Chances are when you hear the word diet, the word dessert doesn't instantly come to mind. Decadent sweets are taboo when you're trying to eat clean and healthy—unless, of course, it's sweetened by nature and otherwise "good for you." But according to a study led by professor Daniela Jakubowicz of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, incorporating dessert into your daily diet can actually help you lose weight and keep it off… The only thing is that you'll need to have said dessert for breakfast.
According to Jakubowicz, our metabolisms are greatly impacted by our body's circadian rhythm, which means that the time of day at which we eat plays a big role in the way our bodies break down food. And while most of us have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that having a healthy and filling breakfast of protein, veggies, etc. will help stave off cravings, Jakubowicz and her team of researchers took this notion a step further by having participants eat a large breakfast, which included a dessert (like a piece of chocolate cake or a cookie) along with their morning meal.
Over a 12-week period, 93 women classified as obese were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group ate 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories at dinner. The second group ate a 200-calorie breakfast, 500-calorie lunch, and 700-calorie dinner. Both the breakfast and the dinner consisted of the same foods, dessert included. The purpose of one group eating a large breakfast and the other eating a large dinner was to glean how a large meal during the beginning or end of day affects the participants' weights.
After the 12-week period, the participants in the group that ate a larger breakfast with dessert had lost 10 pounds more on average than the group who ate a larger dinner and small breakfast (no dessert). Participants in the former group also had a significant decrease in levels of the hormone ghrelin (one that regulates hunger), as well as a decrease in insulin, triglycerides, and glucose levels. What was most interesting was that participants in this group did not experience a steep rise in blood glucose levels after meals, which is the body's typical response after eating.
Jakubowicz concludes that eating a higher-calorie meal at breakfast time—even one that includes a sweet treat—helps manage weight and aids in the maintenance of a heart-healthy body. And while the dessert itself isn't the sole reason for weight loss (the ratio of carbs and proteins eaten during breakfast time also played a role in helping the participants to feel fuller throughout the day, especially considering the large breakfast group ate significantly more grams of protein and carbs during their meal), Jakubowicz suggests that having a sweet treat early in the morning helps decrease cravings for unhealthy, sugary foods throughout the day.
Want more interesting diet tips? Find out what happened when our editorial director, Faith, ate like Gisele.