Halloween candy: Why parents should indulge their kid's sweet tooth
Fan-Yee Suen, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013 11:06AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:00PM EDT
As Halloween draws near and children prepare to trick-or-treat their way to a massive haul of sweet treats, many parents worried about excessive sugar consumption may be considering a confection clampdown.
But according to cultural critic and historian Samira Kawash, who recently published "Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure," many parents today are overly anxious when it comes to sugary confections.
"(Candy is) only a tiny, tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle about whether what we're eating is really healthy for us," Kawash told CTV's Canada AM from New York on Wednesday.
Kawash, who also blogs on candy history, said that candy only accounts for approximately six per cent of the added sugar in an average person's diet, and that the demonization of candy sends the wrong message to children.
"Parenting is a long-haul proposition…it's not just about the candy on Halloween,” she said. “It's about how we're teaching our kids about how to take care of themselves, to recognize the difference between candy and good food, to know how to deal with candy because candy is everywhere."
She said parents should use Halloween as an opportunity to talk with their kids about consuming candy in moderation, instead of categorizing it as a taboo food.
Many parents equate candy with more dangerous and addictive substances, said Kawash, recalling an instance where she offered her child's friend some jelly beans during a play date.
"The father said 'Well, you're to give some crack next, I suppose."
According to Kawash, candy is viewed as a "menace" because of its form and how it’s presented.
"It's much more about the emotions and meaning than about the actual substance of the candy," said Kawash.
She said people's "irrational" fear of candy can be traced to what she calls the beginning of the "industrial candy" or treats that are mass produced.
"People 100 years ago feared that candy was full of cyanide, arsenic, plaster of Paris, factory floor scrapings," she said.
"Some people thought that the candy turned into alcohol in their stomachs and made them drunk, or led them to smoking and gambling, or excessive masturbation."
Kawash’s views on candy as a neutral food, however, counter the opinion of some nutritionists who believe sugary treats can be addictive.
In a recent study, researchers at Connecticut College found that Oreo cookies may be more addictive than cocaine.
For the study, researchers measured the brain activity of Oreo-fed rats and found that the cookies activated "significantly" more neurons than morphine or cocaine.
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," associate professor of psychology Joseph Schroder said in a release. "It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."