Halloween candy is notorious for being a storehouse of sugar, but did you know there are also other ingredients lurking in your child’s Halloween bag that have been linked to cancer, allergies, and inflammation? There are hundreds of chemicals that can be found in the average candy haul. Here are a few that top our list of scary ingredients.
Scary Ingredients In the Average Child’s Halloween Bag
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Vanillin and other artificial flavors
- Artificial colors
Let’s take a deep dive into these ingredients.
Everyone knows there’s a lot of sugar in Halloween candy. But did you know there are three cups of sugar in the average child’s Halloween candy bag (over 570 grams)? That’s the equivalent of nearly 15 cans of soda! Sugar comes in many forms, including glucose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, confectioner’s glaze, and so many others. This is not the unrefined sugar you find in a piece of fruit, but processed, inflammatory sugar that makes for unhealthy candy. Too much sugar contributes to asthma, acne, type 2 diabetes, obesity, digestive issues, hyperactivity, behavior issues, and disrupted sleep.
MSG is a food additive that enhances flavor. It is widely known for causing a variety of reactions like headaches, nausea, and even hives. MSG is a very inflammatory additive that overexcites the nervous system, which is why it is known as an excitotoxin. (Learn more about excitotoxins in this episode of A Different Perspective with Dr. Patrick Flynn and leading neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock.) Think MSG is just found in Chinese food? Think again! MSG is found in many candies and gums as well.
3. Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are linked to cellular congestion and inflammation. They have also been connected to cancer, neurotoxin syndrome, and chronic fatigue. Though consumers and the FDA have put pressure on food manufacturers in recent years to eliminate hydrogenated oils from foods, they are not gone altogether. Read labels carefully to discern what exactly is in a product. (That goes for all of the ingredients on this list!)
4. Vanillin and Other Artificial Flavors
Vanillin doesn’t sound scary when you look at it in an ingredient list. Most of us could pronounce it, right? But the truth is vanillin is made from wood and petrochemicals (chemicals derived from petroleum and natural gas). You’re much better off sticking to pure, organic vanilla extract. When artificial flavors like vanillin are made synthetically in a lab, they are often formulated with chemicals and emulsifiers that pose serious health risks.
Gluten is one of the top offenders found in Halloween candy along with sugar. The protein in gluten is highly inflammatory and one of the first inflammatory foods we recommend patients remove from their diet right away. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten can cause a cascade of inflammation-driven health issues. Gluten can wreak havoc on the rapidly developing gut ecosystem of children.
Milkfat and whey are some of the names that dairy goes by in the ingredient lists of candies. Dairy, like gluten, is a very inflammatory food that we recommend patients remove from their diet right away. Milk was biologically made to help a baby cow grow to a 2,000-pound animal. It’s not intended for humans. Dairy can provoke an inflammatory response in the body that manifests as acne, a struggle common to many pre-teens and adolescents. Simply removing dairy from the diet can dramatically improve skin conditions.
7. Artificial Colors
Our consumption of food dyes has increased five-fold since 1955. These dyes have been linked to conditions like cancer and hyperactivity. Did you know that a snack size bag of Skittles has 19 unhealthy ingredients with a bulk of them being artificial colors like Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake? No thanks!
Many of the preservatives in candy have been linked to allergies, cancer, asthma, dermatitis, and other conditions. One common candy preservative in particular, TBHQ, is derived from butane. Another name for butane? Lighter fluid. Potassium sorbate is another common chemical additive that is synthetically produced from sorbic acid and potassium hydroxide. It is used to prolong the shelf life of a food and act as a mold inhibitor. There is strong evidence that it can be a human skin toxicant and allergen.
Healthy Treat Alternatives
- Enjoy Life Halloween Minis: These treats are made without 15 of the most common allergens, making them a great option for kiddos with multiple allergies.
- Black Forest Variety Pack: Fruity treats from Black Forest are a wholesome option naturally sweetened with fruit juice. They are also certified organic and free of gluten.
- Smart Sweets Gummy Bears: These gummies contain up to 92 percent less sugar than their conventionally-sweetened counterparts. They are non-GMO, free of artificial ingredients, and free of common allergens.
- YumEarth Suckers: YumEarth’s allergen-free line of candy is organic. In addition to suckers, they also offer candy corn, gummy candies, and chewy squares.
- Unreal Peanut Butter Cups: Unreal’s line of products is made with organic ingredients and low in sugar. They offer peanut butter and almond butter cups as well as candy bars and chocolate-covered peanuts.
Looking for some non-food treat ideas? Try slap bracelets, glow sticks, slime, playdough, stickers, pencils, erasers, or mini slinkies.
Bringing up your kids in a healthy way doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fun holidays like Halloween and the accompanying treats! There are many healthy swaps to choose from and, trust us, you will find options that work for your family. Try some of these healthy treat alternatives and check out our Halloween tips to help you make this Halloween your healthiest yet!