Gushers are not healthy. As a small part of a balanced diet, they're probably safe, but there's practically no nutritional benefit to eating a Gusher other than the raw calories it provides. Several of the ingredients contained in Gushers are of dubious food safety and should not be eaten in large quantities.
Lots Of Sugar
Gushers are loaded with sugar. Each 25-gram package of Gushers has 90 calories. 25 grams of pure sugar has about 97 calories. While each serving of Gushers has a small amount of vitamin C, you'd arguably be better off eating sugar instead. This is because Gushers also have trans fat and a couple of sketchy ingredients.
One of the major concerns with foods like Gushers is that they occupy space in your diet without providing any nutrients other than calories. You need a certain amount of protein, fiber, and vitamins in your diet in order to stay healthy. If you eat foods with "empty calories" (like Gushers) on a regular basis, it gets harder to fit all of these nutrients into your diet while staying under your daily caloric goal. You might find yourself eating more calories than you're burning (and gaining weight) or not getting enough of a particular nutrient. In either case, your health will suffer due to the amount of empty calories you're consuming.
Aren't Trans Fats Banned?
There are some pretty strict regulations that govern the use of trans fats in food. Gushers don't contain any hydrogenated oils, but they do contain something called monoglycerides, which contain a small amount of trans fat. Despite this, current FDA regulations allow for the use of monoglycerides as an emulsifier in foods. Trans fats have been shown to be very unhealthy. They're linked to an increase in strokes, heart disease, and other cardiovascular problems.
Some Gushers packages claim that there are no trans fats in the package. This is not true. FDA regulations allow food companies to label their products as "free" of something if there's less than 0.5g of that thing per serving. This is how Tic Tacs manage to have "0g" of sugar per serving while being mostly sugar. The monoglycerides in Gushers absolutely contain some amount of trans fat. It's just not a lot.
Not Everything Is Unhealthy
There are a lot of complicated sounding substances in each Gusher. Most of them are innocuous enough. Malic acid, agar-agar, and glycerol are all perfectly safe. While xanthan gum tends to carry a variety of unrelated allergens, it's fine to eat if you don't have any food allergies. Potassium citrate and sodium citrate are healthy in proper doses, and the juices, fruit, and starch used to flavor and thicken Gushers are totally safe to eat.
Saturated Fat Galore
Gushers don't have a lot of fat, but the fat that they do have isn't very good for you. Gushers are made with both cottonseed and palm oil, both of which have unusually large concentrations of saturated fat. Worse, each oil comes with its own set of health concerns. Cottonseed oil often contains traces of any pesticides that were used on the cotton it came from, while palm oil is ecologically unsustainable and has been linked with an increase in heart disease and high cholesterol.
Bad For Your Health
One of the many thickeners used in Gushers is carrageenan, which is totally natural and comes from a type of red seaweed. Just because it's natural, however, doesn't mean it's safe to eat. Carrageenan can cause colon cancer, glucose intolerance or food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and other types of cancer. It's not something you want to eat.
While not all Gushers are red, the red ones are dyed with a substance called red 40. Red 40 is made from petroleum byproducts or coal tar. Seriously. It's been proven to make children hyperactive and creates tumors in the immune system of mice. Worse still, it's got a compound in it called p-Cresidine, which the US Department of Health thinks is pretty likely to cause cancer in humans.
Possible short-term side effects
- allergic reaction
Possible long-term side effects
- weight gain
- heart disease
- neurological damage and/or organ failure (in the case of pesticide-tainted cottonseed oil)