Whether you’re scrolling through Instagram and seeing those adorably colorful SugarBear gummies endorsed by influencers like Kylie Jenner, or wandering around the aisles of your local Target— it’s hard to deny their pull on us. While we shouldn’t feel bad about eating any food in moderation, gummy vitamins have become a bit of a guilty pleasure. But this shouldn’t be a problem because they’re healthy. Right? And an extra bear or two can’t hurt? Or can it? The answer might surprise you.
When to go for the gummy
While it’s best to get all of our nutrients from food, that’s not always possible. While supplements can be helpful, swallowing those large pills isn’t something everyone is capable of doing. In this instance, gummies are a good choice.
“For those who have difficulty swallowing pills (including children) but are otherwise metabolically healthy, gummy vitamins might be the best option for them,” Tara Allen, RN and certified nutrition coach, health coach, and personal trainer tells me.
But even if you can swallow pills, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you find regular vitamins make you nauseous or gag after swallowing, you can also consider chomping on those little bears.
Still, while you might think they’re easier to digest, it turns out that gummy vitamins can cause stomach irritation for some people.
“There is no significant findings that tell us that gummies are easier to digest than regular vitamins,” Allen explains. “This depends on the entirety of the ingredients, individual’s tolerances, and the amount and specifics of each component. Zinc and iron tend to cause some stomach upset; and too much vitamin A can wreak havoc on your liver.”
So, if you have a sensitive stomach or issues swallowing, finding the right gummy can be a matter of trial and error.
Should you be worried about sugar content?
The main issue that most people have with gummy vitamins is sugar content.
“Too much sugar is definitely a concern, so if gummy vitamins are decided to be the best option for someone, it’s best to avoid too much additional added sugar in their diet,” says Allen.
However, if you read labels, which you should, the amount of sugar in many gummy formulas looks negligible for most healthy people. SugarBear, for example, only contains three grams of sugar per serving in all of their formulas: Hair (what they’re best known for), Sleep, and Women’s Multi. They’re also vegan and gelatin-free. While gelatin helps encapsulate many vitamin gummies, SugarBear formulates with pectin, which is a popular alternative that uses fruit fiber derived from domestically sourced apples and oranges. Gelatin can come from animal sources, so some people choose to avoid it.
So, if you’re otherwise healthy, go for it. But those with some health concerns should proceed with caution.
“Because of the added sugar, (particularly) people with metabolic diseases such as diabetes should avoid gummy vitamins if at all possible,” says Allen. If that’s the case, sugar-free gummies are also an option.
If you’re healthy, it’s your call. But let’s not forget the real purpose of vitamins—to make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to function optimally. So, if you have to balance it out with a small amount of sugar, you’re probably fine.
But no matter what, Allen recommends reading the label.
“Thankfully, we have a growing market of health-conscious companies and there are some gummy vitamins with a ‘cleaner’ list of ingredients than others. I recommend choosing a brand that is low in sugar, uses natural colors, and is third-party certified.”
Moreover, consciously choosing to take a supplement that has sugar can make you more aware of the sugar in your diet overall. If a few grams of sugar every day satisfies your sweet tooth, you might not end up craving that donut or pumpkin spice latte. So, this could mean consuming less sugar in the long run.
Still, it’s important to have a little self-control. If you eat gummies like chips (you can’t have just one or two), it’s best to stay away. And while an extra bear or two is harmless for the most part, eating the whole jar can be dangerous. Unlike those Instagramable bear gummies, an iron overdose is anything but cute.
If you need another deterrent, most gummy vitamins don’t come cheap. One month of SugarBear Hair costs around $30. That’s pretty pricy for a snack. So, if you’re really craving candy, it’s best just to buy it.