For a while food was sustenance, and you ate it to live. Later, as thinking about food became more advanced, you could separate virtuous food from nonvirtuous food. (Yogurt is good, and chicken parmigiana is bad, for example.) Then we entered a period of moral relativism about food. (Chicken parm is fine, but in moderation.) Now we are in a period in which food promises you deliverables. If you eat kale and sweet potatoes, it will make you feel less depressed and more beautiful, and you won't die, which is, I suppose, the goal of modern life.
The problem, of course, with these benefit-rich foods is that in general they are horrible. Kale is not as good as a Reese's peanut butter cup. Luckily, nonvirtuous foods such as candy are now able to provide the same airless promises as kale. As a trip to Whole Foods can confirm, there are myriad sweets on the market that promise many benefits — you can achieve long life and eternal beauty with a candy taste instead of a kale taste. Which is amazing! But are they amazing and delicious? It falls to me to decide.
NeoCell Beauty Bursts, $20 for a package of 60
NeoCell Beauty Bursts are "gourmet collagen soft chews" that are designed to give you beautiful skin and hair. They don't have gluten, soy, or palm oil in them. (This is advertised very extensively on their packaging. Why is palm oil bad? Please tell me.) But they do have "Super Collagen" (which "is the body's beauty protein and strengthens skin"), hyaluronic acid (which "is known as 'Nature's Moisturizer,' " apparently), and vitamin C (which "is essential to boosting collagen"). In tiny letters at the bottom of the package, there is some small statement about these claims not being verified by the Food and Drug Administration — but who cares, really? What does the FDA know about fun?
The package also claims that these beauty bursts are "delicious." I decided to test out the "fresh mint chocolate" flavor and can happily report that the claim is false! These candies taste like a spicy piece of chalk. The have almost no chocolate taste, and there is a residual stinging after you eat them that perhaps is supposed to be minty. The weirdest thing about them is that they actually have a lot of sugar in them. There are 4 grams of sugar in two chews. For comparison , two Hershey's Kisses have 5.2 grams of sugar, and they don't taste of a chemical shower.
Reserveage Organics Collagen Replenish fruit chews, $20 for a package of 60
These "skin-revitalizing fruit chews" contain both collagen and another substance called Verisol, a bioactive collagen peptide that, according to its website, "counteracts skin's aging in the dermal layer." Fine.
The interesting thing is that these chews are never referred to as "delicious" or anything on the package. They are just called "convenient," which I should have taken as more of a caution, but I was distracted by their beautiful pink packaging. Maybe these beauty candies are marketed to women? If so, I am falling for it hook, line, and sinker!
As candies, they have a very bitter chemical taste, punctuated by the remnants of a familiar but long-forgotten fruit punch flavor. As I tried to place the taste (Hawaiian Punch), I was flooded with memories of childhood, so this candy was kind of a Proust's madeleine for me that was also healing my skin at the dermal layer.
Aloha Superfood chocolate, $49 for a six-pack of bars
This chocolate is part of the current "healthy chocolate" trend, which really took off back when chocolate itself was classed as a superfood after a 2010 Imperial College London study reportedly showed that chocolate can suppress persistent coughing. There are now several "healthy" chocolates on the market.
Aloha's claim to fame is that it soups up your basic old chocolate with "skin-beautifying anti-oxidants" while remaining gluten- and dairy-free. It's actually pretty good chocolate, if quite sweet and with a hint of an Ovaltine aftertaste. However, since it doesn't have any oddly named chemicals in it, it probably has an unfair advantage over collagen chews.
YumEarth Organic Pops, $5.49 for a 12-oz. bag
YumEarth's Organic Pops are lollipops that have 100 percent of one's daily vitamin C intake contained within them. In layman's terms, you could eat one large orange or suck on some lollipops and you would be set on vitamin C for the day.
According to the package, someone on the Today show claimed that this lollipop was the best he ever tasted. I would disagree. These lollipops taste as if a Flintstone's vitamin were melted into a hard lollipop-type shape. I would take an orange any day.
Cracked Candy, $30 for a pack of six Altoids-like containers
Cracked Candy is a Brooklyn candy company that creates "naturally sugar-free" hard candies containing xylitol, which, according to the package, "may reduce cavities, plaque and promote the remineralisation of tooth enamel." Great — I was recently told by my dentist that my enamel is rapidly disappearing.
I purchased the "mellow orange" flavor at Whole Foods and crunched on them while watching The Martian. These candies are unlike any I have ever tasted. They have a sort of hard but crumbly texture, like a cross between day-old fudge and a Werther's Original, yet instead of tasting particularly milky, they taste like orange-flavored ice. While you are chewing on them, they literally taste cold in your mouth, and they kind of hurt your enamel. (Does that mean they are healing my enamel?)
Zollipops the Clean Teeth Pops, $6 for 25 pops
According to the Zollipops package, these oddly Technicolor confections were invented by "kidpreneur" (a word, apparently) Alina Morse, who one day asked some unidentified personage, "Why can't we make a lollipop that's delicious and good for your teeth?" Thus Zollipop was born. Instead of boring, malicious sugar, these contain xylitol and also erythritol, a tooth-friendly sugar substitute. According to Wikipedia, erythritol was discovered in 1848 by a British chemist. In large doses, it makes people feel nauseated; in rare cases it can cause allergic hives.
Suffice it to say, I felt very afraid when I ate these lollipops. Would I feel nauseated? What would my hives look like? Would they be in the shape of a heart? (I hope!) But I have to say that all my fears were mistaken. These are fantastic lollipops. They have a nice consistency, the right level of sweetness, and a complete absence of chemical-sweetener aftertaste. If I had to pick between eating these and brushing my teeth everyday, I would absolutely choose these.
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In conclusion: Eating healthy candy is worse than eating normal candy. Beauty is pain, as my mother always said.