners. DiscoverStevia.com has some great options to choose from, including stevia chews candy, hard candy, and licorice. NaturalCandyStore.com has some great organic candy options too for almost every holiday season, including "Dark Chocolate Scary Skulls" for Halloween.
Give out eco-friendly, healthy candy this Halloween so you don't have to feel guilty about celebrating this spooky holiday. The neighborhood parents may thank you too.