Why you should eat (this) cake

This blog really requires no introduction. You came here because you were expecting reasons to eat cake. Not that you ever need a reason. But say you did, let’s start with the fact it’s generally delish and this cake in particular was invented by a dietitian. Surely that’s enough? Yes? Ok, head over to the Whole Orange Jaffa Cake recipe and start baking. No? Ok, read on.

1. Cacao. What?

In a world where we hold onto whatever scientific fact helps us justify a food choice (because if it’s not on a “clean eating” Instagram page then we MUST feel guilty it’s horrid for us, right?) it seems not even chocolate is safe. First, it was the antioxidants that gave us “permission” to enjoy it (antioxidants are substances such as vitamin C and beta carotene that reduce damage to cells caused by free radicals from things such as chemicals, pollution, and cigarette smoke). Though, if you do the old “2 and 5” that dietitians have been harping on about for years, you’ll be getting a good dose of antioxidants with or without the chocolate. Now it’s all about the “cacao”. Surprisingly, like the “Paleo” movement which embraces this, I cannot get an accurate, scientific explanation on how cacao differs to plain old cocoa (well, apart from the price). Cacao has been explained as the seeds from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made and raw cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted beans. Cocoa apparently differs in that it is raw cacao seeds that have been roasted at high temperatures then grounded. Claims that roasting destroys many beneficial properties helps marketers justify its price. However normal cacao may or may not be roasted. Confused? Me too. I like to think of it like this: whether cocoa or cacao, it is the same seed, and it’s what is added to it that makes all the difference (because we’ll never be eating either by the cupful). Cacao or good old Cadbury’s cocoa powder are both very similar in their fat and sugar composition (around 11% fat and 1% sugar), with Cadbury’s Bournville approximately half the price than Power Super Foods Cacao Powder. Compare this to Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate, however, and this is over 75% sugar, with less than 1/4 of it cocoa. Whilst this cake recipe has used cacao, next time I’ll save my dollars, use cocoa powder, and if I really want some extra antioxidants and flavour I’ll add some strawberries on top of the cake, achieving a very similar end result. 

2. The Moderation Movement

The world is crazy. Rates of obesity have never been higher, yet 1 in 7 Aussie kids go to school without breakfast- a significant cause due to families struggling to buy sufficient food. And in this world where for the first time ever more people are overweight instead of underweight, social media is being bombarded with “thinspo”, “clean eating” and “strong is the new thin” motivational pictures. Pictures that make your Weet Bix look to be a failure next to someone’s morning Acai bowl and feel that if you don’t look trim, tanned and toned in the very latest Lorna Jane you may as well skip your gym class. When some people put their world on show through filtered images, they create a world where there are no chocolate bikkies at 9pm, no eating Nutella straight out of the jar, and no reason why you shouldn’t live like they live. Enter guilt, self-loathe, impossibly high expectations, and setting yourself up for failure. That’s why so many people, including many dietitians, are supporting the Moderation Movement. It “promotes the mindful enjoyment of all food and exercise, not punishment….to reduce feelings of deprivation, guilt and anxiety over eating or exercising”. We’re not programmed robots and we’re not expected to behave like them. Yes, health means eating nutrient dense foods, as close as possible to their natural source, most of the time, but it also means if there’s cake there, sometimes you can eat it and can enjoy it without any attached guilt or regret.

3. Fibre, glorious fibre

Yes it’s good for us and yes we’ve all heard of it, but are you getting enough and where in the world do we find it? Fibre is essentially the parts of plants we can’t digest. So there’s fibre in fruit and veg, grains and nuts, but none in meat or eggs or dairy. It’s awesome for so many things (my fave is a tie between being preventative against certain cancers and delaying hunger feelings) but unfortunately the average Aussie does not meet their fibre requirements. There’s two types of fibre, equally important for us. Soluble fibre (found in foods such as oats, legumes, fruit, veg and nuts) attracts water to form a gel, which slows down digestion. This delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, which helps control weight. It can also help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of cholesterol. Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water, so passes through the body relatively intact (corn in poo, anyone? Yes, I went there) adding bulk to stools and speeding up the passage of food through your gut, helping to prevent constipation. Insoluble fibre is found in the skin of fruit and veggies and wholegrains, such a multigrain bread. Don’t be fooled though- foods contain both these fibres, just in varying amounts. So you’re up to speed on reason one why I love this cake: it contains 3 oranges- including all the skin of two oranges, giving us plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre. It includes a part of the fruit we often throw away and are unlikely to eat on its own, but it does a great job of adding flavour to this dish and bulking up not only the cake, but our stools. Waste not, want not.

4. Memories and science

Who doesn’t use food as a major trigger for beautiful memories? Whenever I see a fruit platter I think of fruit break at Kindergarten (yes, this dietitian has a horrible memory, but one of her few Kinder memories revolves around food- go figure?). Travel memories include eating warm chestnuts on the streets in Italy in the middle of winter and freshly made noodles in a bustling market in Cambodia. Isn’t it magical? When any Australian is abroad and homesick, a packet of Tim Tams and a jar of Vegemite in the mail can hit the spot. Throw in a packet of Jaffas and you’re most likely taken straight back to the days of being 13- of feeling “grown up” by going to the movies without any parents and because they’re not there, stocking up at the Candy Bar with friends. I didn’t know this, but like the Pavlova, Jaffas are uniquely Australian/ New Zealand . They came out in the early 1930’s and have been a staple at the cinemas since. One reason they taste so good can be explained by science. Humans are designed to do many things; number one being to survive. Hence we are programmed to procreate (walk into any club at 1am and you will see proof of this in the well thought-out outfits and dance moves), and to seek out sufficient energy from food. No cave man would have been able to hunt the lion if all he was craved kale and berries all day. Instead it is the honey on the berries and fat on the meat that we go for, particularly when hungry. Even better, is when these two are mixed together. Imagine a slice of cake. If that were made 100% from sugar, most people would struggle to finish it. If it were made 100% from butter, the thought would turn most people’s stomachs. But most cakes are a healthy  balance between the two- a good dose of fat and sugar, and suddenly, it’s not that hard to stomach. This can partly explain why we are often so driven to competing flavours like salted caramel (sweet and fat and salt), potato chips (fat and salt) or even prosciutto and melon (sweet and fat and salt). Throw in the fat and sweetness of chocolate WITH the tartness of an orange, and choc-orange is always a winning combo. And with that, I hope I have given you more than enough reasons to tuck into a big slice of Whole Orange Jaffa Cake!