The Scariest Part Of Halloween – Sugar
It’s Halloween time! That means sugar, right? Well, not necessarily… If you’re looking for some anti-candy motivation and ideas, I’ve got you covered.
Now I’m not saying that you can never eat something sweet again. It’s just that, if you’re like most people, you don’t need any more sugar in your diet. And if you’re not careful, sugar can turn Halloween into the worst day of the year, especially for kids.
Stats That Will Spook You
The average American eats 150 pounds of sugar every year. That’s a big reason why almost one in four Americans are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
- Halloween is the biggest holiday for the candy industry. If you gathered together all the Halloween candy sold each year and somehow balanced it on a scale, it would weigh as much as 2,000 blue whales! That’s like 600 million pounds of candy! And the American food supply is already overloaded with sugar to start with.
- The average trick-or-treater eats three cups of sugar on Halloween day alone. That’s 7,000 calories of candy. Seven. Thousand.
So, those small pieces of candy that you secretly confiscate from your kids’ Halloween sacks – and then eat when no one’s looking – can add up pretty quickly.
What Happens When The Sugar Hits?
The damage Halloween candy does goes way beyond an excess of calories. Here are some of the less obvious ways that sugar stresses your body. Use them as motivation to cut down the sugar or avoid it.
- When sugar arrives in your mouth, it mixes with bacteria to make acids that attack your tooth enamel. Each attack lasts around 20 minutes and opens the door to cavities.
- Next, the sugar gets broken down in your small intestine and absorbed into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin that tells your cells to open up and take in sugar to be used as an energy source. But most of the sugar gets stored as a compound called glycogen, which is stored in either your liver or muscle tissue.
- After glycogen floods your liver and muscles, any sugar left over is stored as fat.
- Your body interprets this wave of sugar as stressful. In response, it releases the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. These trigger your heart rate and blood pressure to go up and cause you to start sweating.
- By this point your brain has released dopamine, which is a chemical that gives you that initial feeling of pleasure – the sugar high.
- Then the crash comes. You feel tired and irritable. Maybe you get a headache. Your stress hormones are now reversing gears as they get the sugar out of your liver and muscles to bring your blood sugar back up after the crash.
- Usually by now, you’re bloated and your stomach aches a bit.
But worst of all…
The worst damage is not how you feel or that the sugar you ate triggered insulin to put fat on your body. The problem is that this rollercoaster of hormones crashes your immune system, making you more susceptible to bacterial viruses.
Even worse, if your diet continuously puts insulin into your bloodstream, you’re setting the stage for diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.
Sugar Destroys the Balance of Your Microbiome
Your microbiome is the collection of good and bad bacteria in your gut. One of the things that the good bacteria do is help stabilize your blood sugar. But a high sugar diet throws that balance off, leading to a situation where you have too much bad bacteria. This imbalance causes cravings and a rollercoaster of hormones. Over time, you end up with systemic inflammation and damage to your gut lining where you don’t absorb nutrients properly.
The worst part about all of this is that an unhealthy microbiome is directly related to compromised brain function. This impacts mood, behavior, memory, and focus. Not to mention, it worsens existing mental conditions.
Aside From Sugar
So far we’ve only looked at the effects of sugar. But add to that the fact that candy is often filled with artificial sweeteners, food coloring, and other chemical junk that inevitably detract from your health and function and, in many cases, set the stage for some kind of disease.
Healthy Halloween Alternatives
For Halloween this year, help the kids in your life and the kids in the neighborhood by giving out something other than sugary candy. You can hand out things like stickers, crazy straws, markers, bubbles, key rings, even coins.
Then if your kids get candy, they can trade it in for some toy they really want, or for a game, or for a healthier choice like dark chocolate.
Just get rid of some of that candy and don’t eat it yourself. If you want something sweet for Halloween, make sure you eat well during the week leading up to it, and then eat something other than the sugary junky candy – maybe a small piece of dark chocolate or something along those lines.
Whatever you do, have fun, make sure the kids are safe, and if you fall off the wagon… get back on it on November 1st.
Happy Halloween from all of us at BodyManual!
Know Your Body - Know Your Health
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