What's Really in Halloween Candy?

These days, there’s more to a candy bar than simply chocolate. With a laundry list of ingredients, it's hard to know which ingredients aren't the best to ingest, and why they’re even in our candy bars in the first place. So we've peeled back the wrapper to uncover which ingredients are harmless, and which should go straight from the trick-or-treat bag to the trash.

SAFE
1. Tertiary butyl hydroquinone: This impossible-to-pronounce preservative prevents candy from going rancid and enhances storage life. Better yet, both the FDA and European Food Safety Authority say TBHQ is safe for humans. (And thank goodness, since it’s in America’s favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.)

2. Polyglycerol polyricinoleate: PGPR is a chemical that blends the ingredients in candy bars to make chocolate super smooth. It’s safe for humans to consume and is found in Kit Kat Bars and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars.

3. Soy lecithin: This additive is a substance extracted from soybeans that emulsifies the cocoa and cocoa butter in candy, keeping the ingredients from separating. Although soy can be a dangerfood when eaten in large quantities (messing with hormone balance and testosterone levels), studies show small amounts of soy lecithin in our candy (like Almond Joy’s and M&M’s!) are a-okay.

CAUTION
1. Artificial flavors: Adding some flava flave to food can make them taste more appetizing (Butterfingers, anyone?). The studies of artificial flavors (not to be confused with artificial coloring!) are few and far between, but the Center For Science in the Public Interest says artificial flavoring is probably safe.

2. Milk fat: We’re talkin’ more than just whole milk, here. Milk fat is the main component of cream, and is composed of triglycerides, a type of fat that may thicken the artery walls and increase cardiovascular risk. The bad news is milk fat is found in most chocolate candies, including Snickers and Milky Way bars.

3. Salt: Yep, it’s not just in the savory stuff. Salt is often added to candy bars to offset all the sugar and corn syrup. And we definitely don’t need any more of the salty stuff: Most Americans consume more sodium than recommended (2,300 mg) which can raise blood pressure and contribute to heart disease.

AVOID
1. Artificial coloring: Sorry M&M’s and candy corn, it looks like you’re doing more harm than good. Although artificial coloring may make candy more appealing, it has been linked to behavioral problems, asthma, and even cancer when consumed in large quantities. Another (not so fun) fact? After Halloween in 1950, food dye Orange #1 was banned from candy (for good!) after many kids got sick.

2. High fructose corn syrup: Sugar and spice may not be so nice. The consumption of HFCS, a sweetener derived from (you guessed it!) corn, may sometimes lead to kidney damage and liver disease in high doses. Hold off on those king-size Twix and Milky Ways (and most other candy bars, in fact)!

3. Hydrogenated palm kernel oil: If you thought milk fat was bad, check out this oil creeping in our candy. More than 80 percent of palm kernel oil’s fat is the saturated kind (which can up LDL cholesterol) but is often used in foods because it’s cheaper than alternatives.

Click to the next page for tips on having a healthier Halloween.

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