Good For You

Barbara Burke

By Barbara Burke

Wednesday, March 24, 1999

More baskets
overflow with
Easter sweets

It's hard to imagine Easter without grass-filled baskets of sugary confections. While parents and nutritionists might prefer that the containers be filled with plush animals, hard-cooked eggs or fresh fruit, kids usually get their way with a generous amount of candy.

Every year Americans eat nearly 25 pounds of candy, about half of which is chocolate. Approximately a third of all candy in the U.S. is consumed by children and teens.

It wasn't until the 1930s that jelly beans became an Easter tradition. Last year, an estimated 15 billion jelly beans were consumed at Eastertime. Lined up end-to-end, that's enough jelly beans to circle the earth nearly three times. About $1.5 billion is spent annually on Easter sweets, according to industry figures.

One of the health concerns associated with candy consumption is that it replaces more nutrient-dense foods in the diet. Also, candy can be a significant source of calories and fat. Eleven jelly beans (40 grams) contain about 150 calories. A 1.4-ounce chocolate bar (40 grams) has more than 200 calories and about 12 grams of fat.

The truth about candy

The following information helps dispel some of the myths surrounding chocolate and other candy consumption.

Bullet Chocolate and other types of candy do not cause hyperactivity in children. This finding has been replicated in many scientific studies. In fact, sweets may have a calming effect in some children. Behavioral changes are more likely to result from the excitement surrounding an event or holiday.

Bullet Chocolate and other candies alone do not cause dental caries. Factors that influence dental cavities include the type of food, how often a food is eaten, the sequence of foods eaten, and the amount of time the food remains in the mouth.

Bullet Chocolate does not cause acne. In a study of adolescents at the University of Pennsylvania, their acne remained the same whether or not they consumed large daily amounts of chocolate.

Bullet Chocolate is one of the most commonly craved foods in the United States. One possible explanation is that low levels of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, lead to cravings for sweet foods. Another theory is that chocolate cravings occur simply because chocolate tastes so good. The mixture of sugar and fat and its "melt-in-your-mouth" quality makes chocolate hard to resist.

Bullet Chocolate does not appear to play a significant role in triggering headaches in typical migraine, tension-type, or combined headache sufferers, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. In a double-blind study, carob was just as likely to cause a headache as chocolate.

Bullet Chocolate contains little caffeine. One ounce of chocolate candy contains about 6 milligrams of caffeine, about the amount found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Most children and adults do not react adversely to such a small quantity of caffeine.

Bullet Chocolate does not raise blood cholesterol levels according to researchers at The Pennsylvania State University. Chocolate consumption may even lower the risk of heart disease because of its antioxidant properties, report scientists at the University of California at Davis. Chocolate contains heart-protective phenolic compounds, similar to those found in red wine.

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor
who has been teaching and writing about food
and nutrition since 1975.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin