THE HEALTHIEST CHOICE: DESSERTS
- December 14, 2015
It isn’t necessary to take desserts off the table when you’re eating healthy. All you have to do is choose a healthy dessert – and, of course, eat a reasonable portion. Read on to find out which desserts are the healthiest options when you’re concerned about your nutrition.
You make yogurt by adding live bacteria to milk. So, eating a frozen yogurt can give you the health benefits of the “good” bacteria, the milk and – depending on what it is – the flavouring.
The Good Bacteria:
Yogurt is considered a ‘probiotic’ because the bacteria found in yogurt is great for our digestive health and immunity. Apart from producing many vitamins and minerals, these bacteria may also help with cholesterol issues and skin problems. If you’re lucky, the frozen yogurt served to you will have live cultures (it’s always a good idea to ask!).
In case you didn’t know what the health benefits of milk are, it boils down to one main aspect: its protein content!
Every cup of milk has about 8.5 grams of protein. 80% of these milk proteins are made up of casein, which are proteins that come with a list of health benefits such as helping our body absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorous. 1, 2 Whey protein (the mention of which never fails to excite an athlete or body-builder) makes up the remaining 20% of milk, offering benefits like helping our bodies build muscle.3
“Protein all the whey!”
Dairy products also have a fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Getting this in our diet (ideally, through only natural sources) is believed to help reduce our body fat mass, improve metabolic health and lower the risk of many diseases including diabetes and cancer – but if your frozen yogurt comes with a lot of sugar, there isn’t much that CLA can do.4-6
As it stands to reason, if you choose a fruity flavour, you’d get the health benefits of the fruits. Blueberries, in particular, happen to have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.7, 8 So a blueberry frozen yogurt is packed with nutrients! Giving us one cold cup of nutritional goodness. A Word of Warning: Frozen yoghurts are still loaded with sugar (which also adds to the milk’s carbohydrate-content). 1 cup generally has around 130 calories, which may vary depending on how much sugar has been added.
Ending a meal with fresh fruit is a great way to make sure that your dessert has some nutritional value to it! Even if it’s topped with whipped cream, you get a good supply of fibre and vitamins, with a healthier content of fat and calories than you would with baked goods. Strawberries and whipped cream is a classic example of how this can be a deliciously satisfying dessert. And it happens to be strawberry season right now! A cup of 5-6 strawberries with one tablespoon of whipped cream has 82 calories. The strawberries give you a good amount of vitamins A and E, along with some of the benefits of a type of healthy plant pigments called carotenoids, which help our skin, eyes and play a role in many of the body’s processes. 9-11 If you’re more of a chocolate person, even chocolate-dipped strawberries get a big thumbs-up from our taste buds and from a health standpoint. “Because it’s healthy!” Cocoa has heart-healthy antioxidants that belong to a group of healthy plant pigments called flavonoids (incidentally, cocoa’s antioxidant capacity is at least twice as strong as that of red wine, green tea and black tea, according to a study!). 12 If dark chocolate is an option, that would be even better since it has more cocoa and less sugar than milk chocolate. Sorbets, being fruit-based, are a great option as well. Their energy quotient comes only from carbohydrates – and not fats, unlike creamy desserts that have both. About half a cup of mango sorbet has 120 calories and some vitamin A and C. Mango is also loaded with flavonoids and other phytonutrients.13
Wholegrain Waffle, Pancake or Crepe
Several restaurants have started offering whole grain waffles, pancakes and crapes, instead of only refined grains. Whole grains are packed with fibre, keeping us full for longer and helping the digestive system work at full capacity. They also don’t make our blood sugar spike too much, which avoids the sugar rollercoaster that leads to weight gain.14 Whole Grains: just as delicious, only much, much healthier! Adding chocolate and fruits to the plate can further increase the nutritional value of these desserts. But, since they’re mostly carbohydrates, and are likely to be sugar-heavy, it’s still important to control the proportion. A wholegrain chocolate waffle or crepe has nearly 177 calories.
Indian desserts are very high in sugar, but they’ve also got some good things going for them – their nuts, spices and dried fruits give us good fats and other nutrients. Many Indian sweets are prepared in ghee, giving us a type of fat called butarate that’s good for our gut. Here are a few Indian sweets you can savour in small quantities:
Kaju Katli: 57 calories per piece
Cashews (kaju) are amongst the nuts lowest in calories and highest in protein and fibre. All that glitters isn’t always gold – it’s sometimes silver and perfectly okay to eat 2 pieces of.
Pistachio Kulfi: 90 calories in half a bar
Pistachios are also very low in calories, making this dessert a good source of vitamin A and milk protein.
Shrikhand: 130 calories in 10 teaspoons
Shrikhand is made of strained yogurt, giving us a lot of those milk proteins, and even perhaps some of those probiotic benefits.
Gajar ka halwa (carrot halwa): Approximately 140 calories in a cup
Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, the absorption of which may be increased by the ghee in gajar halwa.15
1] Because restaurant dessert portions can get very large, share your order to keep the calories in check. You could also ask if they have mini desserts served in shot glasses.
2] Cut down on the carbohydrate proportion of your mains if you think you cannot resist a large dessert – vegetables and protein should not be replaced with desserts!
3] Just like Indian desserts, choose desserts garnished with nuts. They give you a satisfying crunch in addition to the healthy fats and protein.
4] Desserts spiced up with cinnamon can add nutritional value to your meal. This fragrant spice is excellent for managing the risk factors of diabetes and heart disease.16-18
5] A number of cuisines have coconut in their desserts, which have healthy fats and other great benefits.
Eating out need not derail your diet completely if you make healthy choices and stick to reasonable proportions – and this, happily, goes for desserts as well!
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