When Candy Is Good for You: The Psychology of Sweets


In our post-Halloween sugar malaise, some of us might be cursing the bags of candy left in our cabinets. And yes, those bite-sized bits of chocolate, caramel and nougat (you can see where my head is), are perfect to satiate a craving. Or two. Or five. Because the real problem occurs when, after denying yourself candy over and over again, you wake up ten minutes later surrounded by a candy-wrapper massacre and chocolate smudges on your face similar to what you sported as a five-year-old.

And that’s when the guilt sets in. For some, it’s a mental recalculation worthy of a NASA space shuttle liftoff. Did I really need that third/fourth/fifth piece? How many pieces make a whole candy bar? Then it’s the inevitable sugar crash that comes when you feel like your face is covered in cobwebs or think that your bed would make a great desk. It doesn’t, and you will sleep. Probably an hour past your deadlines.

So, yes, there is a definite psychology behind sweets. Some people can eat away with nary a thought to blood sugar levels or waist lines, while others can mentally torture themselves as if trapped in a bad action movie on loop. Candy can make one mental. Unless we are diabetic and understandably required to monitor our sugar levels – why do some of us do this?

And certainly, there are different levels of self-torture. For some of us, it’s just about a simple lack of joy in candy. For others, it is much more serious. An estimated 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, while 40 percent of women recently surveyed said they are dissatisfied with their bodies. So it’s no wonder many of us perform mental gymnastics faced with candy.

It’s time – way past time – that we realize an all important truth. There’s happiness to be had in sweets! New research shows that there are secrets to sugar without self-shame. And maybe, just maybe, taking the “danger” out of candy makes it a little less scary to some.

Feast on these facts next time you’re slapping your own hand out of the candy jar. Psychology Today recently reported on some of the positive aspects of candy, and the news was sweet. According to one multi-decade study by the Harvard School of Public Health, otherwise healthy people who indulge in occasional candy live longer than people who didn’t. Chewing gum can help your brain re-shift focus. And another study shows that people who regularly eat chocolate have a much lower risk of heart disease.

Sure, we don’t want to make consuming a bag of candy part of our daily routine. An excessive amount of sugar is never going to be good for you, no matter how happy you are eating it. But constantly denying ourselves and monitoring every gram of sugar that goes into our mouths isn’t healthy, either. And clearly, it isn’t working for anyone. So let’s vote to restore the fun in candy – and elect to be healthier, happier adults!

Image: ciana13

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.