Are Gummy Bears Healthy?

Gummy bears are a favorite snack for many children and adults. Although they have protein, these sugary snacks aren't particularly healthy for you. Even sugar-free gummy bears come with side effects. Fortunately, it's possible to easily make your own gummy bears and turn them into a healthy snack.

Gummy Bears are not the healthiest. (Image: kaisphoto/E+/GettyImages)

Tip

Gummy bears aren't really healthy snacks, as they have so much sugar. However, it's possible to make your own gummy bears using healthier ingredients.

Gummy Bear Nutrition Facts

Haribo gummy bears are actually known as Haribo Goldbears. These gummy bears come in five different flavors and colors:

  • Lemon flavored, yellow
  • Orange flavored, orange
  • Pineapple flavored, white
  • Raspberry flavored, red
  • Strawberry flavored, green

These gummy bears are primarily made of:

  • Glucose syrup (that comes from wheat or corn)
  • Sugar
  • Gelatin
  • Dextrose
  • Artificial and natural flavorings

Haribo gummy bears' ingredients are all listed as the same, despite their different colors and flavors. Each serving (13 pieces, or 30 grams) of Haribo Goldbears gummy bears has 100 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein. There are 14 grams of sugars in every serving of gummy bears, which means that there is more than one gram of sugar per gummy bear.

While not all Haribo products are kosher or halal, Haribo does sell gummy bears and other products that meet these requirements. This means that Haribo gummy bears may use beef gelatin, pork gelatin or even fish gelatin, depending on the manufacturer and country where the products have been produced. Although some Haribo snacks are even suitable for vegetarians (these use starch, rather than animal gelatin), none are suitable for vegans, as the company uses beeswax in all of their products.

The Sugar in Gummy Bears

Gummy bears are primarily sugar. Although they have 2 grams of protein per serving (which comes from the gelatin), they are primarily empty calories. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 10 percent or less of your daily calories should come from added sugars. Since carbohydrates like sugar have four calories per gram, this means that most people should consume no more than 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugars each day.

As far as junk food products go, gummy bears aren't that bad compared to many other products. Assuming that you ingested no other added sugars, you could consume multiple servings of Haribo gummy bears and still be within the FDA's recommendation. However, this amount of sugar means that gummy bears' health benefits are minimal. Consuming more than 3.5 servings of gummy bears per day would contribute to an unhealthy diet.

Even in moderation, products that use ingredients like wheat syrup and corn syrup aren't particularly healthy for you. According to a June 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consumption of products with corn syrup is associated with an increase in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Sugar-Free Gummy Bears

Usually, when the sugar in a product is quite high, the manufacturer produces a sugar-free alternative. Haribo did exactly this, with its sugar-free gummy bears. These sugar-free gummy bears were made with lycasin, a hydrogenated syrup that is primarily made of maltitol. Maltitol is a sugar alcohol — specifically, a polyol — which is a type of carbohydrate. Although sugar alcohols can be found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, they are commercially used as alternative sweeteners to sugar.

Sugar alcohols are used in most sugar-free products, as they are lower in calories and react less with blood glucose. Unlike sugar, your body isn't able to fully digest sugar alcohols like maltitol, which is why your body processes them differently. Also unlike sugar, they don't react with bacterial plaque in your mouth, meaning that they are better (some are even considered beneficial) for your dental health, according to an April 2014 review in Journal of Food Science and Technology.

Sugar alcohols include a variety of ingredients, such as:

  • Isomalt
  • Erythritol
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

If you're thinking sugar alcohols sound a bit too good to be true, you're unfortunately correct, according to the review study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

Sugar alcohols are perfectly fine in small amounts. However, larger amounts can cause a range of gastrointestinal side effects, which is why the Food and Drug Administration requires that foods with certain sugar alcohols carry a warning label. These side effects occur since the body's intestines can't absorb the sugar alcohols. When large amounts of sugar alcohols pass through the body at the same time, they can cause side effects like gas, cramps, bloating, diarrhea and other laxative side effects.

If you decide to consume Haribo's sugar-free gummy bears or any other sugar-free products made with sugar alcohols, stick to the serving size on the packet or you may experience side effects like these.

Gummy Bear Recipes

Many people have grown up with gummy bears and find these foods to be near and dear to their heart. However, if you're now a health-conscious adult, you may not want to consume the amount of sugar in regular gummy bears or risk the side effects from eating sugar-free gummy bears. Fortunately, gummy bear recipes are fairly simple: All you technically need is gelatin, a sweetener and water. If you're looking to make something more similar to Haribo's products, you can use flavored gelatin. Adding a small amount of citric acid can also add a tanginess or tartness to your gummy bears.

Initially, gummy bear recipes start off the same way you'd make Jello: You combine gelatin and cold water. While mixing these ingredients, you'll also need to add your preferred flavorings and sweeteners. Once all the ingredients are mixed together, heat the mixture until the sweetener has fully dissolved and pour it into gelatin molds.

Like with Jello, simply set the mixture in your refrigerator or another cold environment until your bears have solidified. Out of all the gummy bears available, making your own is probably the healthiest choice. Making homemade gummy bears can allow you select the right natural or alternative sweetener or even use vegan gelatin (agar).

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