What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Dessert Every Day

Eating dessert after dinner is a common practice in the U.S.—from ice cream to cake to cookies and more. Craving something sweet after a savory meal makes sense. Your satisfaction with a certain flavor profile diminishes relatively quickly, and changing flavors, temperature and texture can promote more pleasure and satisfaction from food. But dessert generally gets a bad rap, causing people to feel guilty about eating it regularly.

You may wonder, does eating dessert daily have any significant health consequences? In this article, we’ll share the potential health effects of eating dessert regularly.

Photographer: Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Claire Spollen

May Improve Your Relationship with Food

Granting yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods you enjoy can promote a better relationship with food. If you enjoy dessert, then restricting it will likely only lead you to become preoccupied with it. Patricia Pauyo, M.S., RDN, owner and founder of Pathway Nutrition LLC, says, “All foods fit into a healthy eating pattern—desserts included. The first step to help with this is to give yourself permission to have desserts if and when you want them without feeling guilty for doing so.”

When you allow yourself to eat dessert, you can enjoy it and move on with your day. You can have an amount that is satisfying and prevent the harmful cycle of restricting it for days and then inevitably bingeing on it later. Plus, a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion shows that allowing yourself unconditional permission to eat through practicing intuitive eating can improve self-esteem while reducing depression and obsessive-compulsive eating.

May Give You a Nutrient Boost

A wide variety of dessert options are available with a wide variety of nutritional profiles. Pauyo says, “Having fruit in your dessert can add antioxidants and fiber to help reduce the risk of diseases and promote gut health. Choosing desserts with nuts and seeds helps add healthy fats and protein, which can be beneficial for brain health. Adding dark chocolate and a variety of spices is also health-promoting due to their anti-inflammatory properties.” Furthermore, milk-based hot chocolate or yogurt parfaits are rich in calcium. These are all important nutrients that you can get from certain desserts.

May Increase Your Risk for Fatty Liver Disease

Desserts like ice cream and baked goods are generally pretty high in saturated fat, a contributor to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This condition results from fat accumulating on the liver and is often asymptomatic. However, in some people, it can lead to health complications like cirrhosis. Excess consumption of saturated fat may also put you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Nevertheless, more recent research reviews, including a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, challenge the validity of these claims. That being said, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat to 10% of your energy intake, while the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 6%. On a 2,000-calorie diet, this translates to 23 or 14 grams per day respectively.

May Increase Your Risk for Heart Disease

Consuming large amounts of added sugars is associated with cardiovascular disease, as demonstrated by a 2019 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, desserts are one of the main sources of added sugar in the U.S.
These guidelines recommend limiting your total intake of added sugars to 10% of your daily energy intake, which translates to 48 grams or 12 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet.

The American Heart Association has stricter recommendations, with a maximum of 6 teaspoons daily for females and 9 teaspoons for males. Therefore, being aware of the types of desserts you have and how they fit into your overall eating pattern could be beneficial. Consider incorporating a combination of natural and added sugars for sweetness. If you listen to your body’s cues, you usually won’t want dessert all day, every day. Connect with your body and also be mindful of incorporating fruits, veggies, protein, unsaturated fats and whole grains into your regular eating pattern.

What to Look for in Your Dessert

When it comes to dessert, it’s possible to honor your cravings while also practicing gentle nutrition. Be mindful of what tastes good and makes your body feel good. Tune in to how the flavor, texture, temperature and amount satisfy you and how what you eat makes you feel physically. For example, some people might get stomachaches when they eat specific desserts or a large amount. If you haven’t eaten many fruits or veggies that day, you may crave a lighter, fruit-and-yogurt-based dessert. If you’ve eaten a hot, savory dinner, you may crave ice cream. If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, you may need to be extra mindful of your dessert’s saturated fat or added sugar content.

The Bottom Line

Dessert can absolutely fit into a balanced diet. Zooming out and being mindful of your overall eating pattern is more important than hyperfocusing on one food. Allowing yourself to eat the dessert without guilt can help improve your relationship with food and keep you feeling satisfied. If you have chronic health conditions that require close monitoring of your saturated fat and added sugar consumption, consider incorporating a variety of desserts with different nutritional profiles, from fruit to dark chocolate.