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Opinion

With Christmas rapidly approaching, candy canes demonstrate many uses

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt

December 9, 2011

One of the most popular icons of Christmas is the candy cane. Hung ornamentally on a Christmas tree, in a little candy dish for guests, sprinkled over a frou frou drink from coffee shops, or tied around with a ribbon as a quick gift, they’re versatile and loved.

These red and white striped hard candies have undergone a lot of changes over the years. They can now be found in a variety of flavors, colorings, and shapes all over the place. For me, the traditional candy canes are the best. I look forward to one all year long and wait to purchase a pack until December hits. Candy canes have many uses and you may be surprised to find they have great health benefits as well. So go ahead and take one while you learn a thing or two about how they can help you.

A main ingredient in some candy canes is peppermint oil. You’ll need to read the label to be sure yours contains it, as some candy canes use artificial flavoring instead.

Peppermint oil has been found to be extremely beneficial, as of recently.

In a study conducted by the Cornell Center for Materials Research last year, researchers found that peppermint oil contains an extremely high level of antioxidants. They even top cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Going back to health class, antioxidants are what help your body protect its cells from harmful molecules produced as you break down food. Because of this they also ease digestion and some abdominal pain, making them a great after dinner dessert candidate. Having a candy cane after you eat could actually decrease your chance of getting heartburn.

They are perfect for the holidays when you find yourself travelling to and from your relatives’ houses for celebrations.

All of that travelling can lead to feeling queasiness so just pack along a few candy canes. They help ease your queasy feelings caused by flying or driving.

A more common way they can help your health is in the area of bad breath, or halitosis. The minty peppermint oil not only combats the bad scent of mouth bacteria, but it actually works to destroy the bacteria, which is why peppermint is commonly found in toothpaste. So if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to brush your teeth or are at a holiday party, grab a candy cane before you start to find yourself with very few people to socialize with.

Peppermint oil isn’t the only beneficial ingredient in the candy cane. The scent is also a major factor. In the health section of Better Homes and Gardens December 2011 issue they note that “the fresh scent can rev mental energy and boost athletic performance.” If you’re finding yourself lacking in the area of sleep and need a pick-me-up to stay on top of your studies or various activities, opt for a candy cane instead of caffeine.

It will give you a holiday-filled nudge without you having to worry about the crash you will often experience with caffeine.

Now that you know how good candy canes are for your health and mental wellbeing, be sure to keep them on hand. You can often find them in dishes at offices or holiday parties, but consider keeping your own supply.

Fragile, yes, but as you’ve read, the benefits are worth it, so put a few in your purse or pocket next time you’re heading out and keep a jar in your room.

Don’t forget your car. Combine the pick-me-up fresh scent with the sugar to keep your blood sugar at good levels, as they become a necessity in your cars’ winter survival kit. If you’re not the type to just have a candy cane straight up, consider putting it in some recipes. There is a bunch out there this time of year. Recently I found a recipe for a candy cane cake in our family recipe box that turned out to be a delicious way to incorporate candy canes into your diet. I urge you to try it.

Although the rest of the ingredients may not be great for you, at least you can say you’re getting your candy cane in for the day.

Candy Cane Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix (supermoist)
  • ½ tsp. peppermint extract
  • ½ tsp. red food coloring
  • Homemade icing (powdered sugar and milk until
    drizzling consistency) or 1 container of white frosting
  • Coconut
  • Crushed candy canes (about 3)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F and spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non–stick spray

2. Prepare cake mix as directed on box (usually with a white cake I go with the egg whites version to maintain the white color)

3. Put about ½ cup of the cake batter into a small bowl, mixing in the peppermint extract and red food coloring; set aside.

4. Pour the rest of the cake batter evenly into the two cake pans.

5. Dividing the red batter evenly between the two pans, pour it in a striped or drop pattern over the white batter. Drag a knife through the batter perpendicular to the red batter to create a marbled or swirled effect (have fun with it to make your own designs).

6. Bake for about 25 min. or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7. After the cake has cooled, frost with one of the two above frosting choices (the latter is more simple) by frosting first one layer, then stacking the other on top and frosting it. You should have enough frosting for the sides.

8. Sprinkle with coconut (I put the coconut in a food processor first to make the texture and consistency appear snow-like) and crushed candy canes.

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt is a columnist for the Student Voice.