“There’s a reason we’re supposed to be afraid of this night.”
Officer Hawkins, at the scene of Michael Myers’ latest murder victim, reflecting on the fateful Halloween night in Haddonfield forty years prior when he could’ve killed Michael
The holiday season is just around the corner, and it’s bringing its partner, temptation, with it starting on Halloween. The nutritional myths about Halloween candy go stag, but boy do they draw a crowd.
I’ve always loved the Halloween ambience more than the candy. 😱 That says a lot given I spoke of my battle of wills with my sweet tooth, but it’s true. My neighbors’ candy bowls are safe, though. In my family, we buy our favorites–singles only, no bags, and no family sizes–a couple of weeks before Halloween, so we’re eating what we want without binging.
Regardless of whether you’’e as picky as we are, you might be afraid to read those colorful wrappers and see what’s really lurking inside.
So, let’s shine a flashlight on a few myths—you remembered to change the batteries, right?—and prove we’ve misunderstood this monster.
“In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie…”
Album: No Need to Argue (1994)
Myth 1: Halloween candy is a major saturated fat source
Don’t let the pseudo-science scare you: Saturated fats can become a problem, but they’re not all bad.
So, what’s up with saturated fats, anyway?
The American Heart Association says it well:
“Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products and eggs and tropical oils like coconut, and palm. Because they are typically solid at room temperature, they are sometimes called “solid fats.” Saturated fats can cause problems with your cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease…”
Saturated fats influence your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level, which can raise your cholesterol. How so? In Dr. Peter Attia’s latest AMA podcast, he explains how LDL carries cholesterol to your arteries, whereas high-density lipoprotein (HDL) doesn’t. The thought of anything that can clog my arteries having a subway within my system to get there is motivation enough to keep my consumption in check.
How does this apply to Halloween candy?
Chocolate-based treats, especially those with caramel and nuts, tend to have more saturated fats. Foregoing the milk chocolate for dark chocolate and gain a nutritional advantage. Some dark chocolates are healthier than others for reasons other than saturated fat content. I link to a Consumer Reports article in the resources below for easy reference.
Treats like gummy bears and hard candies have negligible saturated fat content.
There is a saturated fat you want to avoid: trans fat. It’s harder to find in foods today because the FDA forbade its use several years ago, but animals also naturally produce a small amount. Some food labels will display no trans fat if it’s a negligible amount, but there are plenty of alternatives. Seeing “partially hydrogenated…” amongst the ingredients is a deal-breaker for me. Your mileage may vary.
Myth 2: Candy raises your cholesterol
Did you know your body needs cholesterol for healthy cellular function? If not, refresh your memory about how your body produces cholesterol.
With that primer, let’s talk about dietary cholesterol.
Our bodies don’t absorb much of the cholesterol we consume through our diets. Most candies don’t even contain cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean candy can’t impact your cholesterol level.
How can that be true if it’s absent from the recipe? Those saturated and trans fats we just spoke about pull the strings.
Myth 3: All sugars in candies are bad
While consuming large amounts of refined sugars isn’t great for health, our bodies break down the sugars in candies, like sucrose, into glucose and fructose. Our body uses glucose for energy.
The two sugars I avoid are sugar alcohols and high fructose corn syrup. The former is a synthetic sugar, the latter may impact your weight, liver, and triglycerides.
There are plenty of candies without these sugars. I seek out sugar and cane sugar on candy labels.
Myth 4: Dark chocolate is always healthier
While dark chocolate contains antioxidants and may offer some health benefits, it doesn’t get a free pass. Some dark chocolates can still be high in calories, sugars, and fats.
Some also contain high levels of lead and cadmium, naturally occurring elements in the soil. Dark chocolate products with a lower cacao concentration seem to be safer than those with a higher concentration.
You’ll find a link to a Consumer Reports study in the Resources section below to help you get started.
I’m trying to indulge as seldom as possible, and when I do, I’m going to savor it. My sweet tooth has a place in my balanced lifestyle, and several days a year aren’t going to alter my health outcome.
Read before feed
I’ve long since made it a habit to read labels, weigh the risks, and make the most informed decision I can. Sometimes, I’m more risk tolerant than others.
I believe I’ll be fine if I indulge in moderation this season because my lifestyle habits far outweigh these temporary dietary concessions. I continue to stay active and eat healthy meals during the season. Sometimes, I work out a bit harder to compensate for it.
Whatever you do, I wish you informed decision-making and peace with your choices.
Happy Halloween! 🎃