Chocolate-covered dates, lemon sorbet with raspberries, and chocolate hummus with strawberries and pretzels.

Low in Sugar, High in Flavor: Desserts in 10 Minutes or Less

A common myth is that sugar “feeds” cancer, but there’s more to the story than that.  

The truth is that there are different types of sugar, which in turn can cause different kinds of responses in the body.  

The first thing to know is the difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.

  • Naturally occurring sugars are part of many foods in their original state. For example, fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unsweetened dairy, and plant-based alternatives all have certain types of sugar as part of their basic structure. Many of these foods also contain fiber and phytonutrients, which provide additional health benefits.

  • Added Sugars are the kind used in recipes and during the production and manufacturing of some foods. Added sugars are just as they sound, they get added to foods to give sweetness. Examples of foods that contain added sugars are desserts, sugary drinks, breads, condiments, and breakfast cereals (among other foods).


Is it okay to eat sugar?

After a cancer diagnosis, many people wonder if they should stop eating sweets. Research doesn’t support getting rid of all sugar. In fact, that’s nearly impossible to do. Instead, the goal is to choose naturally occurring sugars more often than foods high in added sugars.

Dessert Recipes with Little to No Added Sugar

We believe sweets should be tasty, quick, and easy to make. These 3 recipes meet those criteria and contain little to no added sugar and zero artificial sweeteners. 

Dessert Prep in 1 Minute or Less: Chocolate Hummus and Sliced Strawberries

  • Chocolate hummus (your choice of brand). If chocolate hummus is a new item for you, check the nutrition label to find one with ≤ 5 grams of Added Sugar per serving.  

  • Fresh strawberries (or any fruit of your choice) 

Wash fresh fruit. Open hummus container. Dip or spread hummus on strawberries and enjoy!

Dessert Prep in 5 Minutes or Less: Mango Sorbet

Mango Yogurt Sorbet Recipe 

  • 4 cups frozen mango chunks 

  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt 

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup (optional)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. If ingredients don’t blend easily, stir often and pulse until it runs smoothly. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 2-4 hours or until scoopable consistency.

Dessert Prep in 10 Minutes or Less: Peanut Butter Dates with Chocolate

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dates Recipe 

  • 6 Medjool dates 

  • Approx 3 tablespoons peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter!) 

  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips 

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil or butter

Use a sharp knife to split dates down one side and remove the pit. Use two spoons to fill open with peanut butter - do not overfill. Microwave chocolate chips and coconut oil in 20-second increments until fully melted. While the chocolate is still hot, drizzle onto peanut butter-stuffed dates. Transfer to the freezer for 10-30 minutes to harden chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Tip For Making Your Own Dessert

If you have a favorite homemade recipe that calls for added sugar, experiment with cutting back on the amount of sugar you use by 1/3. For example, if a banana bread recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, try using 2/3 cup instead. Be careful reducing sugar by more than 1/3 because sugar adds bulk in recipes in addition to sweetness. That means if you cut too much whatever you’re making will probably be flat and noticeably less desirable in texture.

For more information on sugar and cancer, watch our recent webinar on-demand: Sugar: Can I Eat This When I Have Cancer?

This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.