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Candy’s Virtue Is In Its Honesty, Says Rutgers Professor

"It has always been a processed food eaten for pleasure with no particular nutritional benefit," says Rutgers Professor. Candy-lovers' guilty consciences eased.

colored balls of candy

Photo: terren in Virginia (flickr)

Unlike most processed foods, candy is up-front about its sugar content.

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Candy: The Only Honest Sweet

Candy is a treat, and revels in its decadence. Walking down a candy aisle is like attending a parade: everything is bright and colorful, luxurious and gaudy, reveling in childish delights. Even the sizes are “Fun” and “King.”

However, according to Dr. Samira Kawash, a professor at Rutgers University and the author of the Candy Professor blog, transparency is candy’s best trait.

“Candy is honest about what it is,” she said. “It has always been a processed food, eaten for pleasure, with no particular nutritional benefit.”

The Real ‘Candy?’

It is undeniable that eating high-sugar foods like candy in large quantities is unhealthy, but candy’s acceptance of its role as an indulgent, limited pleasure has an impact on consumers. Even that person who only buys 90% dark chocolate would say it isn’t socially accepted to eat a candy bar as a meal.

But how about having a store-bought breakfast bar in the morning? Soda with lunch? An energy drink after exercising?

Most industrial food products have high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars to a degree that rivals candy’s ingredients. The problem is this added sugar is so disguised that many people don’t exercise the same control with their processed foods that they do with gummy bears.

Take beverages, for instance. Although most people consider drinks supplemental to their meals, Americans consume 46% of their added sugars from juice and sweetened drinks alone. When compared to the 6% of added sugars that Americans eat through candy, it is clear that candy’s honesty about its sugary content significantly influences consumers to limit their candy intake.

Moderation Is Key

Candy plays many roles as a simple treat, a boutique specialty, a frustrating temptation, a vintage obsession, or simply a stress reliever, and its publicly accepted role of health villain helps candy-lovers limit their candy intake. However, if other processed foods will not embrace candy’s sugar content transparency, we should turn our critical treat eye towards the rest of the disguised sweets on the market.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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