News Flash: Dessert First, HIIPA for All-Day Fat Burning, and Other Health News

Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at a healthier way to eat dessert, a method for building HIIT into your daily activities, and the right movement prescription for lower blood pressure.

Could dessert actually help your diet?

Sugar is certainly not a health food (with links to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes), but some studies now suggest that having dessert every once in a while may actually improve your diet.

According to this piece in Time, choosing dessert—the rich stuff such as cake or cheesecake—before a meal rather than after was linked to eating fewer calories overall.

People consistently chose healthier meals and consumed fewer calories when they picked an indulgent dessert at the beginning of the meal, says a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. They didn’t even have to eat the treat first; just knowing it was coming was enough to trigger the change. Almost 70 percent of those who chose cheesecake first in a university school cafeteria line went on to eat a healthier main and side dish, consuming about 250 fewer calories when compared to people who selected fruit first.

When they chose cheesecake after their main dish selection rather than before, they ended up eating 150 more calories. The same phenomenon held up in another study of adults ordering food online.

Some experts recommend having dessert after a workout since the body needs sugar to recover from intense activity and can put it to better use. And foods that combine simple sugar with protein, such as peanut butter cups, also can be a recovery tool.

Timing sweets earlier in the day might help, as well. A 2012 paper found that people with obesity that followed a diet plan including desserts such as chocolate, cookies or donuts with breakfast experienced fewer junk-food cravings later in the day than those who ate a low-calorie, low-carb meal.

Of course, this isn’t a green light to make fudge-covered Oreos part of your meal plan, nutritionists say, just a strategy to avoid potentially bigger sugar binges.

What is HIIPA, and how can it help you crush your goals?

High-intensity interval training has become the darling of the fitness world for efficiently burning fat in a short period of time.

But this heart-rate-spiking activity doesn’t have to happen in the gym. High-intensity incidental physical activity, or HIIPA, counts, too, such as that sprint up the stairs at work, running to catch your train or dancing while vacuuming, according to Emmanuel Stamatakis, Ph.D., a lead researcher and professor at The University of Sydney School of Medicine.

“Our paper … shows this type of regular, incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing is likely to produce health benefits, even if you do it in 30-second bursts, spread over the day,” Stamatakis wrote on Quartzy. And, he says, all these short bites of movement count toward the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

In addition to taking the stairs, here are a few of the ways Stamatakis suggests getting in your HIIPA when you can’t make it to the gym.

Morning exercise, short breaks for better blood pressure

Thirty minutes of morning movement, coupled with three-minute walking breaks from sitting throughout the day, may help control blood pressure, particularly in older, overweight or obese women, according to an Australian study in Reuters.

Research participants who walked 30 minutes before sitting for hours had lower blood pressure throughout the day. However, a bigger reduction was seen in women when combining the 30 minutes of walking with three-minute walking breaks every 30 minutes.

Photo credit: Christiann Koepke, Unsplash