Everyone deserves a sweet ending to a meal – even those trying to eat more healthfully or shed some extra pounds. With a few simple adjustments, decadent desserts can be transformed into nutritious, delicious and guilt-free treats. Incorporating a wide array of fruits into dessert menus is one quick and easy way to lighten up while living it up.
Ripe with nutrients
The health benefits of a produce-rich diet are undeniable. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research also shows that consuming more fruits and vegetables may ward off certain cancers, including cancers of the colon and rectum, esophagus, endometrium, pancreas, kidney and breast, reports the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Variety, though, is key. Nutritional experts say that eating produce of different colors gives your body a broad range of valuable nutrients, including folate, potassium and vitamins A and C. Fruits and vegetables also contain phytochemicals, which are chemicals that occur naturally in plants and have protective or disease-preventive properties. The research institute reports that phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins are thought to work together to boost their effectiveness in protecting against cancer.
Fruits containing particular phytochemicals, called flavonoids, may provide additional disease-fighting antioxidative and antimicrobial effects, according to research conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Apples, apricots, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, pears, oranges and other citrus fruits are all rich in flavonoids, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In addition to phytochemicals, fruits are packed with water and several types of dietary fiber, which can increase the sense of fullness during a meal. Fruit is also naturally sweet, reducing or eliminating the need for added sugars. Piling on sugar can lead to high blood pressure as well as obesity, an independent risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
Easy and fruitful
Though the health benefits of fruits may seem complex, incorporating fruits into desserts can be simple. It doesn’t take much effort, nor does it add many calories, to prepare mouth-watering treats with naturally delicious fruits. They can be baked, poached or grilled, intensifying their flavor and sweetness. Canned fruits are already peeledand sliced and can be easily mixed, pureed and incorporated into desserts in a number of quick and delicious ways.
Instead of a bowl of ice cream, try a parfait of yogurt, granola and mixed fruit. Pass on the cake and opt for a mixed-berry pie or baked sliced peaches with cinnamon. Milk shakes can be easily replaced with a variety of smoothies whipped up with whatever fruits are on hand. Add sliced canned fruits to gelatin. On hot days, puree and freeze melon, oranges or cherries for a delicious and refreshing granita. Or try freezing seedless grapes for a healthy, fun and cool summertime treat.
And keep this in mind. Fruit that is displayed openly in the pantry or on the counter is more likely to be consumed, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. And the availability of so many fruit delights in canned form can offer a convenient and accessible option for peak-quality fruit year-round.
Choosing healthier fruit-filled desserts is one more way to live and feel better.