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  • Clare Backhouse

Summery puddings and brain health

I've put up some reasonably sensible posts of late, so it felt high time for some frivolity. And what could be more frivolous than a summer dessert?

But then again... the nutritional content of one's pud is not to be taken lightly either! So let me balance my frivolity with a few facts and figures. (And if you just want the recipe, do scroll down.)

Many of us will be contemplating some holiday over the next couple of months. But, as one of my clients plaintively asked me yesterday: how do you celebrate the holidays well, but without sugar? Without the traditional sweet treats we grew up with?

I advise my clients to avoid high sugar in foods, partly because it can cause energy slumps. This is due to the way high sugar ('glucose') in the blood will trigger high levels of the hormone insulin. Insulin's job is to steer glucose out from the blood and park it in cells for use. Insulin does this job so efficiently, however, that blood glucose levels can then fall too low. And then one feels tired.

Yet it's not just for energy reasons that I advise low-sugar eating. It's also for your brain health. Yes, brain health!

Too many insulin surges can create insulin resistance in the body. This is when your cells react less effectively to insulin, and the body responds by producing extra insulin to compensate. This is a well-known symptom in type two diabetes.

But too much insulin, too often, can also cause inflammation in the brain. And it has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease (Koenig et al, 2017; Willette et al, 2015).

So while I don't advocate being scared of sugar, I do recommend reducing it as much as possible. Hence, a lower-sugar dessert for your summer celebrations.

I hesitated before writing this post, though.

It felt strange to put up a recipe for dessert when I also want everyone to donate to my friend Martha who is struggling to access the basics of water and food in Venezuela. It felt cold-hearted somehow.

And yet, and yet - - if we refuse to celebrate until all injustices are gone, we will never celebrate. (I think about this tension a lot.)

In the end, I decided to share my favourite recipe for a nutrient-dense, celebration dessert. I have a feeling Martha herself would approve.

The recipe happens to be vegan, almost paleo and even speedy to make.

I discovered this gem while we were staying in Canada, with three highly discerning little girls aged 10 and below.

Theirs is a pretty health-conscious family, but my offerings of super-nutritious foods were met with - well, to be frank, three little vomit-making faces.

Organic leafy greens? Eeeeeew.

Salmon fishcakes? Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!

Homemade falafels? Don't even GO there!

But my ONE moment of triumph, was when I endeavoured to replace their special-occasion chocolate ice-creams with a low-sugar dessert, which I adapted from Michele at the Paleo Running Momma.

As my photos show, enthusiasm was pleasingly evident - and the parents even consented to a little dinner-table plate-polishing.

I think this is an excellent pudding for a party because it can be made in advance. While not exactly at Sarah-Wilson-level sugar minimalism, its sugars are unrefined and its protein and healthy fat content slows down one's absorption of the sugars.

All measurements are by volume, not weight (because if I can avoid fiddling with kitchen scales, I will).

No-bake Lime Cheesecake

Prep Time 20 minutes

Chill time 2 hours

Base ingredients

1.5 cups raw pecans

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

3 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Quarter tsp fine grain sea salt

Zest of 1 lime, or about 1 and 1/2-2 Tbsp

One tsp pure vanilla extract

Base instructions:

1. Whizz the dry ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender, then add syrup and zest and whizz till it sticks just a bit

2. Press into 9 inch round cake pan with a removable base, and freeze while you prepare the filling.

Filling ingredients:

2.25 cups raw cashews, soaked for one hour minimum

1 cup organic coconut cream OR the solid part of a 400g can of coconut milk

Half a cup pure maple syrup (or less, to taste, and add a little more coconut oil)

Grated zest of 3 limes

Half a cup lime juice (about 3-4 limes' worth)

2 tbsp organic coconut oil

Generous pinch sea salt

Filling instructions:

1. Whizz all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor until completely smooth and creamy.

2. Pour the mixture over the chilled crust, then place in the freezer for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight. OR, you can freeze overnight and thaw in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving

3. Decorate with thin slices of lime or pecan nuts and enjoy!


Fresh or frozen raspberries taste brilliant with this. Scatter some on the base before pouring in the filling and then use to decorate on top.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. My other favourite is here, and involves chocolate!

Feel free to tell me your favourite recipes, or your thoughts on these.

To your best of brain health, and happiest of summery celebrations,


Clare Backhouse, dipION, Registered Nutritionist MBANT, Registered Nutritional Therapist CNHC

Consultations in London, in West Sussex, and online


Koenig, Aaron M., Dawn Mechanic-Hamilton, Sharon X. Xie, Martha F. Combs, Anne R. Cappola, Long Xie, John A. Detre, David A. Wolk, and Steven E. Arnold. “Effects of the Insulin Sensitizer Metformin in Alzheimer’s Disease: Pilot Data from a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study.” Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders 31, no. 2 (2017): 107–13.

Willette, Auriel A., Barbara B. Bendlin, Erika J. Starks, Alex C. Birdsill, Sterling C. Johnson, Bradley T. Christian, Ozioma C. Okonkwo, et al. “Association of Insulin Resistance With Cerebral Glucose Uptake in Late Middle–Aged Adults at Risk for Alzheimer Disease.” JAMA Neurology 72, no. 9 (September 1, 2015): 1013–20.

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