When it comes to dieting, dessert is likely the first thing you ditch. But, chowing down on that chocolate cake can be guilt-free. Here’s why dessert can be good for you, according to science.
It Lowers Your Blood Pressure
A few bites of chocolate each day could decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease down the line. A 2011 Harvard study found that eating a small square of dark chocolate every day lowered blood pressure in all 1,106 participants. They believe this is because chocolate rich in cocoa (as found in unsweetened or dark chocolate) packs a high concentration of flavonoids, an antioxidant with huge anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
It Protects You From Strokes
It’s worth repeating: dark chocolate is really good for you. In a study of Swedish men aged 45 to 79, those who ate about one square were 17 percent less likely to suffer from a stroke than those who cut it out entirely.
It Will Satisfy Your Cravings
Focus on portion control, which means avoiding that generous slice of pie or devouring four or five cookies in one sitting. Put the box back in the pantry or freezer after you remove your select portion to keep you from reaching to grab more later on.
It Can Limit Your Sugar and Fat Intake
If you make your own goodies at home, you can substitute other ingredients for butter and oil, reduce the amount of sugar added, and even toss in healthy additions like nuts. Homemade desserts can “satisfy your dessert craving in healthier ways,” Rachel Johnson, PhD, chair of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) nutrition committee, told TIME.
It Will Inspire You To Be Active
Since you know what you’re eating when you indulge, you can also make the conscious decision to work it off afterward. If you can’t live without dessert, one way to balance your sugar intake is to stay active during the day and maintain a diet low in other added sugars, suggests Johnson. Taking a stroll during lunch or hitting the gym after work can lead to a whole bundle of other health benefits, too.