The surprising ways candy can be good for your health!

Love candy? You’re not alone. The average American scarfs down an astonishing 25 pounds of it a year—most of it around Halloween when candy bowls brimming with sugary treats are everywhere.

Luckily, you can now banish your candy guilt. Well, some of it, anyway. That's because a recent Harvard study found that candy isn’t the nutritional devil we’ve been taught to think it is. Conventional wisdom has held that candy must be bad for you, says I-Min Lee, Ph.D. lead study author. But, the truth is, studies show that some sweets are full of essential fats, vitamins and minerals that fight disease—just like meats, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs—and eating them regularly can add years to your life.

What’s more, much talked about diseases aren’t the only things that candy can combat; simply suck on a peppermint or chew a piece of gum and annoying little day-to-day health problems, like a case of the sniffles or an upset stomach, can instantly become a thing of the past too.

Read on to discover which sweet treats can do the most for you…

Stressed? Reach for a caramel!

According to a recent study from the University of California at San Francisco, people who eat foods that contain both fat and sugar simultaneously benefit from an amazing de-stressing effect. The combination sends signals to the “reward” center of our brains, giving us a mood boost, and also blocks stress hormones, such as cortisol, which instantly lessons irritability and fatigue. The perfect prescription: eat two to four caramels. They contain just the right amount of fat and sugar to sweep anxiety-causing chemicals out of your brain, giving you an immediate feeling of relaxation, confirms Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., director of the nutrition clinic at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. And at just 39 calories each, they won’t even make a dent your diet! 

Bloated? Chew on licorice!

Having trouble getting rid of pre-period bloat? A simple and easy solution is to eat natural black licorice candy. Licorice contains estrogen-mimicking compounds that inhibit water retention and other premenstrual problems, explains Willow Moore, D.C., N.D., a naturopathic doctor in Owings Mills, Maryland. The effect is so powerful, licorice can even help prevent menopausal symptoms like memory decline, according to a British study. Try Panda All Natural Licorice chews, which can be found in health food stores or online at Drugstore.com.

Upset stomach? Chew gum!

It’s so effective at quelling tummy trouble, many doctors are now handing Bazooka, Doublemint and the like to their patients after abdominal surgery to prevent gas, bloating and constipation. “Gum stimulates the production of saliva and gastric juices, jump-starting the ‘stalled’ intestine that’s at the root of most stomach troubles,” explains Mark Glasser, M.D., chief of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, California. Bonus: Choosing a sugar-free variety helps alleviate constipation because the sugar substitute attracts water to your intestinal tract, a recent study shows.

Have high cholesterol? Eat candied ginger!

Israeli researchers found that sucking on one piece of crystallized ginger candy a day has the power to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by an impressive 33%. Ginger works by thinning the blood, making platelets less sticky and likely to clog arteries, explains Dr. Klatz.

And that’s not all: numerous studies show this ancient Asian remedy can melt away headache pain, relieve fevers and lessen arthritis as effectively as over-the-counter painkillers. The oil in ginger has an amazingly powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, Dr. Klatz explains.

Concerned about cancer? Consume chocolate!

When researchers from Holland's National Institute of Public Health and Environment compared chocolate to tea, they concluded that the rich candy treat had four times as many anti-cancer compounds as the brew! “Over 600 varieties of antioxidants have been discovered in chocolate so far, making it as much as super-health hero as a multi-vitamin,” says Dr. Klatz. His sweet prescription: eat a one-ounce square of plain, dark chocolate a few times each week to ensure you have adequate levels of quality of antioxidants.

Coughing? Congested? Cure yourself with peppermints!

Scientists say that there’s a reason more of those little red-and-white-striped treats are  consumed during winter than at any other time of year: they contain menthol, an anti-inflammatory compound powerful enough to clear nasal congestion and soothe coughs related to colds and flu. “It’s the exact same healing ingredient found in leading over-the-counter nose and throat relievers in your drugstore,” reveals  Boise, Idaho, naturopathic physician, Joan Haynes, N.D.

3 candy myths—debunked!

Still not convinced candy can be good for you? Experts demystify your top fears:

Myth #1: Candy makes you fat.

Fact: The calories in a candy bar are just like the calories in any other food; burn them off and you won’t gain an ounce, explains clinical nutritionist Paulette McMillan, R.D.

Myth #2: Candy causes cavities.

Fact: Recent research shows that crackers are actually more likely to cause cavities than most candy. Unlike sugar, which dissolves quickly, cracker crumbs stick to teeth and promote decay.

Myth #3: Candy causes Type-2 diabetes.

Fact: Type 2 diabetes is not caused by sugar, reports Emory University professor William Branch, M.D. “It’s caused by insulin resistance, the result of being overweight."



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