In defense of candy
Photo: HarpersBizarre“Candy Professor” Dr. Samira Kawash has it just right: There’s nothing wrong with candy. It’s the candification of our other food that’s the problem. Today’s New York Times has an excellent profile of Dr. Kawash and a good primer on what’s right about candy — and what’s wrong with industrial food.
Let’s face it. Just about everyone loves candy. And they should! It’s yummy! There’s something unabashedly treat-like about candy that helps us have some mental clarity as to when it’s appropriate to eat it — which is usually not for breakfast or dinner — even if we can’t always resist temptation. (Who hasn’t ever eaten a chocolate bar and called it lunch?)
The problem is, most of the candy we consume is well-disguised. The typical American gets only 6 percent of their added sugar from candy, but 46 percent from juice and sweetened drinks, aka liquid candy. Yet most Americans still don’t view soda, much less juice, the same way they view a Snickers. Sports drinks are no better; most still make it through parents’ junk food filter. That’s why New York City’s recent anti-sweetened beverage campaign is so effective.
In fact, as Kawash observes, one serving of Gatorade has as much sugar as a dozen candy corns. Surprised? Then there are granola bars and “fruit leather,” which nutritionally aren’t that different from cookies and gummi bears, respectively. Meanwhile, millions of dollars in marketing have added a “health halo,” as the article puts it, to these products to ensure no one connects the dots (Mmmmm … Dots!) And don’t get me started on whether sweetened breakfast cereals are a “smart choice.”
These examples don’t even include the thousands of products into which industrial food producers — encouraged by agribusiness and its excess of cheap corn — slip high-fructose corn syrup along with other, less-recognizable corn-derived sweeteners and starches like dextrose and maltodextrin. Put it all together and Big Food has managed to turn the supermarket into an enormous candy store.
Ah, the good old days, when candy was