Trick or Treat?

Is the scariest part of Halloween the haunted houses, the creepy costumes, or is it the 5 lb bags of Halloween candy in every store?

Halloween is right around the corner and I’m willing to bet there is already a stash of Halloween candy in your house.  But how much of that candy will will actually make it out the door, and how much is left hanging around…calling to you…begging to be eaten?

“What’s the big deal!?!”, you ask, “It’s Halloween, and it’s only once per year!”  You may dress up, scare your friends, and hand out candy to the neighborhood kiddies once per year, but for as long as those mini Snickers bars, M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are making their way from the bowl to your mouth, you may be scaring the heck out of your body!

Sugar has not always been the ubiquitous substance it is today.  For the majority of human existence, sugar has been a very expensive and rare luxury found only in fruit when it was in season.  With the advent of travel and industry sugar became more readily available, but it could only be afforded by the wealthiest of individuals.  That is until the discovery of the Caribbean Islands and the start of the Industrial Revolution when sugar became cheap and available to the masses.

Since its debut into the daily diet, sugar has been linked to obvious problems like obesity and tooth decay, serious health conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and seemingly unrelated conditions like increased mood swings and a depressed immune system.

White blood cells ingesting harmful bacteria.

Wait, a depressed immune system?  Yup, you heard right.  A molecule of sugar looks a lot like a molecule of Vitamin C to the cells of your immune system.  So much so that they actually use the same “doorway” to enter the cell and when sugar is present it gets priority in entering the cell over Vitamin C.  So, you end up with immune cells full of sugar instead of the Vitamin C necessary to fight and destroy foreign bacteria and virus invaders.  The result?  You – 0: colds & the flu – a fighting chance.  That’s why so many kids end up with a cold soon after Halloween.  It wasn’t plethora of people he/she came into contact with on Halloween night.  It was the excess sugar that slowed his/her immune system to a crawl and let those bugs take hold.

OK, so now what?  Try these tips to reduce the siren call of sugar in the post-Halloween days:

  1. Don’t buy the giant bag that will ensure the leftover candy that will taunt you for weeks to come.
  2. Choose a few of your favorite candies and enjoy them on Halloween night but get rid of the rest.   Help your kids do this by taking advantage of a local candy “buy back” program.
  3. Hand out healthy treats like small boxes of raisins or craisins, snack sized bags of nuts, or even non-food items like stickers, pencils, or crayons.  I do realize this may not make you the most popular house in the neighborhood, but if I can do it, so can you!

So, if Halloween isn’t Halloween without the candy, go ahead…just think of the candy as you would a bottle wine.  One glass is nice on a special evening, but a whole bottle every night until the stockpile is gone…maybe not.  Treat sugar like the luxury it is in nature, not the pervasive commodity it has become…sweeten responsibly.

Want to know more about how you can keep your immune system in top shape this coming cold & flu season?  Join me on November 19th for my workshop Stay Healthy this Cold & Flu Season: No Shots Required.

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