Saturday, February 27, 2010


Desserts are considered an integral part of a meal and invariably arrives as the last course in most countries except in southern parts of India where dessert is the penultimate item on the menu. Historically there is no clue as to how desserts became a part of a meal though one could argue that eating of a sweet dish causes increased flow of saliva that is supposed to aid digestion. Same argument is offered for consumption of curd and rice as the last course in a typical south Indian meal as the lactic bacteria present in the curd is a probiotic and also facilitates digestion in the GI tract. Mouth washing after a meal is often recommended to remove adhering food particles so that dental area does not provide refuge for undesirable bacteria to grow and erode the teeth. After eating a dessert if mouth is not rinsed properly, breeding of bacteria in a matter of few minutes, can have potential for developing cavities, gum disorders and tooth erosion.

Most desserts contain high levels of sugar and fat. While western desserts are mostly made by baking except the frozen desserts, in India they can be based on cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables or nuts involving cooking with sugar and fat or frying and syruping. There are thousands of Indian confectionery products of traditional origin most of which contain sugar between 20 and 60% and fat 25 to 50%. The ubiquitous kheer of different types is a part and parcel of meals served during festivals and religious and community functions and being liquid preparations they may contain marginally lesser sugar and fat. In terms of caloric density a single dessert preparation delivers 2-3 times more calories compared to any other item on the menu. It is against this back ground that attempts are being made to persuade diners to cut out desserts from the main meal so that there is net reduction in calorie consumption from a single meal. Eating high sugar and high fat desserts has been implicated in obesity epidemic by the WHO and health experts.

A meal is supposed to be taken to satiate hunger and after consuming sufficient food from the main menu, the hunger is supposed to be 'doused' leaving very little scope for ingestion of any food. But desserts do attract many diners because of the sweetness, typical texture, eating pleasure and exciting flavors. Obviously it has nothing to do with hunger or nutrition. Logically there is an excellent case for imparting the healthy habit of taking a meal with no desserts at the end, amongst children. Millions of meals served every day in thousands of restaurants and food serving institutions must exclude desserts from their menu and those having the urge to eat sweets must be made to pay extra for the "sin" in their own interest.


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