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Delightful Dessert: The “Three Pleasures” by Harvard's Walter Willett

Updated: Mar 29

Chocolate Berries Nuts polyphenols

When it comes to dessert, please, let’s not mess around. We came across a delectable, indulgent and healthful dessert that will not only tantalise your taste buds but also nourish your body. The Three Pleasures Dessert, a heavenly combination brought to life by none other than top global nutritionist and researcher Walter Willett, Professor of Medicine and head of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition.


So, what does one of the top minds in nutrition recommend for dessert? He came up with three delicious and complementary ingredients that are combined to maximise health and taste.

 

Berries


Berries combine natural sweet or sour flavours with a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamin C promotes a robust immune system and healthy skin. Antioxidant polyphenols neutralise harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.


Use: 1 generous portion


Dark Chocolate


Chocolate, the ultimate guilty pleasure! But in this case, dark chocolate, rich in antioxidants called flavonoids that combat oxidative stress in our cells. They can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and slow down the aging process. Dark chocolate is also known to elevate mood and enhance cognitive function. And, chocolate just makes you feel better, right?!


Use: 4 squares (choose a dark chocolate of 70% cacao or higher)


Nuts


Nuts bring a satisfying crunch to the dessert and deliver a wealth of health benefits. The fibre in nuts aids in digestion and helps maintain a feeling of fullness. Additionally, nuts are brimming with protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory compounds.


Use: 2 to 6 nuts, for example, 2 whole walnuts or 6 almonds.

 

At it's simplest you can just combine the ingredients in a bowl and enjoy. Alternatively and conveniently, famed French chef Jacques Pepin (always good for some home cooking tips) has an easy to prepare recipe:


 

Polyphenols


All 'three pleasures' are rich in flavonoids - phytochemicals (plant based chemicals) that are anti-inflammatory and promote health. Flavonoids are part of the polyphenol group that includes many of the names that you might see in the marketing or advertising of superfoods:


  • Flavonoids e.g. anthocyanins, catechins, kaempferol, quercetin. The main flavanols found in cocoa are epicatechin and catechin. Berries are rich in anthocyanins, flavonols and flavanols. Nuts, dependent on type, can be rich in flavonoids, phenolic acids and stilbenes.

  • Stilbenes; the best known is resveratrol, found in the skins of grapes, blueberries, raspberries and mulberries.


  • Phenolic acids; including caffeic, carnosic, coumaric, gallic, rosmarinic and vanillic acids. Drink your coffee and enjoy herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary.

  • Lignans; found in flax and sesame seeds.

Long-term consumption of diets rich in polyphenols may offer protection against development of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal problems, lung damage, and neurodegenerative diseases.

 

Walter Willett's Three Pleasures Dessert nourishes body and soul. By thoughtfully combining berries, dark chocolate and nuts this is a treat that can be kept on hand for any occasion.


Remember, health doesn’t have to be hard - cut back on the bad things and do some of the good things. As long as you do something, consistently, to move the needle towards health. Life is about finding joy in the small things: nuts, berries and a couple of pieces of dark chocolate included. Even a glass of dark, red wine.


Stay Healthy


Alastair

 

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Related Studies


Zekrumah M, Begua P, Razak A, Wahab J, Moffo N, Ivane A, Oman M, Elrashied H, Zou X, Zhang D. Role of dietary polyphenols in non-communicable chronic disease prevention, and interactions in food systems: An overview. Nutrition. 2023 Aug;112:112034. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2023.112034. Epub 2023 Mar 15. PMID: 37285724.


Sesso HD, Manson JE, Aragaki AK, Rist PM, Johnson LG, Friedenberg G, Copeland T, Clar A, Mora S, Moorthy MV, Sarkissian A, Carrick WR, Anderson GL; COSMOS Research Group. Effect of cocoa flavanol supplementation for the prevention of cardiovascular disease events: the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 Jun 7;115(6):1490-1500. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac055. PMID: 35294962; PMCID: PMC9170467.


Jaćimović S, Popović-Djordjević J, Sarić B, Krstić A, Mickovski-Stefanović V, Pantelić NĐ. Antioxidant Activity and Multi-Elemental Analysis of Dark Chocolate. Foods. 2022 May 17;11(10):1445. doi: 10.3390/foods11101445. PMID: 35627015; PMCID: PMC9141620.

 

Shin JH, Kim CS, Cha L, Kim S, Lee S, Chae S, Chun WY, Shin DM. Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr Biochem. 2022 Jan;99:108854. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108854. Epub 2021 Sep 14. PMID: 34530112.

 

García-Merino JA, de Lucas B, Herrera-Rocha K, Moreno-Pérez D, Montalvo-Lominchar MG, Fernández-Romero A, Santiago C, Pérez-Ruiz M, Larrosa M. Flavanol-Rich Cocoa Supplementation Inhibits Mitochondrial Biogenesis Triggered by Exercise. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Aug 4;11(8):1522. doi: 10.3390/antiox11081522. PMID: 36009241; PMCID: PMC9405215.

 

Gunaratne TM, Gonzalez Viejo C, Fuentes S, Torrico DD, Gunaratne NM, Ashman H, Dunshea FR. Development of emotion lexicons to describe chocolate using the Check-All-That-Apply (CATA) methodology across Asian and Western groups. Food Res Int. 2019 Jan;115:526-534. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.10.001. Epub 2018 Oct 2. PMID: 30599974.




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