Updated: Aug 10
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.
Fruit or Berries
Succulent and juicy fruit or berries combine natural sweetness with a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamin C promotes a robust immune system and healthy skin. Antioxidants neutralise harmful free radicals and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Use: 1 generous handful
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 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:
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.
Phenolic acids; including caffeic, carnosic, coumaric, gallic, rosmarinic and vanillic acids. Drink your coffee and enjoy herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary.
Stilbenes; the best known is resveratrol, found in the skins of grapes, blueberries, raspberries and mulberries.
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. The best way to get these chemicals into your diet? Herbs, spices and whole foods, rather than through supplementation.
Walter Willett's Three Pleasures Dessert nourishes body and soul. By thoughtfully combining fruit or berries, dark chocolate and nuts this is a tantalising 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.
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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.