DRA MEGAN ROSSI: How can you have your cake and eat it too!


Cake is a fact of life, a key player in many of our major milestones and celebrations. There’s Christmas cake, of course; and birthday cake, date-with-friends cake, christening cake, wedding cake, and office celebration cake.

A University of Chester study in the International Journal Of Workplace Health found that 87% of people get cake at work at least once a week and 68% find it hard to resist.

And that’s the problem – as much as cake features prominently at many social events, it’s one of those foods we tend to feel bad about eating. It probably appears at the top of the ‘foods to avoid’ list for many contemplating New Year’s resolutions.

Like everyone else, I love a little cake, but it packs quite a punch with its sugar and saturated fat content, so there’s certainly a reason not to overdo it.

Cake is a fact of life, a prominent player in many of our major milestones and celebrations, writes Dr.  Megan Rossi (photo)

Cake is a fact of life, a prominent player in many of our major milestones and celebrations, writes Dr. Megan Rossi (photo)

But if you always feel guilty about eating it, it could trigger problems.

Research shows that if people view a certain food as a “forbidden fruit,” it makes them more desirable.

And the more you try to repress this urge, the harder it is to resist.

For example, a University of Canterbury study published in the journal Appetite found that people who associated chocolate cake with guilt reported lower levels of behavioral control over eating and were less successful in maintaining a healthy weight over an 18-month period. . , compared to those who associated chocolate cake with celebration.

This also happens in the clinic. I often see women, especially, who have spent their lives trying not to give in to food cravings like cake, but eventually the floodgates of craving open. They simply cannot stop and overdo it.

So there are benefits to fostering a positive attitude towards cake—and you can make a sugary treat like this less off-limits. It’s easier than you think.

There's Christmas cake, of course;  and birthday cake, coffee cake with friends, christening cake, wedding cake and office celebration cake

There’s Christmas cake, of course; and birthday cake, coffee cake with friends, christening cake, wedding cake and office celebration cake

Let’s first look at the homemade cake. Don’t stick with the same old combination of flour, fat and sugar: the key is to reduce the proportion of nutrient-poor ingredients, using more of the ones that give your gut microbes something to celebrate but also don’t detract from the cake joy.

My favorite baking swaps include using ground almonds instead of flour; or half flour, half almonds. This adds fiber, which reduces the blood sugar spikes you’d get with white flour. If you don’t like ground almonds, use whole wheat flour. Another quick fiber booster is to replace a third of the flour with oatmeal. I also spice up the recipe with a cup of shredded veggies like carrots or zucchini, which add sweetness and moisture, as well as fiber and other micronutrients (see my zucchini cake, recipe at right).

You can add sweetness without using table sugar with mashed dates, bananas or apples. While sugar is sugar, when you eat it in whole fruit, it’s packed with fiber, which slows the release of sugar while also regulating your appetite hormones, keeping you fuller for longer. The whole fruit also has plant chemicals, including polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants.

According to a survey earlier this year, the nation’s favorite cake is cheesecake. A quick and easy way to improve your nutritional profile is to replace sour cream with Greek yogurt and ricotta to reduce saturated fat (stay tuned for that recipe in a few weeks).

As for store-bought fruitcake, it’s probably a better bet than carrot cake, for example. Fruit cake tends to provide a lot more fiber, whereas carrot cake comes with a thick layer of overly rich frosting and little real carrot.

Before buying any cake, look through the ingredients and choose those with healthier content – wholemeal flour, oatmeal, dates, cinnamon.

Avoid those with listings that sound like the contents of a chemistry lab or come in bright colors, as this could mean your cake comes with additives that are potentially harmful to gut microbes.

And opt for plain cake with icing. The icing is usually plain sugar and butter or cream and, weight for weight, tends to contain more fat and sugar than the cake itself.

In fact, the frosting can contain twice as many calories as the cake, and one tablespoon can provide more than three teaspoons of sugar. This is likely to provide a quick spike in blood sugar levels, which can make you hungry (and even grumpy) soon after.

So if you’re served a slice with an overwhelming amount of frosting, don’t feel obligated to eat the whole thing.

An alternative topping is to use thick yogurt instead of cream or butter.

Did you know?

Avocados can increase the body’s absorption of carotenoids, which have potent antioxidant effects (carotenoids are found in red, yellow, and orange plants, such as peppers and carrots). They’re also high in fiber: one medium avocado provides about a third of your daily requirements.


This protein intake will help lower the rate at which sugar is absorbed and make you more filling, helping to reduce the desire for a second slice.

Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that having cake on a daily basis is a great idea – but a celebratory slice, whether weekly or monthly, is perfectly fine.

So here are my top cake swaps that will help you have your cake and eat it too:

Fats: Replace the butter with olive oil in a 1:1 ratio, or replace half the butter with thick, full-fat Greek yogurt to reduce your saturated fat intake.

Brownies: Replace a third of the flour with cooked black beans (I use canned), rinsed and drained to add fiber and polyphenols – when these are broken down in the gut, they produce chemicals that protect against disease, even cancer.

Cheesecake: Substitute half of the cream (1:1) with thick, full-fat Greek yogurt to add protein and other beneficial compounds produced when bacteria ferment milk to make yogurt.

Chocolate Cake: Replace half the oil or butter with the same amount of silky tofu (puree), which will add a splash of protein, as well as phytoestrogens, hormone-balancing vitamins and minerals.

Sweetness: Swap half a cup of sugar for eight medjool dates (mixed with 1/3 cup of boiling water) – your gut microbes will feast on the fiber.

Or use three ripe bananas in place of half a cup of sugar and half a cup of oil or butter – bananas are another favorite with gut microbes and also provide fiber and potassium (to help regulate blood pressure).

Ask Megan

I’ve been feeling bad for the last few years. I had many medical tests, but they revealed nothing – until recently, when I received my diagnosis of bile acid malabsorption. No one has explained what this really means. I also have a white tongue – is this connected?

Maria Majcherczyk.

Bile acid malabsorption (BAM) causes chronic diarrhea – it’s estimated that around one person in 100 has it, so you’re certainly not alone.

Bile acid is released from the gallbladder into the small intestine to help with fat absorption. But some people have an inflamed small intestine, which means their body is unable to reabsorb bile acid after doing its job. Others develop BAM after the gallbladder is removed and the bile acid finds its way into the intestine even when it’s not needed, overwhelming the intestine’s ability to handle it. There is also ‘primary’ bile acid diarrhea, where the body simply produces too much bile acid.

The good news is that most people live happy, healthy lives with BAM; it doesn’t necessarily mean your health is getting worse.

The condition is currently not curable, but medication and controlling the amount of fat you eat is the best way to treat it.

While BAM does not directly cause a white tongue, it can lead to dehydration, which can make a white tongue worse. Once the diarrhea passes and you brush your tongue twice a day with a soft toothbrush, you may find that it becomes less apparent.

Get in touch with Dr Megan Rossi

Email drmegan@dailymail.co.uk or write to Good Health, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London, W8 5HY – include contact details. Dr. Megan Rossi cannot enter into personal correspondence. The answers must be taken in a general context; always consult your GP in case of health concerns.

Try: Lemon Zucchini Cake

The tastiest way to satisfy cake cravings, this recipe provides extra fiber from the leafy greens and healthy fats from the almonds, plus prebiotics (to nourish your good gut bacteria) from the dates—your gut microbes will be asking for seconds.

serves 12

  • 7 medjool dates (pitted) or 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 190 g ground almonds
  • 1 spoon of baking powder
  • pinch of salt

If using dates as a sweetener, mix the dates and half a cup of boiling water – add more water until a smooth paste forms.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and oil until well combined and creamy. Whisk in sweetener of choice, cardamom, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.

Once combined, stir in the grated zucchini, adding ground almonds, baking powder and salt.

Pour the mixture into a greased or lined loaf pan and bake at 180c/160c fan/gas 4 for approximately 35 minutes.

Check that the bread is cooked by inserting a clean knife. Let cool before serving.

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