Four Heart-Friendly Dessert Ideas
When you think of dessert, the words "heart friendly" are might be the furthest thing from your mind. While your overarching intake of sweets can play a role in how well your heart works over time, not every dessert on the menu has a negative impact on your ticker. Ahead, discover a few heart-conscious dessert ideas to keep in mind the next time you want to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you have a hankering for something sweet, but want to stay healthy, Dr. Patrick Fratellone, a cardiologist, suggests noshing on low-glycemic fruits. "I prefer using berries, which are rich in flavonoids. They act as an antioxidant and are also low in sugar," he says. "These include blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. You also can be innovative with gooseberries and wolf berries."
Seeds, Nuts, and Dark Chocolate
You may not think of seeds and nuts when you're looking for a treat, but when mixed with dark chocolate, they make for an excellent dessert. "Dark chocolate is an antioxidant and also contains plenty of flavonoids," Dr. Fratellone says. "Research has proven that cocoa flavonoids help support a healthy heart by promoting blood flow."
If you're trying to make a dairy-based item more heart-healthy, Dr. Fratellone suggests pausing right there. "If the dessert requires any dairy, I would use unsweetened almond or coconut milk," he says. "For yogurts, a great desert could be had with coconut yogurt and any type of berry." Just be cautious with oat milk options: "You have to be careful when using oat milk—some people have a sensitivity to the oats, even if the milk is labeled gluten-free."
Speaking of gluten: While Dr. Fratellone says gluten-free desserts can generally be heart healthy, some of these options can come with a higher sugar load. Double check the sugar content of gluten-free snacks to verify that you're not trading gluten for a glut of sugar and sugar substitutes, which won't do your heart any good.
You may not think that a simple dash of spice can up the heart health benefits of your snack, but Dr. Fratellone says that a pinch of the good stuff can amp up both the taste factor and the health content of your desserts. "I tell my patients to add a sprinkle of cinnamon to the top of their desserts," he explains. "Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory herb and reduces blood sugar."
What the Pros Eat
Dr. Fratellone takes his own advice when it comes to eating heart-healthy treats. "A perfect dessert for me is six ounces of fresh blueberries topped with melted dark chocolate," he says. If you're planning on making changes to your diet with your heart health in mind, he suggests keeping your intake low. "As with all dietary changes, all desserts need to be consumed in moderation," he says.