10 Dessert Ingredients That Are Good for Your Heart

And heart-healthy desserts to make with each one, too.

One of the hardest things about heart-healthy eating is the idea that you have to give up desserts. And while it is true that foods high in saturated fat and sugar are not good for your cardiac wellness, you can still make dessert a regular part of your life — and even help to boost your heart health.

As with anything, moderation and portion size are vitally important, but knowing some smart ways of keeping dessert on the table is a positive way to look at a heart-healthy eating plan. The key is knowing the ingredients that are good for your heart and incorporating them into your desserts.

A lot of these heart-healthy dessert ingredients work well together, so as you begin to make a dessert plan, see if you can combine two or more of these ingredients to make your sweets as good for you as possible. Here are some of our favorite foods that are great for your heart and perfect for dessert, and some of them might surprise you.

1. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants, which are known to fight inflammation and protect cells against free radicals (molecules that can damage healthy parts of your body). Studies tout dark chocolate's ability to help reduce blood pressure which lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke. Try serving squares of dark chocolate with fresh berries after a meal for a simple, satisfying, and heart-healthy dessert.

Rustic homemade dark chocolate
Emilija Manevska/Getty Images

Try This Recipe: Dark Chocolate Almond Rocks

2. Black Beans

Diets high in fiber can help lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Black beans also contain properties like magnesium, folate, and antioxidants that can assist with lowering blood pressure. All of this makes them a powerhouse for heart health. In baked goods, black beans can sub in for both flour or oil, and they're especially great in recipes like fudgy brownies.

Try This Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

3. Oranges

The fiber and pectin in oranges are great for controlling cholesterol. Add in a good amount of blood-pressure reducing potassium, and you have a sweet treat that is great for your heart. While an orange on its own is a fine dessert, think about upping the ante by serving slices of fresh oranges over heart-healthy vanilla yogurt, with toasted almonds and shavings of dark chocolate for an elegant meal-ender that is deliciously good for you.

Try This Recipe: Pavlova With Winter Fruits

4. Olive Oil

You likely know olive oil is one of the healthiest oils for your heart. But as much as we love it on salad, we often forget that it can be a wonderful oil to use for desserts. Replace the oil in any cake or cookie recipe with olive oil for an instant uptick in health benefits.

Try This Recipe: Spiced Orange Olive Oil Cake

5. Walnuts

Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, the same healthy fats found in fish like salmon. They're also a good source of fiber and plant sterols, which are wonderful for your heart. Combine walnuts with other heart-healthy options like oatmeal and cherries, as in these delicious cookies for a three-way punch of good-for-you treats.

Try This Recipe: Excellent Oatmeal Cookies

6. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, while naturally sweet, actually have a low glycemic index, so they are good for managing blood sugar. Add in lycopene, vitamin A, and plenty of fiber, and you have an ingredient that is ideal for bringing natural sweetness to your dessert repertoire. From sweet potato pie to sweet potato pound cake, you can highlight them in your baking with delicious results.

Try This Recipe: Cinnamon Sweet Potato Slices

7. Cherries

Cherries, both sweet and sour versions, fresh or dried, have great amounts of specific antioxidants called anthocyanins. These colorful compounds (they're responsible for cherries' rich red color) help protect blood vessels, which makes them great for your heart. Swap in dried cherries anywhere you have a recipe that calls for raisins, dip fresh cherries in melted dark chocolate, or cook a compote of fresh and dried cherries in cherry juice and top with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of toasted nuts or an oat-based granola for a dessert parfait.

Try This Recipe: Sour Cherry Sorbet

8. Oats

The fiber in oats can help keep blood sugar levels stable and lower bad cholesterol. Oatmeal cookies are an obvious choice, but think about swapping out some of the regular flour in things like muffins for oat flour, or make heart-healthy fruit crisps by topping with a toasted oat and nut mixture. This cherry version is a good place to start.

Try This Recipe: No-Bake Energy Bites

9. Yogurt

Yogurt is high in calcium and potassium, so it can be a help in controlling blood pressure. Yogurt is a great dairy to bake with or make chilled desserts like a yogurt panna cotta. Try swapping in yogurt anywhere your recipes call for sour cream, like this lemon yogurt pound cake, make homemade frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, or use vanilla yogurt in place of whipped cream as a dessert topper.

Try This Recipe: Berry Yogurt Crunch

10. Tofu

Sure, tofu brings all the vegetarian protein and heart-healthy fiber and minerals to your savory cooking, but did you know it is good for desserts as well? Silky tofu can be pureed to replace cream in some desserts, to give you all the texture without the fat.

Try This Recipe: Chocolate-Banana Tofu Pudding

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