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Hi Matt:

Halloween is coming up. What's the healthiest kind of candy for me to eat? I like salt water taffy, but I've heard that jelly beans are your best bet. I'd like your opinion.

-- Sugar Freak, downtown

Got to admit, I'm not sure what scale of values we're using here to rate jelly beans as healthier than salt water taffy. This is a question of significance only to the truly desperate. All candy is some combination of sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, invert sugar, or molasses. That is-- sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, and sugar. Any individual differences are the result of flavorings, the types of sugar used, and how they are cooked and handled after cooking. Only in your dreams are Snickers bars more wholesome than Gummi Bears.

Salt water taffy is corn syrup, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, oil, salt, an emulsifier (lecithin, usually), and flavorings. One ounce of taffy provides about 4% of your recommended daily allowance of riboflavin. Eat a pound and a half of it, and your vitamin B2 worries are over for the day. There's virtually no other food value in it. Of course, the vitamin B2 will have cost you about 1700 calories and 75 grams of fat. And just who is the wizard that suggested jelly beans as a healthy alternative? Take the milk out of the taffy, substitute starch or gum of some type, and you've got jelly beans. And half the riboflavin. And nothing else.

Licorice might be a contender for some sort of fool's paradise award as least awful. Real licorice candy contains less added sugar, but that's just because licorice root is already sweeter than cane sugar. An ounce of pure milk chocolate will have protein, riboflavin, and calcium-- 4% each in the RDA department. Iron, 6%. It wil only cost you 3700 calories and 200 grams of fat to get 100 percent of your calcium needs from a pound and a half of chocolate. But could your old pal Matt make a suggestion? How about a nice candy apple. Peel off the candy, eat the apple.

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