4 November 2019

Dessert, public enemy number one

No matter how big our starter and main course, we always find room for a dessert. Or at least some of us do. While at times this might sound like exaggeration or pure boasting, it is actually a scientifically proven fact. Our stomachs dilate at the prospect of something sweet.

Technically, the reason for this particular reaction is in the orbitofrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for satiety and that makes us feel full when it comes to some foods but not others.

This all changes radically with allergies. People who are allergic, for example, to gluten or lactose would never find space in their stomach for dessert, or at least for traditional desserts.

Most recipes have ingredients that contain gluten and we have already seen in another of our posts that gluten is a problem for many people around the world.

Dairy products are another of the ingredients commonly found in desserts and these can also pose certain problems for some people. Milk and its derivatives can cause digestive discomfort or have more serious effects, such as fatigue, headache, cold sores, etc.

It may be a surprise to learn that 70% of the world's population is lactose intolerant. The reason lies in our origin as hunters. For thousands of years humans never drank milk once they stopped being breast fed. We only began drinking milk and its derivatives about 11,000 years ago when we became shepherds and ranchers, a very short period in terms of evolution.

This change in food began in Europe and this explains why Europeans tolerate milk better and, consequently, why it is found in traditional desserts such as cakes, pies, etc.

So the question is, can we make desserts without gluten and lactose? The answer is yes.

We have already seen the development of desserts made with tef flour, a gluten-free cereal containing lots of protein, iron and fibre. Cereal and pseudo-cereal flours have also been developed, such as millet, sorghum, roasted corn and quinoa. These gluten-free flours contain up to 20% more protein and 30% more vitamin E than conventional wheat flour.

The conclusion is therefore that traditional desserts, potentially dangerous for many people, can be replaced by others that are equally appetising and totally harmless to our health.