Teens’ love affair with sweets

Photo Illustration by Sakara Griffin/Generation Next

When you think of candy, do you think of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or a glistening display of lip-smacking sweets from that candy store you always begged your mom to take you to?

Either way, let’s face it: Most teens love sweets. And with a string of holidays coming up, it’s the perfect time to indulge.

Santa Fe High School senior Anthony Romero-Kleve is a typical teen who cherishes a particular type of candy: Butterfinger bars. “The golden, flaky center of it and the crunchiness is so buttery — I think it’s really, really good,” he said. In addition to his penchant for Butterfingers, to keep himself keyed up in school he buys “those big bags of the fun-sized candy bars and eat those slowly.”

He’s not alone. According to a study in 2015 by marketing guru and blogger Brandon Gaille, the average American consumes anywhere between 150 pounds to 170 pounds of refined sugars in the span of one year. That spells out great business for the candy industry, as the candy market is expected to bring in an estimated $35 billion this year.

For students, it can be easy to access candy during the week at school when it is often commonly sold during lunch breaks. So, it is likely that teens are even more prone to investing in and consuming candy during the day. Anna Martinez, a junior at Capital High, says, “It can be very tempting because they sell it at school. I mean someone can be sitting there chunking on a piece of chocolate, and you’ll be like, ‘Yum, that smells good. I’m gonna have to go buy one now.’ “

Capital High junior Gabriella Rodriguez said money — or the lack of — plays a role in many teens’ desire for sweet treats: “It’s cheaper, a lot of kids will go for that instead of the healthy stuff, which is a little more expensive.”

And when it comes to looking for more delectable sweets outside of school, teens have a number of options in Santa Fe, including Kakawa Chocolate House. Upon entering the store, one is instantly greeted with the aromatic smell of blissful chocolate elixirs and sea salt caramels — all displayed in a tempting pyramid of assorted chocolates and goodies. Owner Tony Bennett greets his customers with a wide smile, encouraging them to sample some homemade chocolate elixirs. Elixirs are drinking chocolates derived from recipes dating back from B.C. 1000 to 1900s A.D. (Bennett can give you a mini-history lesson on the Mesoamerican tradition of making and eating chocolate, if you like.)

It seems as if the key to a perfect piece of chocolate is not only fresh ingredients, but also keeping long kept traditions alive. Harry Doscher, the owner of Señor Murphy candy store, said, “Some of the original recipes came from Murphy’s grandmother, others are variations on them using southwestern ingredients. They’re all still made in really small batches, though, in copper kettles over open fire.”

And for some teens, chocolate just makes them feel upbeat.

Romero-Kleve said, “Chocolate doesn’t make me feel as bad as other candy. It makes me feel better.” Bennett said that is because the chemical combound theobromine is found in chocolate: “It’s a vascular dilator which opens up all your veins and arteries and makes you feel good. So you get a little chocolate buzz, for lack of a better word.”

However, the risk of eating all these tempting sweets can come at a price. Dr. Brandon Cera, a dentist from the North Side Dental group, said, “Some teenagers are more prone to cavities than others. It not only depends on their home care, but also on what they eat.”

Martinez said she has had three cavities in her entire life. Quintana, on the other hand, said he has had a mouthful of them since he was a young boy.

Here’s a health tip for your teeth: To promote healthy dental hygiene Cera advises to not only focus on eating healthier foods and less sweets, but also to use a toothpaste with fluoride in it. “The reason that I always promote fluoride with my patients is because your teeth are made of minerals and salts, so what the fluoride does is help re-mineralize your enamel and make it strong. Maybe you do have a sugary diet, but if you’re doing the fluoride, it helps balance it out and prevent cavities because it helps keep the teeth strong.”

Despite teens’ love for sweets, it’s important to always think about health. It can be easy to forget to eat properly and overindulge in the sweet stuff at school because temptation lies within vending machines, student-run stores full of candy bars and convenient-to-grab candy bars at the cash register. Making the simple switch to natural sugars, such as fruits, can be just enough to cure any sweet tooth.

However, munching on a little chocolate every now and then can’t hurt.

Sakara Griffin is a junior at Santa Fe High. Contact her at sakara8823@gmail.com.

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