Ever since Halloween goodies began appearing on grocery store shelves, my sweet tooth has been acting up. It’s craving candy corn, those orange, yellow and white sugary kernels that I couldn’t help but notice now come in gigantic 40-ounce bags.

Each bag contains 37 servings, one serving size being 15 pieces. That’s 555 kernels of candy corn, enough to feed a neighborhood of goblins. Or one adult.

Just one wouldn’t hurt, says the sweet tooth.

It’s been 10 months since I began a whole food, plant-based diet. I thought giving up meat would be tough. It wasn’t. I thought I’d miss milk and eggs. I don’t. It’s the sweet tooth that’s giving me fits.

Sweet memories of a childhood are relived through the consumption of sweets associated with them. Eat candy corn, says the sweet tooth, and remember the cornucopia of candies that I used to haul in on Halloween. The snacking would usually continue until Thanksgiving, when I would gobble down coconut walnut cakes and wash away the crumbs with Christmas eggnog by the gallon. Then I would ring in the New Year with peach cobblers until it was time to binge on Valentine chocolates.


If I did that now, every pound I have lost would be back — along with many more.

If the sweet tooth was an actual tooth, I’d have to pull it. But it’s a craving, perhaps even an addiction, which must be stopped at the source — somewhere in the mind.

I have learned to counterattack cravings by reading the label of ingredients on foods. Rule of thumb: If the list contains words that you cannot pronounce, do not eat the product inside.

The Brach’s classic candy corn ingredients were listed as sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze (shellac), salt, dextrose, gelatin, sesame oil, artificial flavor, honey, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 3.

I had to look up the definition of “confectioner’s glaze.” Here’s how the website Taste for Life, which promotes itself as a natural health resource, put it:


Confectioners’ glaze, made from shellac, is used by numerous candy companies to add a shiny, smooth finish on their products. But shellac — or ‘beetle juice,’ as ABC News calls it — is made of bug secretions.”


And there was also the gelatin. Financial and business news website Business Insider reported in October 2017 that gelatin is “a protein made from animal parts like hides and bones.”

In 2017, a poll by Halloween Express listed 21 states including California, Georgia and Maryland as “candy corn haters.”

The Takeout followed up with a story headlined “Is candy corn delicious or Satan’s earwax?”

Nevertheless, the National Confectioners Association estimates that about 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced each year, mostly around Halloween. That amounts to about 9 billion pieces. And a poll by the association found that candy corn was the second-most popular Halloween candy in the country — behind chocolate candies.


I also noticed that there were 22 grams of “sugars” in a 31-gram serving of candy corn. These were mostly added sugars. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave a list of such sugars in its 2018 report on nutrition. They included brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar and sucrose.


The list came with a warning:

Americans are eating and drinking too much added sugars which can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. To live healthier, longer lives, most need to move more and eat better including getting fewer calories from added sugars.”


The CDC also noted that Americans age 6 and older consumed about 14 percent of total daily calories from added sugars in 2003 to 2010. The leading sources of added sugars in the U.S. diet are sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts such as cakes and cookies, candy and dairy desserts such as ice cream.

The CDC didn’t say don’t eat candy corn. It recommended keeping the intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of the total daily calories. “For example, in a 2,000 daily calorie diet no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars,” the CDC report said. Also, drink more water and eat more fruit.


There are about 110 calories in a 15-piece single serving of candy corn. My sweet tooth calculated that I could eat 30 pieces of candy corn a day. Or, if I doubled my daily caloric intake to 4,000, I could eat 60 pieces a day. And so on until I have emptied the whole 40-ounce bag in a couple of days.


That certainly wouldn’t do.

Neal Bernard, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, gave me a different way to look at the situation.

“Sugar itself is relatively easy for the body to metabolize when consumed in moderate amounts,” he said. “However, what gets dropped into the Halloween bag is not just sugar but a mixture of sugar and fats. It’s like a sweet Trojan horse with harmful butter, fats and hydrogenated oils lurking within.”

Not to mention bug juice, bone bits and that devil’s earwax.

My sweet tooth would say that’s what makes it tastes so good.

It may be time to pull it.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/milloy.