5 Benefits of Eating Dessert Regularly, According to Nutritionists

The Dead Golfer Capsule

When people learn that I’m a Registered Dietitian, they automatically assume that I have to eat in a very specific way. They figured I must dislike food culture’s newest nutritional victim, carbs, and certainly not anything sweet and soft and gooey (the way I like my chocolate chip cookies). But I’m a big proponent of desserts and the benefits of eating other foods that make you happy.

So I love the surprise on their faces when I share that I eat just about anything, including lots of carbs (which are our body’s preferred fuel source after all) and desserts. In fact, I advise my clients and others to do the same. The reason is as follows.

Full permission to eat all foods, including desserts, helps us reclaim power from food culture and develop a more trusting relationship with our bodies and selves

Food culture is an oppressive system that wants to keep us small and disconnected in every way. Consider how much room there is for more meaningful conversations, ideas, and endeavors if no one cares about their size or strict food rules. So one way to take back our power and connect with ourselves is to allow all foods, including desserts (unless you are allergic to an ingredient or really dislike something).

“Eating culture makes you blame yourself for enjoying life’s simple pleasures; you lose faith in your food choices and what you can and should have,” says nutritionist Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN. “Allowing yourself to enjoy all your foods allows you to take a more deliberate approach and greater flexibility in your food choices.

If we follow food rules set by outside forces, such as meal plans, food lists, or “lifestyle” plans (aka diets in disguise), we fail to hear our body’s needs, cues, and guidance. Often, if we repeatedly abstain from sweets, we end up indulging in them or overconsuming them.

Some of my clients imagine that if they were given full permission, they would get out of hand with desserts, and there would usually be a “honeymoon period” with more desserts. However, once the novelty wears off and they can trust and listen to their bodies, they settle in to enjoy the peaceful, relative balance of nutritious and fun foods like dessert.

“By giving yourself permission to have dessert, you eat it and move on while knowing that whenever you crave it again, it’ll be there,” says Colesa.

No dessert promotes more physiological stress than eating dessert

Food rules, including dessert rules, create stress in our bodies and minds, and chronic stress has been linked to illnesses like depression and ailments like heart disease .

“If eating from scratch during dessert time makes you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and more restrictive, you might actually benefit from allowing yourself to eat deserts,” says Caroline Thomason, CDCES, a Northern Virginia nutritionist who helps women Stop dieting and find confidence in food.

Setting strict conditions for eating dessert is a form of an eating disorder that comes with a preoccupation with food, social isolation and increased anxiety.

“The reality is that the mental and emotional stress that can result from depriving yourself of dessert can actually cause more harm than any single food you can eat,” says nutritionist Kristi Ruth RD/RDN, CNSC, LDN. The dessert rule can also backfire when we choose “healthier alternative” versions of our favorites (like Halo Top over Ben & Jerry’s) and end up eating far beyond our bodies’ satiety.

“Some people may find themselves eating more dessert substitutes, thinking it’s not ‘bad’ for them,” shares Colesa. “Some people finish the low-sugar, low-calorie container of ice cream and end up eating more than regular ice cream.

Additionally, Kolesa notes that sugar-free dessert options often include sugar alcohols, which can cause gastrointestinal stress (such as bloating and gas) in some people.

Eating dessert regularly normalizes them and takes them off the pedestal established by food culture

Once we limit ourselves to something like dessert, it’s put in a position of power that doesn’t belong. However, eating desserts on a regular basis, which could mean daily or weekly, and possibly monthly or seasonal changes, helps to put them on a neutral stance with all other foods.

“I often hear from clients that restricting foods makes them want those exact foods more often,” shares Thomason. “By allowing yourself to eat dessert on a regular basis, you can remove these foods from your ‘bad’ list and normalize them into a regular part of a healthy diet.

It also helps us slowly undo the unnecessary guilt and shame that so often arises when we have a banned brownie sundae. Food becomes good, biscuits become biscuits – that’s all – we are not “bad” for eating it, nor are we “good” for skipping it. “By allowing yourself to eat all your food, can help to neutralize food and remove the moral value of food,” adds Kolesa.

Additionally, Ruth points out that eating dessert regularly sends a positive message to those around us, including kids, friends, and family, “Loving dessert. It’s possible to feel free from guilt while also caring about your health.

Desserts often include essential nutrients from a range of food groups

Believe it or not, all desserts provide us with some kind of essential nutrition (and often more than one). I’ve never looked at dessert foods primarily through a nutritional lens, but I like to break down the false belief that desserts don’t provide us with nutrition.

In fact, they’re often a good source of the three macronutrients our bodies and brains need several times a day to function and thrive — carbohydrates (from dairy, fruits, and grains), fats (from oils and butters), and sometimes protein (from nuts and dairy). They also often provide us with essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and calcium, as well as fiber and antioxidants (think dairy, dark chocolate, fruit cereals and nuts). Plus, according to Kolesa, there’s good news for chocolate lovers—emerging research has shown an association between chocolate consumption and improved symptoms of depression .

From cookies to cakes, every dessert we love provides us with at least one nutrient, and some provide us with much more than expected. “Pairing cookies or brownies with milk is one way you can get more vitamin D, protein and calcium in your diet,” shares Kolesa. “If you have a dairy intolerance or allergy, crushed walnuts are easy to add, especially to brownies.

Personally, one of my favorite desserts is fruit pie, crisp or crumble, because it’s warm, comforting, and satisfying, and it reminds me of my mom who passed down her apple crisp recipe. Plus, nutritionally, it provides me with energizing grains and fruits, as well as saturating fat. Of course, I love my warm ice cream (the real deal too!), which is another great source of bone-building calcium and vitamin D.

Eating delicious desserts is a way to experience the joys of life – food is nourishment on a physical and emotional level

In my work with clients, healing their relationship with food often means bringing joy into their lives for the first time since they were children. In the process, they internalize the food culture’s message that enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures—delicious food, especially dessert—is taboo, and doing so often leads to feelings of shame and guilt.

The thing is, we enjoy food, including sweets, we’re only human, and we’re all supposed to enjoy eating. “Pleasure can be experienced from the memory that accompanies certain foods,” Ruth said. “You may have a relative humming as you bite into a piece of pie, or you may share the same love of chocolate with your grandparents. For me, some of the happiest memories of my life are sitting around a table eating a meal A delicious meal that always ends with a mouthwatering dessert.

“Food is more than just calories and macronutrients. It’s also the connection to other people, it helps with our emotional coping, and it’s fun,” shares Ruth. “I don’t know about you, but I get pure joy from eating chocolate, especially when it’s paired with coffee.

In my own recovery, and in observing my clients, I believe that embracing the joys of eating, including dessert, often creates a domino effect for the rest of our lives. We can more naturally allow ourselves to enjoy other parts of being human, such as having sex, admiring a sunset, spending a slow Sunday morning, or reading a novel — all for the pleasure of it.


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