Most candies offer zilch when it comes to nutritional value, but pop-in-your-mouth peppermint sweets boast small amounts of healthy peppermint oil (extracted from the leaves of the peppermint plant) or extract (made by soaking the plant in alcohol).
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While this refreshing oil may provide some modest pluses for your health, try turning to different methods — other than sucking on candy — if you want to really reap those peppermint oil benefits.
Read more: 10 Healthiest Candy Bars
Large doses of peppermint oil can be harmful and may have contraindications for people taking certain medications. Be sure to consult with your physician before taking peppermint oil or anything that contains the oil.
The Benefits of Peppermint Oil
From reducing bad breath to calming an upset stomach, peppermint packs a plethora of benefits for your body.
1. It Can Fight Bad Breath
Everyone knows that popping a peppermint can subdue stinky breath. However, sucking on a mint not only masks bad breath but may also fight the germs that cause it. That's because peppermint oil is anti-bacterial, so it can help destroy the measly microbes that produce mouth odors.
Indeed, rinsing with a peppermint-based mouth wash can effectively reduce halitosis, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry.
2. It Might Soothe a Sore Throat
With its anti-inflammatory properties, peppermint is also your pal if you're suffering from a sore throat, according to Leslie Langevin, RD, author of The Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen Cookbook. That's thanks to menthol — one of peppermint's main chemical components — which creates that cooling effect. What's more, when inhaled, peppermint oil has been shown to relax the muscles of the windpipe to allow for better ventilation, adds Langevin.
3. It May Provide Gastrointestinal Relief
Not only can peppermint soothe a sore throat, it's also good for your gut. "There are tons of studies showing how peppermint oil helps with irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion," says Langevin. Specifically, taking peppermint oil capsules that are enteric-coated (so they don't open in the stomach but rather in the small intestine) may reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms like gas, bloating and diarrhea.
One caveat though: Peppermint oil may worsen heartburn since it can relax the opening between the stomach and esophagus, according to Langevin.
4. It's Linked to Curbing Appetite
If you're trying to lose weight, you may want to mix a little mint into your daily diet. According to Langevin, mint is a natural appetite suppressant. So, drinking peppermint tea can help reduce hunger and curb your cravings, she says. Likewise, an after-dinner mint may mitigate your late-night snacking.
5. It's Associated With Better Workouts
One small study found that consuming small amounts of peppermint oil could enhance exercise performance, per research published in the March 2013 issue of Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Scientists theorized that peppermint relaxes bronchial smooth muscles, boosts ventilation and brain oxygen concentration and reduces blood lactate levels.
What's more, peppermint has also been linked to an increase in circulation and energy as well as relief of muscular pain, all of which can benefit your workouts, according to Lisa Moskovitz, RDN, founder and CEO of The NY Nutrition Group.
Best Ways to Take Peppermint
Although peppermint is a health powerhouse, there are better ways to reap the benefits than sucking on peppermint sweets. While mints and candy canes use peppermint oil or extract for flavor, the added sugars they contain provide zero nutritional value; plus, eating too many can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes, says Moskovitz.
- Try peppermint oil capsules: For the
biggest benefit, Langevin recommends taking peppermint oil capsules, which
provide the most concentrated dose of peppermint oil.
- Brew some tea: Don't want to pop a pill? Peppermint tea is another good option. A hot mug of peppermint tea is perfect for winter, says Langevin, who adds that cold peppermint tea — mixed into a green smoothie with honeydew, spinach and berries — can be a refreshing, nutrient-rich beverage, too.
That said, if you're pro peppermint candies, indulging every now and then is OK. One piece of peppermint candy contains 5 grams of sugar and comes pre-portioned into small pieces, which is good for portion control.
"Everything in moderation is the name of the game," says Moskovitz. "As long as it's enjoyed as an occasional treat, or you get no more than 10 percent of your total calorie needs per day from added sugars, a piece of candy should not pose a threat to your health."
Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Sugar
- Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry: “Evaluation of the Use of a Peppermint Mouth Rinse for Halitosis by Girls Studying in Tehran High Schools”
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: “The Effects of Peppermint on Exercise Performance”
- USDA Food Data Central: “Peppermint Candy”