When people talk to me about a healthy plant-based diet, they often grow wistful about their favorite desserts being off limits. It’s certainly true that dessert as a meal course is a minefield for people trying to stay on the right side of the food triangle. But I’m usually quite optimistic.
While it is true that it’s almost impossible to eat most traditionally prepared foods and stay within the guidelines for saturated fat and added sugars, the good news is that you can still have dessert. As I note frequently, traditional desserts are the third and fourth highest sources of saturated fat in the US diet. Yet, if you love ice cream, it’s easy enough to make nice cream* that is indistinguishable in flavor and texture from traditional dairy-based frozen desserts.
For baked desserts, there are numerous versions of baked desserts that are low in fat and low in added sugar that derive sweetness from added fruit or other great ingredients.
However, the best desserts are often simply taking unprocessed fruit and using it in unique ways. As an example, back in the 18th century, paw-paw fruit was frequently served chilled as a dessert at Monticello and was also a favorite of George Washington’s.
Rambutan is also a delicious fruit that can be served essentially as-is and will still be a delight to your taste buds. Frozen mango, defrosted for about fifteen minutes, can give you the silky, cold, semisoft texture and sweet taste you like from iced desserts while improving your glucose tolerance at the same time.
And the best part of eating fruit for dessert is that instead of hampering your health goals, you are furthering them. Studies show that more fruit and vegetables in the diet means better health, almost across the board.
A study out of Tufts University tried to figure out if the most important variable in preventing heart disease was high fruit and vegetable consumption or if it was actually the fact that fruit and vegetables displaced foods higher in saturated fat in the diet.
What they found was that if you ate a diet low in saturated fat but low in fruit and vegetables you had a twenty percent reduction in heart disease. If you ate a diet high in saturated fat but low in fruit and vegetables you got the same result, about twenty percent less, but when you combined the two, there was an additive effect. When it came to heart disease death, those who ate high fruit and vegetable diets, low in saturated fat died were more than three times less likely to die of heart disease.
So please, have a dessert course at your meals, as long as that dessert is almost always composed of unprocessed fruits.
*The matcha green tea (n)ice cream recipe below is just one example of nice cream.