Sweets and desserts aren’t as bad for your health as you think

One of my all-time favorite desserts is hot and sweet banana Foster, served with a bowl of rich vanilla ice cream. While indulging in too many good things has negative consequences, treating yourself to your favorite dessert doesn’t have to come with a side of guilt. Balance is the key here.

When eaten in moderation, some candies and desserts like dark chocolate can actually benefit your physical and mental health. Don’t just take it from me; the proof is in the pudding. Here’s what the research says about eating desserts and why you don’t have to deprive yourself of them, even if you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

For more nutrition tips, check out why you should eat more carbs, not less And easy ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

6 Reasons Your Balanced Diet Should Include Dessert

1. Desserts have nutritional value


Regardless of what your keto friends and family insist, carbs are necessary nutrients that fuel your body and give it the energy it needs to function throughout the day. Although there are healthier forms of carbs, they can provide proper fuel when eaten in moderation.

Chocolate lovers will be happy to know that cocoa-rich desserts, like a dark chocolate bar, are packed with nutrients, like:

  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Antioxidants

Many desserts also incorporate fruit, such as chocolate covered strawberries or blueberry pie. Fruit plays an important role in keeping us healthy and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and more. Treat yourself to a fruity treat for another opportunity to incorporate essential vitamins and minerals into your diet.

2. Lowers Blood Pressure

Although more research is needed, existing studies show that dark chocolate has a positive effect on heart health.

Dark chocolate contains significant amounts of flavanols, plant chemicals that help produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has a relaxing effect on the arteries, which promotes better blood circulation and lowers blood pressure.

One study reviewed 42 acute or short-term controlled trials with 1,297 participants involving chocolate, cocoa, or flavan-3-ols. After analyzing the data, the researchers found a reduction in diastolic and arterial blood pressure.

3. Reduces the risk of heart disease

Here’s another one for chocolate lovers: In the same review mentioned above, researchers found that eating dark chocolate three times a week reduced the risk of heart disease by 9% – and it was even more important for those who ate more dark chocolate in a week.

A separate review also reached similar conclusions. They found that eating 45 grams of chocolate per week reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11%.

A heart with a doctor's stethoscope and a report underneath

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4. Increases happiness and mental health

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that we feel happier after treating ourselves to a tasty treat, but what actually happens in our brains when that happens? Carbohydrate-rich foods stimulate the release of serotonin, which acts like a hormone and helps promote feelings of happiness.

When eaten in moderation, desserts can give you a positive boost that fruits, vegetables, and other foods can’t always match. And while it might seem a bit counterproductive at first, enjoying dessert once a week or so can help keep you on track to healthy eating.

By limiting yourself to sugary foods, cold turkey during a health kick makes you more likely to overeat when your sweet tooth returns.

5. Promotes Healthier Eating

It’s traditional to browse the dessert menu after dinner, but choosing your dessert before eating proves advantageous in your overall food choices.

A group of researchers studied the eating habits of faculty members, staff, and graduate students in a school cafeteria. Dessert options were placed at different points on the food chain over four days, and people could choose between fruit or cheesecake.

The results showed that 70% of people who took the cheesecake ate a healthier main dish first and consumed 250 fewer calories in total. Only about 33% of people who chose fruit first chose a healthy main course next.

Another study published in Science Direct presented the benefits of strategically timed treats after volunteers who had desserts like chocolate, donuts or cookies with their breakfast experienced fewer junk food cravings than people who ate a healthier and lower calorie breakfast.

6. It can improve brain function

More research is needed to call this a conclusive benefit of eating dessert, but it’s worth mentioning given the promising studies so far.

Some research has shown that eating dark chocolate with high amounts of cocoa increases blood flow to the brain in young people, a possible explanation for the apparent improvements in brain functions like learning and memory retention. It may also help older people who show signs of memory impairment.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.