According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend a record $9.1 billion on Halloween candy in 2017, up half a billion dollars from 2016. Now that's downright scary! That's a lot of candy, which of course is high in sugar and unhealthy fats and low in fiber. This combination can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
Nobody wants to completely cut out these delicious treats, especially around Halloween. But you CAN make smart choices about the types of candy to buy and serve, and which ones to leave on the grocery store shelf.
The worst candies for gastrointestinal health
The short answer is all of them, but there are definitely types of candies that are best to avoid:
1. Milk chocolate and candies without nuts
Chocolate contains caffeine and works as a diuretic, so consuming too much chocolate can cause diarrhea and other GI issues. When these chocolates don’t contain nuts, they have no nutritional benefit at all, since they essentially contain only sugar and fat with no fiber.
2. Sugar-free candy that contains sugar substitutes
Be careful when eating too many sweets that use sugar substitutes, because Sorbitol and other sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress. Sugar alcohols work as a laxative, so overly indulging in these sweets can cause unpleasant problems the day after Halloween.
3. Overly processed candies
Many Halloween candies like licorice, candy corn and others have hidden ingredients that can cause digestive problems. For example, Licorice is often made with flour, so people with Celiac’s Disease need avoid it. Many candies are filled with high fructose corn syrup, modified soy lecithin, TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone), dyes or other additives that can cause GI issues.
The best candies for Halloween consumption
We recommend these yummy treats that are less bad for you than most, and some even have health benefits:
1. Dark chocolate and nuts
If you’re going to eat chocolate this Halloween season (and we know you are!), stick with dark chocolate. The darker the better, and even more so if they contain nuts. Nuts provide a bit of fiber and can help move things along in the digestive tract. There are numerous studies touting the health benefits of dark chocolate – from reducing blood pressure to providing gut bacteria with the enzymes to help reduce inflammation.
2. Gummies and gelatins
These candies are high in sugar and should definitely be consumed in moderation, but gelatin has multiple proven benefits for your gut health. Gelatin is not only great for your skin, but it has been identified as a support food for the stomach lining and can, in some cases, actually improve overall gut health. Making your own gelatin treats at home can be a great way to reap those benefits while controlling your sugar intake. Abraskitchen has a terrific gummy recipe that could be a hit at your Halloween party.
3. Jelly Beans
Jelly Beans have no nutritional value, but they're not such a bad Halloween candy. An individual jelly bean contains only four calories and less than 1 gram of sugar, so it’s safe to try a few flavors of this tasty treat.
So remember, if you overdo it, no candy will be good for your health or digestive system. But in moderation and in combination with a healthy and high fiber diet, a little Halloween indulgence won't set you back. For more information, check out the rankings for best and worst specific candy brands, according to Eat This, Not That!