Many desserts, such as brownies, cookies, cake and ice cream, contain saturated fat, sugar and other refined carbs. Too much of any of these in your diet can cause your cholesterol and triglycerides to increase, and both of those can raise your risk of heart disease. Fortunately, you don't have to completely eliminate dessert from your diet, but you do need to choose your sweet treats with care.
Cholesterol and Triglycerides 101
Cholesterol is a type of fat that your body needs to function. When you consume more cholesterol than your body needs, it can build up, which raises your risk of heart disease. Foods that contain saturated fats, including many desserts, can also increase your cholesterol level. Triglycerides are the form that fat takes when it's floating around in your body, and elevated triglycerides can raise your risk of heart disease as well, according to the American Heart Association. Too much sugar and too many refined carbs can also increase your triglyceride levels because an excess of these foods turn into triglycerides and take up residence in your fat cells.
Because fruits don't contain cholesterol, and most don't contain any saturated fat, they can help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fresh fruit isn't a refined carb and doesn't contain any added sugar. A bowl of assorted fruits, such as grapes, cherries, nectarines and kiwi, lends a natural sweetness and can replace a less-healthy dessert. Poached pears or grilled peach slices are other fruits that can replace cookies, cake, pie or ice cream. Even a fruit pie with a low-fat crust or a low-sugar fruit cobbler will help increase your fruit intake, which might help lower your numbers.
Because whole grains are low in saturated fat and sugar and aren't refined like foods made with white flour, they're a better option for lowering your triglycerides. Make rice pudding with sprouted brown rice or replace your chocolate pudding with chia seed pudding. Both sprouted brown rice and chia seeds are nutritious whole grains. Replace the oats in oatmeal raisin cookies with quinoa flour as another healthier option. And adding walnuts to these desserts can help lower triglycerides, reports registered dietitian Joy Bauer, because of the omega-3 fatty acids they contain.
A Few More Healthy Dessert Options
Like fruit, vegetables can also help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Carrot or zucchini cake are examples of vegetable-based desserts that might have a positive impact on your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Adding vegetable purees, such as butternut squash or yams, to baked goods, in place of oil, is another way to make veggie-based sweet treats. Black bean brownies, which use mashed black beans in place of some of the oil in a traditional recipe, are another option. Beans are rich in fiber, a nutrient that can help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- American Heart Association: Knowing Your Fats
- American Heart Association: Triglycerides
- EatingWell: Healthy Low-Fat Dessert Recipes
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cake, Angelfood, Commercially Prepared
- Brownie Cookbook; Larry Randle
- University of Maryland Medical Center: High Blood Cholesterol Levels
- Cleveland Clinic: Triglycerides
- JoyBauer.com: How Food Affects High Triglycerides