Monday, May 9, 2011

Eating Candy Makes Life Sweeter for Healthy Folks

The spectrum of healthy lifestyles is so diverse; as with every spectrum, there are most definitely extremes. With healthy eating and exercising, we can probably all think of at least one person who fits the bill for being a health extremist and one who just doesn't give a hoot. You would perhaps expect those extreme healthy eaters to have lower risks of disease, as they likely consume plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds and nuts, healthy fats, fish and lean meats. Chocolate bars and candy are probably not on their menus. Interestingly, however, they are for some healthy folks, and they're probably happier as a result.

A new study has found that a little bit of candy from day to day is not associated with higher health risks but it is associated with having a smaller waistline and a lower chance of having metabolic syndrome (higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes). It turns out that people who take good care of their health aren't afraid to indulge in a little bit of sweetness because they probably make up for the extra calories by exercising and balancing things out in their diets. In addition, there is a good chance that people with smaller waistlines who watch what they eat and exercise are aware of how much candy might be appropriate for them without being overly unhealthy, so they don't go overboard.

The average candy or chocolate bar is about 2 ounces, but only about an ounce of pure chocolate is associated with better health outcomes. If someone didn't realize this, or thought that all chocolate is healthy and the more the better, they may end up overindulging without even knowing it. That's where the trouble begins.

As with all of these interesting health studies, we have to take a moment to think about the other factors that could be contributing to the results. It is not simply the case that eating candy and chocolate every day makes people skinny as some headlines might suggest. This misinformation is not only confusing but may end up causing people to eat more candy, thinking they might lose weight!

The bottom line is that a balanced diet, healthy lifestyle including physical activity and a little bit of nutrition and health knowledge (reading nutrition labels, understanding what calories mean and how many you need each day) can allow for a greater sense of dietary freedom. If you want a little bit of cake or candy or alcohol, knowing how much is appropriate allows you to literally have your cake, eat it, and stay healthy too! It all boils down to balance.