Halloween is one of the biggest holidays of the year—children and adults alike get creative and dress up, decorate their homes, tell spooky stories and, of course, go trick-or-treating. This exciting tradition is likely one of your kids’ favorite parts of the holiday because of the buckets full of candy they can collect.
Unfortunately, having Halloween candy in the home leads to some potentially dangerous health consequences. And it’s not just risky for the kids—parents are also tempted to lift a few pieces from the bucket every now and then.
Despite all the fun surrounding Halloween, an excess of candy and sugar might leave you and your family feeling ill. Here are just a few of the ways your treats can deliver their “trick” to your health.
- Promotes overeating: Between the buckets of candy children bring home, the treats both work and school might offer and the bags of candy you purchase to pass out to trick-or-treaters, your home can quickly become filled with bite-size candy bars and snack packs. After the festivities are over, though, all that candy is still there, waiting to be eaten. Bite-size candy is meant to be eaten quickly, but that can easily lead to grabbing more than just one or two. You might find yourself chowing through an entire bowlful of candy while watching TV, which can not only make you feel extremely sick, but can make you feel shameful and put you at risk for diseases and a pattern of binge eating.
- Potential for sugar addiction: Candy can actually be an addictive substance, much like drugs like cocaine. When you eat sugar, your brain produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which correlates to pleasure or “rewards.” This is the same neurotransmitter drugs and nicotine trigger and what makes these substances addictive. Repeated sugar binging leads to more dopamine “highs” in your brain, making your body crave sugar more and more. Before you know it, your candy snacking might continue far past Halloween.
- Leads to weight gain: Adding a handful of candy on top of your daily meals will increase your caloric intake, meaning there’s a chance you’ll gain weight from eating too much. Candy is also chock-full of “empty calories,” or calories that don’t have any vitamins or nutrients in them. Instead, candy just loads your body up with refined sugars, most of which your body isn’t able to use. When this happens, your body stores those as fat in order to get them out of your bloodstream.
- Increases risk of disease: The refined sugars present in candy can put you on the path to becoming obese, which also has risks for developing diabetes. Additionally, studies have shown that eating excessive levels of sugar may lead to heart disease because high insulin levels can affect your arteries and stress your heart.
- Causes mood swings: The intense spikes in blood sugar followed by the intense drops can have serious effects on your mood and concentration. These low periods can make you feel sluggish, tired and cranky. Long-term, excess sugar can also lead to depression and anxiety.
- Rots your teeth: Bacteria in your mouth love to feast on sugar, and when all that sticky candy is coating your teeth, you’re more susceptible to tooth decay and cavities. Not only will these tooth problems cost a lot of money to fix at the dentist, but they can worsen and affect the gums and cause oral infections, which can affect your overall wellbeing, not just your mouth.
Moderation is key
Although candy presents many dangers to your health, you don’t have to completely avoid Halloween and its treats. The key to enjoying candy or sweets is to limit your intake and ensure you’re supporting your health in other ways to prevent sugar from affecting you.
One way to do this is to buy candy you don’t like to pass out to trick-or-treaters. That way, if there are bags leftover, you won’t be as tempted to snack. Another option is to hide the candy out of sight and only allow yourself and your family to eat one or two pieces a day as a treat. Fill your cupboards with other, healthier snacks your family enjoys, so you’ll be more inclined to reach for those, instead.
Finally, make sure you’re supporting your health in its entirety. Eat a balanced diet rich with vitamins and minerals. If you’re full, you won’t be as tempted to reach for sweets, and your body will be getting the nutrients it needs to function properly and fight off diseases. If you know that your diet is lacking in a few vitamins, make sure you’re taking a supplement or multivitamin to make up for it.
Halloween is certainly scary, but it’s not always because of the skeletons and zombies. The hidden dangers of sugar can have real consequences for your health, but only if you allow yourself to eat too much.