The scary truth about Halloween candy

Whatever age you are, if you have a sweet tooth, Halloween is your kind of holiday. But before you start indulging in all those sugary treats, be aware of the consequences too much candy can have on your health and weight."A typical candy is high in sugar, dextrose, fructose corn syrup, as well as artificial color and flavor," says Rob Yontz, a personal trainer at True North Fitness & Health in Ventura, CA. "None of it is good for you because it is high in sugar (and sometimes fat) and calories but has virtually no nutrients." The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the average American consumes almost 26 pounds of candy each year - a large percentage of it around Halloween. Why is this bad? Because according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, just one piece of candy almost exceeds the USDA recommended daily values for empty-calorie foods and added sugar. "If you add to this all the other junk food and drinks that many people consume on daily basis, it should not be a surprise to anyone that a high-calorie diet, whether from fat or sugar, will lead to weight gain," Yontz notes. "And obesity carries its own set of risks, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes." Can you still enjoy Halloween without gorging on candy and other sweets? Absolutely, Yontz says. "It's all a matter of being creative and finding tasty snacks that will satisfy you, without piling on extra pounds or decaying your teeth," he says. "For example, small boxes of raisins, pretzels, mixed nuts, or unsalted and unbuttered popcorn are all better choices." Still craving something sweet? Turn to dark chocolate, Yontz suggests. "Recent research shows it is rich in antioxidants - vitamins, minerals, and other substances that protect the body from harmful free radicals. Of course, you should not eat chocolate in excessive quantities - a single square is sufficient for health benefits," he notes. If, despite all these warnings, your willpower on Halloween is zero and you end up consuming lots of candy, get into the "damage control" mode as soon as possible. "The next day eat light, drink a lot of water, and make sure to do some metabolism-boosting workouts," Yontz advises. "Your trainer can show you exercises that will continue to burn fat and calories even after you finish your workout." While an occasional splurge will probably not hurt you, a Swedish study released last year showed that even a brief period of excess food consumption can have long term effects on body weight and fat storage. "That's why we should all be conscious of what we consume and how this impacts our health and weight," Yontz says. "And that's why it is so important to work out regularly and eat healthy on continuous basis - even on Halloween!"

********** Published: October 27, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 28