If you follow me on Instagram you might of spotted that I’m fond of the odd raw/vegan/sugar-free/gluten-free/healthy dessert. And I'm not ashamed to admit it: I may well be a raw brownie addict. Some of my most liked and shared photos and posts on social media are healthy renditions of desserts. Is it just me or are the first healthy recipes people want to try almost always desserts and sweet treats? I get this, because they really do look and taste delicious, but after all, they are still pudding. I think it's important to note that a whole and healthy lifestyle involves a lot more savoury, fresh and nutrient-dense veg, greens and high quality meat than it does desserts.
When health claims are used to justify less-than-healthy habits...
Raw vegan desserts aren’t always as healthy as they claim to be. Sure, you’re avoiding animal products which can be difficult for the body to breakdown and are acid-forming, whilst loading up on fresh, nutrient-dense alternatives BUT even ‘healthy’ deserts aren’t necessarily that virtuous. Here are some pointers to be aware of before falling pray to your pudding…
- Vegan desserts often contain many highly processed vegan products, e.g. vegan spreads and butter alternatives, which contain trans fats (not good!). To be honest, I'd rather my pudding contained organic butter.
- Many vegan recipes contain soy in various forms, which is a source of phytoestrogens that can upset your hormonal balance and compromise gut health. Most soy is GMO which is also a concern. This is a great read on soy by the Mother of Hormone Health, Nat Kringoudis (this lady is a BIG deal in the wellness and natural fertility world).
- When people label a recipe as sugar-free, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is free from natural sugars too...They may still be very high in sugar, and that includes unprocessed natural sweeteners. Seriously, the amount of medjool dates that I have seen be consumed is alarming in more ways than one. These natural sweeteners can fuel your sugar cravings and unless consumed judiciously can be almost as problematic as refined sugars to hormonal balance, gut flora, mood swings, acne and food addiction (yes, this is a thing). You can read about my attachment to natural sugars, how quitting sugar helped to clear up my skin and why we ought to be careful with natural sugars over here.
- Agave syrup and other not-so-healthy natural sweeteners may be hidden inside. I've seen these listed on the ingredients label of many raw chocolates, and protein and health bars. Its the high fructose content in agave that is the problem. My preferred natural sweeteners include stevia, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla, and occasionally maple syrup, raw honey and dates.
- Portions can become very distorted when using nut flours, nut butters and coconut cream. Whilst foods like nuts, and coconut flesh and cream are wonderfully healthy foods, filled with lots of healthy fats and protein, they are also very dense, both from a calorific and digestive standpoint. Portions control is key here - I’m not suggesting that you should start weighing out your portions or counting calories (certainly not!) but it is really important to be mindful of how satisfied you are and aware that portions may need to be slightly less generous.
- Dessert is actually an emotional desire, not a physical need. Yep, there is no reason for you to physically crave sweetness following a satisfying meal, except for emotional associations and sugar-addition.
So to summarise: be mindful of when you eat dessert and don’t take a health food claim to be an all-you-can-eat pass on sweet treats. I would never want to deny you from a little sweet treat but enjoy them as a treat and not a daily staple. Most 'healthy' desserts are preferable to conventional ones and there are loads of healthy alternatives out there but it is still important to read labels and be aware of the ingredients that you use. I'd be pretty cheesed off if I found out I was wasting my money on less than ideal health options duet misleading marketing, so consider this a heads up. Your welcome :)
P.S. Please don't be afraid to add your two cents in the comments! Raw dessert lover? Fond of the occasional pud?
P.P.S. Come follow me on Instagram... that's were all the best action happens. Partial to healthy foodporn, pretty blooms, zen habits, inspiring quotes and carefully curated paraphernalia? Me too!