Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Guest Post: Have Your Cake and Eat it: Four Sweet Treats That Can Be Surprisingly Good For You!

by Lily Robinson


Are you a secret chocolate eater? Do you beat yourself up about having that extra slice of cake or picking the most calorific desert on the menu? Well fear not – extensive scientific research is proving that cakes, chocolate and deserts can actually be surprisingly good for your health and wellbeing. Here are some of your favourite treats and the way in which they can benefit you.


Photo Credit: Diana Loutfy
Chocolate gets a hard time. Although it dates back to the time of the Aztecs, the inclusion of sugar and cream to the cocoa beans has seen it become the ultimate guilty pleasure for many women (and men, but mostly women!) over the years. But despite its high calorie content, research has shown that there are in fact several benefits to enjoying a moderate amount of chocolate in your diet.
Chocolate is essentially made from plants, which means that it contains many of the same compounds as dark vegetables. In particular, cocoa beans and chocolate are full of antioxidants which help protect the body from the effects of aging (such as thinning hair and clogged arteries) and also neutralises any harmful chemical reactions happening within the body during metabolism. Dark chocolate contains twice the amount of these antioxidants as milk chocolate and Healthspan say that studies indicate even 100g of dark chocolate in your daily diet can dramatically reduce the risk of high blood pressure which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 21%.
And because we all love eating chocolate so much, it is a well known mood enhancer. This isn’t just because of the yummy taste but because it contains chemicals that help increase the brain chemical serotonin – the happy hormone. This is why chocolate can often perk you up if you’re feeling irritable or tired and is a good example of it being beneficial for both mental and physical wellbeing.


Cakes come in all shapes, sizes and varieties so it’s hard to pinpoint the nutritional value of ‘cake’ in general. Like chocolate, cakes are not renowned for being particularly healthy, what with the sugar, hydrogenated oil and bleached flour not to mention calorific, creamy fillings. However the majority of cakes do contain some useful vitamins and minerals such as protein and calcium which can be found in binding agents like egg and milk. Calming carbohydrates can also be found in the flour, sugar and oils which can give the body a boost of energy and maintain a healthy body heat, making a slab of cake the ultimate comfort food during the winter months.
The beauty of homemade cakes is that you dictate what goes in. Admittedly, many shop bought cakes do contain additives and preservatives used to increase shelf life which are both unhealthy and unnecessary. If you choose to make your own cake you can use wholegrain flour to increase fibre, omit any buttery frostings and include a variety of fruits and nuts to make your cake extra healthy.

Ice Cream

Everybody loves a good ice cream on a hot day but who’d have thought that a sensible variety and amount of ice cream can actually help you lose weight?! Because ice cream is made from milk it is very high in calcium which is one of the most important compounds needed for fat metabolism. Experts also think that ice cream can oppress the appetite and satisfy the cravings for other sweet foods, hence results in less unhealthy snacking. Frozen yoghurts and iced fruit lollies are also healthy summer treats.


Studies have shown that certain sweets can help both prevent and alleviate symptoms of some serious diseases. In an article published in The Atlantic experts suggest that root liquorice (the root ingredient of the popular sweet) has anti-diabetic properties and can help reduce blood sugar as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, liquorice has been known to treat a variety of ailments throughout history from eczema to heartburn.
Similarly, hard boiled sweets, particularly lemon drops and sour candies, are though to help prevent oral infections and taste disorders by encouraging the mouth the produce more saliva. Saliva is important to oral health because it keeps the mouth well lubricated and doesn’t allow for an dry environment in which anaerobic bacteria can grow. Sucking hard candies is more beneficial than simply using water to hydrate the mouth because that can just flush natural saliva away.
So next time your sweet tooth flares up and you find yourself heading guiltily for the confectionary aisle, remind yourself that, providing you’re eating it in moderation, you could actually be keeping your mind and body healthy.
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