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For many kids, the first chocolate bar they received on their birthday might have been the very incentive they needed to socialise with new people. Chocolate has also been the favourite comfort food for many. But, parents often wonder whether it is good for kids. This is because it is often linked to poor dental health. Well, the answer is rather straightforward – treating chocolate like a treat and not a mandatory food item is how you can begin to keep those chocolate-eating habits in check. Pairing that with a healthy choice of chocolate would be the right way ahead, too. In this article, you will find some useful information about chocolate that can help choose the right kind to ensure your child’s health isn’t affected. But, before we get on to it, let’s explore some interesting facts about this sweet treat.
History and Interesting Facts About Chocolate for Kids
Before your child dives into his first bar of chocolate, we’ve put together some information about chocolate for kids to get their interest level piqued as well.
- Cacao beans, the ingredient chocolate are made from, were used as a currency in the Mayan civilisation.
- Chocolate was usually considered the food of the deities.
- It was in 1847 when the first chocolate bar was manufactured. Until then, people would only drink chocolate.
- Christopher Columbus was the first individual to get cocoa beans to Spain and give it to the kings.
- In the Aztec civilisation, the kings used to drink about ten cups of chocolate-based drinks in a single day.
From cacao beans, chocolate milk to the bars that are available in every corner of the world, chocolates have made quite a journey in various forms. Below, we shall discuss some more of these forms available at present.
Different Types of Chocolates
Though most kids are introduced to chocolates in its popular form as a chocolate bar, there are numerous forms of chocolate that can be used. These vary across flavour and composition, making them the preferred choices to be used in a variety of recipes.
1. Ground Chocolate
What do you get if you were to keep smashing a chocolate bar until it reduced down to a powder-like state? That is precisely what ground chocolate is, and it is commercially available, too. Ground chocolate is used in various preparation as garnishing or even as an important constituent. Do not confuse it with cocoa powder that is easily available in the supermarkets.
2. Unsweetened Chocolate
The inclusion of sugar and other sweetening agents in the chocolate bar is what brings out its flavour and makes it deliciously edible. Pure chocolate, which is extracted from the liqueur of the same substance after hardening it, is not sweet at all. It is also termed as bitter chocolate or even baking chocolate since pure chocolate forms quite an integral component of various baked dishes and even cakes.
3. Chocolate Liqueur
The precursor to unsweetened chocolate, chocolate liqueur can be termed as the initial stage that leads to the formation of other chocolate types. It resembles a smooth liquid with chocolate flavour, although the word “liqueur” is not to be connected with alcohol. When cocoa beans are procured, they are ground together until they form a paste that has a smooth texture. This paste generally contains a substantial proportion of cocoa butter, which is extracted after the paste is melted to separate the liqueur.
4. Cocoa Powder
Another popular ingredient used by many people in a variety of preparations, cocoa powder, is interpreted by many to be similar to ground chocolate. However, that isn’t the case. Cocoa powder is exactly what it states, a powdered form of the cocoa beans. The shells of the beans are removed, and the beans are then ground together. The powder also ends up containing a small amount of cocoa butter in them. This powder is the first step of making some delicious chocolate-flavoured beverages.
5. White Chocolate
If compared on technical terms, white chocolate would not be considered in the category of chocolates, since the essential ingredient of chocolate liqueur, is missing from its constitution. However, the reason why it is popular and included in the list of chocolates is due to the presence of around 25% chocolate in its form, which is paired with sugar and milk-based products to give it its unique taste.
6. Bittersweet Chocolate
BIttersweet chocolate is one of those types a lot of health fanatics swear by and indulge in regularly to satisfy their cravings. It is not the same as dark chocolate, which is actually a variant of it with a little more sweetness. Bittersweet chocolate primarily contains a specific proportion of sugar, cocoa butter and raw chocolate. These proportions have to be precise in order to deliver a combined flavour that’s bitter and sweet at the same time.
The information on the forms of chocolates provided above should help you make a healthy choice for your little one. Some more tips to choose the right chocolate are also given later in the article. For now, let’s find out how the right chocolate in the right proportion benefits the child.
Health Benefits of Chocolates for Children
For children, chocolate is usually considered to be a treat or an occasional luxury to indulge in. And, as proper as it might be, it is not just the taste, chocolate has vitamins for kids that provide numerous health benefits as well.
- The constitution of chocolate is known to contain certain elements and substances that affect various mood-regulation hormones within our body, such as serotonin and help in getting them back to a good level. Dark chocolates, especially, are extremely beneficial to elevate your mood.
- When lacking in energy or tiredness starts dawning upon you, taking a bite of chocolate can make you feel rejuvenated and give you a quick boost of energy to get back to your tasks.
- Dark chocolate is recommended by many people since it plays a vital role in stimulating the brain’s hippocampus by the presence of flavonoids. These elements, when stimulated, result in your children developing good concentration and effective memory.
- Certain flavonoids are present within the cocoa powder used for chocolate production itself. Apart from improving the properties of preventing inflammation, increasing antioxidants and improving the clotting properties in the blood, insulin sensitivity gets a boost as well, reducing the chances of being diabetic in the future.
- Milk chocolates and dark chocolates, when combined effectively, provide the appropriate balance of flavonoids from the latter and a reduced caffeine consumption from the former.
- The flavonoids present in the cocoa powder used in chocolates are similar to those found in red wines and certain fruits. As doctors suggest that a glass of red wine is good for your heart, a similar proposition can be presented for your kids in regards to chocolate.
- If your child suffers from skin-related issues or does not have healthy skin, eating chocolate could help restore the healthy skin back, without inducing any acne.
- The antioxidants present in the chocolate play a key role in taking care of any free radicals within the child’s body and preventing them from damaging the body internally.
- Dark chocolate is considered a healthy choice by many, simply because of the presence of various minerals such as selenium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron and many others, making a part of its constitution.
- Most parents avoid giving their children chocolate due to the belief that eating chocolate causes teeth to decay. The truth is actually the opposite since chocolate actually works towards reducing the presence of plaque. Cleaning teeth properly, twice a day at least, will reduce the chances of decay and help maintain dental health.
- One of the key effects of eating chocolate is the immediate boost to blood circulation within the body. This helps support the developing brain function in children as well.
- Most dark chocolates contain tryptophan. This is essential in revitalising your mood and reducing the stress in your body.
Every food has pros and cons. We have already listed some health benefits of eating chocolate above. But, did you know there are side effects also? Read on to keep them at bay.
Side Effects of Chocolate When Taken in Excessive Quantities
Even though chocolates might provide a lot of happiness and some health benefits, the effects of chocolates on toddlers and kids, when consumed in improper circumstances or quantities, can be harmful temporarily or even in the long term.
Yes, this isn’t just an issue plaguing the adults of today. Though this might not be due to stress in children, the presence of caffeine in most chocolates today can be a stimulant for kids, keeping them awake at night, and robbing them of the necessary amount of sleep.
2. Avoiding Healthy Food
What starts as an occasional tantrum, could very well manifest into a habit. The affinity that children develop towards the sweetness and taste of chocolate could cause them to push away any other healthy foods, resulting in their development taking a hit.
3. Increased Risk of Allergies
Various chocolates contain a lot of other constituents such as milk, nuts, or added flavours. If your child has an allergy for either of these, choosing chocolate blindly and eating it could trigger them right away and cause a medical emergency.
4. Peeing a Lot
The bladder capacity in children develops over time, which is why they need to go to the toilet more often. The presence of caffeine in chocolate aggravates it further since it is diuretic. This could cause your little one to visit the loo numerous time or even end up wetting his pants.
5. A Propensity for Addiction
Chocolate addiction is real. Very real. Be toddlers or young kids, the taste of chocolate can get too hard to resist at times, leading children to start crying when they are refused chocolate, or resorting to eating chocolates by hiding it from the parents.
6. Increased Hyperactivity
Children are already bundles of pulsating energy, staying engaged in one thing or the other. The presence of sugar in chocolates gives that yet another boost, by increasing the levels of sugar and adrenaline in the blood. This could make it difficult for your kid to stay in one place and concentrate.
7. Risk of Diabetes
It is not chocolate that causes diabetes, but its effect on insulin sensitivity that is the culprit. Even in children, consuming chocolates in exorbitant quantities could cause a huge load on the body’s insulin production, and could create the foundations to trigger type 2 diabetes quite early in life.
8. Risk of Obesity
Not just sugar and caffeine, but chocolates have a lot of fat in them as well, thanks to the presence of cocoa butter and other ingredients. By exposing the body to large quantities of chocolate, and leading a lifestyle void of exercise, your child is pretty much opening the door to obesity by himself.
Tips to Choose the Right Chocolates for Kids
There’s nothing wrong with giving chocolates to your kids. However, choosing healthy chocolate for kids and giving them at the right time is just as important.
- Do use chocolates as a way to encourage good behaviour in your child but don’t use it to get them to behave properly or as a bribe to get a task done.
- Instead of opting for large bars of chocolate, go for smaller ones and in limited quantities.
- Opt for chocolates that have low-fat, sugar and milk content in them.
- Alternate usual chocolates with chocolate-flavoured biscuits or ice cream, once in a while.
- There are caffeine-free chocolate bars available as well. Choose those over the usual ones.
Falling in love with chocolate doesn’t take a long time, and neither does the addiction. By keeping a grip on the consumption of chocolate right from the start, you can make sure your child benefits from it and stays away from any potential side effects, keeping himself healthy throughout.
Also Read: Simple Chocolate Recipes for Children