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Ten Teaspoons of Sugar in My Chocolate?

The recently released revisions of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Health bring the conversation about sugar circling ‘round the measuring cup. These warnings against more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar a day boil up questions about nutrition. Surprisingly, just a century ago, nutritionists touted the benefits of sugar, especially candy.

In her book Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, Samira Kawash unpacks the recipes for today’s sugar addictions. Popular food prescriptions for the early 20th century dished out that “Candy is a nourishing and sustaining food.” Professor John C. Olsen of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC in 1910 served up the idea that candy and chocolate, “contain all the four chief food elements, fats, carbohydrates, proteins and mineral salts and have a higher calorific value than fish, meats, vegetables and fruits.” He frosted his argument for this diet, “Any vigorous adult could make a good breakfast on these chocolate creams and peanuts. … A person living on candy could feed himself on 50 cents a day easily.” The equivalent caloric amount of eggs would cost much more, $1.84 a day.  Scientific American similarly fed the public sugar in its issue of July 28, 1917, wrapping the healthiest and the cheapest together.

Candy replaced food. Boxing champion Willie Richie in 1914 declared, “I never let a day go by without eating 12 or 15 sugar lumps or a large quantity of mild chocolate or other kinds of candy.” Cadbury still sells its “Lunch Bar” of peanut, caramel, wafer and chocolate. Klein’s also sold a “Lunch Bar.” Goo Goo Cluster of the 20’s and 30’s were advertised as “A Nourishing Lunch for a Nickel.” A “Graham Lunch” offered a peanut butter and graham cracker sandwich dipped in chocolate. Tootsie Rolls were marketed in pocket sized tubes marked “Lunch.” In 1923 the Sperry Candy Company of Milwaukee launched the Chicken Dinner candy bar.

How lucky I am that my preferred dark chocolate means less sugar in my chocolate.

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