John Oliver: Sugar.
The Bitter Truth:
Monstrous Facts about Mischievous Halloween Candies
I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I remember my first childhood experience with stealing: it was a piece of bulk “caramel candy” from the grocery store, which my mother made me promptly return.
As a kid my favorites were Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and around Halloween I loved biting each section of the “candy” corn and letting it melt slowly in my mouth.
Fortunately, as a young adult I learned that it wasn’t just sugar and chocolate packed into those neat little packages but a whole array of ingredients meant to make you want and buy more and pay no attention to some of their ill-effects.
With that said, my objective here is not to make anyone feel bad or scared about what they put into their bodies, but to give you a clearer picture of what money has allowed, a few processed food companies, to do our foods. I want to provide you with some outlets for choosing or making alternatives this Halloween and on through the holidays, that are just as and even more enjoyable. So I searched the candy isles at some alternative and natural foods stores and I looked for fun recipes online that could be done at home.
I found a, somewhat, guilt free recipe and for the first time in five years I am eating candy corn! I had to make a few adjustments for my specific needs, but wow that’s good stuff.
A little way into this I realized I could write a book on food processing and the dangerous ingredients added to our foods. They have played huge roles in the ongoing obesity and diabetes epidemic, and the milieu of other degenerative diseases the U.S. has seen increase over the years.
I’m not going to do that because it has been done before by those much more qualified than me:
Omnivore’s Dillemma: A Nautural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig
Prescription for Nutritional Healing (5th Edition ) by Phyllis A. Balch
The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with more than 75 Recipes by Mark Bittman
Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff
What to Eat by Marion Nestle
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
1) Artificial Colors, Flavors, and Sweeteners.
Artificial colors, particularly Yellow 5 and 6, are made from coal tar and are linked to hyperactivity disorders in children, in many studies as soon as the offenders were removed from their diets, so were their symptoms. These dyes have also been shown to cause tumors, allergies, and in addition are contaminated by cancer causing substances (1).
You can also watch this news report on aspartame, a dangerous artificial sweetener.
2) Partially Hydrogenated Oils or Trans Fats.
They have many serious effects including sexual dysfunction, paralysis of the immune system, and the promotion of heart disease. This is because they are synthetic fats that the body does not recognize and when they are incorporated into the body they act as toxins, deforming the structure of your cells (2).
3) High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCs)/Sugar in excessive amounts.
In 1821 the average sugar intake in the US used to be 10 pounds per person, per year. It is now a whopping 170 lbs! Sugar, especially fructose [HFCs] has been shown to shorten life in numerous animal experiments (3). Large amounts, of any sugar, promote tooth decay, as well as increase fat levels in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Not to mention, to counter the sweetness, you’ll find a ton of salt in some candies.
With 47g of sugar, in one bag, Skittles tastes nothing like a rainbow and supplies two and a half days worth of sugar for one child.
4) Genetically Modified or Genetically Engineered Foods.
First off, this stuff is just not natural and in addition to introducing new toxins to the body, causing allergies, reproductive failure, infant mortality, sterility, and inhibiting nutrient uptake, GM foods’ damaging effects have just not been studied extensively enough to merit their widespread use in our foods. We are being exploited and used as lab rats here in the US while in almost 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and those countries in the European Union, there are restrictions or outright bans on GM foods. Not to mention GM crops promote and even require the use of toxic herbicides and their use grew by 237 percent between 2004-2006 (4).
5) Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).
These nasty three are banned in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia but here in the U.S. food processing companies gladly add them to a range of products including gum. BHT is made from petroleum and blocks the process of oil rancidity and keeps food from changing color. They have been found to affect a range of functions from sleep to appetite, and are associated with liver and kidney damage, baldness, behavioral problems, nausea, fetal abnormalities, and growth abnormalities (5).
I find it ironic that many of their commercials have a woman with an English accent, but BHT, one of its ingredients, is banned in the UK.
It may seem daunting and I apologize for not exhausting the list of nasty side affects for each of these ingredients, but luckily most of the offenders are coming from the same companies: Wrigley, Nestle, Mars Inc., Tootsie Roll Industries, Just Born Inc., and Ferrara Pan Inc. This makes it easy to avoid eating their products.
So branch out people! Try something new and different, expand your horizons, spice up your life, and support local and small businesses (between 1998 and 2010 the amount of candy imported to the US from Canada and Mexico grew by 159 percent and 248 percent, respectively). Voting with your dollar is by far the best way to tell these companies what they are doing wrong or right. Here’s a list of some of the verified products here.
1. My absolute fav-o-rite! Hail Merry Macaroons. I devour them so quickly. They’re filled with delectable organic coconut, organic maple syrup, natural raw almond flour, organic extra virgin coconut oil, pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla, and sea salt.
“All Hail, Hail Merry!”
2. Justin’s Nut butters, including the delectable Almond and Vanilla. They are such a great healthful snack and come in those easy squeeze packages. Justin’s also makes Peanut Butter Cups!
3. My two favorite chocolate bars.
Endangered Species Chocolates give 10 percent of their net profits to organizations that support species habitat and humanity!
The other is Chocolove, right out of Boulder, CO. With these delicious twists on chocolate like these how could you ever go back to sugar packed Hersheys?
4. Everyone needs marshmallows, because without them you can’t make s’mores and if you can’t make s’mores what’s the point of camping? Try Eylon’s Marshmallows which features natural vanilla.
5. Spry and Glee make a good gum without any questionable preservatives or artificial sugars. I always keep a pack of Spry on me.
6. Keep it simple and just get some Honey Sticks, which can come in different flavors.
7. A healthier version of M & M’s is the Sun Spire Sun Drops. Are you starting to get the gist here people? You don’t have to forget about the sweets you love, just find alternatives that are better for you!
8. Even a candy for all you Twilight fans out there similar to a Milky Way, but way more delectable.
9. A couple suggestions for sweeteners and food coloring. India Tree is the only natural food coloring I could find, but it seems to be of a high quality and the colors are purely from vegetables. Also, some great alternatives to highly processed sugars that surprisingly add more flavor than any refined white sugar or HFCs you could find.
10. Try Panda Licorice, it tastes more like fruit than plastic unlike Twizzlers.
Kallie Barnes is a recent graduate from the University of Colorado-Boulder where she worked teaching general biology labs as a Research Assistant in the Biogeochemistry Lab. Her involvement with the CU Biodiesel and Environmental Studies Club allowed her to help spread the message of sustainability and zero-waste. A huge nerd and animal lover, Kallie spends most of her time amassing information and knowledge on sustainability issues, biology, and environmental sciences. She is excited about working toward a graduate degree in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. But in the mean time, she wants to focus on getting more involved in her amazing community, yoga practice, taking a courses in Geographic Information Systems, and volunteering as much as possible.
Editor: ShaMecha Simms
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(2) Nourishing Traditions (p. 23) citing a study called Enzyme Nutrition(1985) and published in the Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine.
(3) Nourishing Traditions (p. 23) citing a study called Enzyme Nutrition(1985) and published in the Proceedings of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine.
(4) State-Of-The-Science On The Health Risks Of GM Foods from Saynotogmos.org