Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Looking for an escape from the doldrums brought on by life’s downers? A little trip to candyland might help and won’t hurt diet and health goals if you navigate wisely.
Savoring a decadent creamy dark chocolate or enjoying a return to childhood chomping on a stick of licorice are simple and affordable pleasures.
It seems the downturn in the economy has triggered an increase in candy sales nationwide. In Atlanta, while you may not be able to swing a multi-course dinner at Annie Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s award winning Bacchanalia restaurant, there’s probably room in the budget for a shopping trip to their Star Provisions store to raid the retro-candy collection of sweets such as Bit-O-Honey and Mary Janes all for under 30 cents.
Even dietitians give the “AOK!” If you check the diet advice provided on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s you’ll see that guidelines for healthy eating include a daily allowance for “discretionary calories.”
I call them splurge calories, and depending on how much exercise you get each day, most of us can spend about 200 calories on the little extras, which include foods like candies.
Confections fall into a few nutritional categories.
Some are simply sugar based like hard candies and gummies. Some are combinations of fat and sugar, like chocolates. Some add other ingredients that add additional calories but often add nutrients such as chocolate-covered nuts and dried fruits. All require paying attention to how many you gobble to avoid indiscretions in consuming your discretionary calories.
Then there’s the dental effect that’s often not so sweet. Registered dietitian Cheryl Orlansky of the Laureate Medical Group in Atlanta, who is also a registered dental hygienist, has this candy caution, “Sticky carbohydrates that adhere to the tooth, whether in the form of jelly beans or caramels, break down on the tooth and mix with plaque (bacteria on the tooth) to form an acid that can start the cavity process. We call these foods cariogenic. Hard candies or sugar-free candy would be a better choice than anything that will stick to the teeth.”
Dark chocolate has been the confectionary darling of the diet world lately because of the antioxidant disease-fighting power in cocoa.
Look for chocolates with at least 65 to 70 percent cocoa content.
Orlansky concurs, “The best health promoting candy would be dark chocolate for the antioxidants, so in a 1 ounce serving, you get the benefits of the chocolate as well as satisfying the sugar craving.”
And studies have shown that chocolate actually contains compounds that prevent dental caries.
But that’s not a green light to eat chocolate all day.
Orlansky explains how often you console yourself with candy plays a role in dental health, too.
“Most dental professionals will tell you that it is the frequency of sugars in the diet and contact on the tooth surface versus the amount that increases risks for cavities.”
So satisfy that sweet craving by choosing candy snacks that add up to no more than your splurge allotment for the day, enjoy a small amount of dark chocolate or dark chocolate-covered dried fruit or nuts to incorporate some healthy nutrients and remember to brush afterward.

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