If you’re anything like me (and many others) the aroma of nice hot baked goods straight out of the over makes you salivate. With me, the mere thought is sufficient. However, for most people the notion of baked goods fill them up with trepidation. We tend to automatically associate it with all that is bad for us. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. And before you start heading for the hills I have good news for you. It doesn’t have to be that way because there are healthier substitutes to the common baked goods’ ingredients. All you have to do is swap some of the ingredients on the recipe and you can still fill up your home with mouth-watering aroma of wonderful baked goods.
Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of misinformation about what counts as a healthy ingredient substitution. For instance, one of baking’s major components, butter, has been unfairly demonised for decades. For that reason butter substitutes were developed needlessly. Fortunately, butter is now making a comeback because more people are learning that many saturated fats (such as butter) are actually good for you. Conversely, refined sugar and wheat flour should be banned from entering your kitchen and replaced with healthier options.
The healthy substitutions suggested below will warm your heart, whilst at the same time protect it. By preparing food in your own kitchen, you have complete control over what goes into your food, which is a significant step concerning taking control of your health.
So let’s see which ‘swaps’ are recommended:
Use coconut oil or red palm oil to replace unhealthy fats
Another saturated fats that work well for baking are coconut oil and red palm oil, which you can substitute 1:1 instead of margarine, shortening or other oils. Shortening, coconut oil and red palm oil look similar in that they are all generally solid at room temperature. The difference is shortening is solid because a liquid oil was hydrogenated to make it solid—a man-made process that’s far from natural. Partial hydrogenation creates transfats, the nutritional scoundrel that’s been connected to many health conditions, from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to fertility problems.
Fully hydrogenated oil (aka interesterified fat), while theoretically transfat free, may be even worse for our health. There is evidence that people who consumed foods made with interesterified oil experienced a decline in their ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and substantial increase in blood sugar.
Coconut oil and red palm oil has none of these risks but comprise of a large number of health benefits for the heart, brain, skin, immune system, and thyroid, and more. It’s rich in lauric acid, which our body transforms to monolaurin, and this special agent has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal capabilities.
These oils are also rich in capric acid, which also has anti-infection properties. Using these oils in baked goods may even support reducing your waistline because of its medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), known to encourage metabolism.
Use Butter or lard to Replace Margarine, Refined Vegetable Oils and Shortening.
After decades of believing the myth that butter clogs our arteries, it has now become common knowledge that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, and shortening are the real culprits, together with refined sugar and refined grains.
So if you are using margarine, you should swap back to butter and lard. Butter and lard, especially raw variety from grass-fed animals, are rich in advantageous nutrients including vitamins, trace minerals, CLA, and beneficial fats. Note that dairy products (including butter) that come from cows that are not grass-fed are nutritionally inferior.
Swap Regular Chocolate Chips with Dark Chocolate
In certain circumstances, chocolate can be a health food! The key is that it should be low sugar and as close to its raw state as possible. This means high quality (preferably raw) organic dark chocolate with minimal processing and adulteration. Cocoa powder is rich in minerals and antioxidants, and the latest studies have also revealed anti-inflammatory properties.
There are other health benefits as well. Most of the research about chocolate’s benefits has been done with 70% dark chocolate.
Substitute Wheat Flour with Coconut Flour
First of all, doing that will turn your backed goods into gluten free. Coconut flour is made of 14% coconut oil and a gigantic 58% dietary fibre, which is the highest of any flour I’m aware of. Coconut flour is very low in digestible carbohydrates—even lower than some vegetables.
A few words of caution about baking with coconut flour: if you substitute it 100% for regular flour your baked goods are likely to fall apart. But here’s a trick for you to avoid such disaster:
Just add eggs. The secret is to add, on average, one egg per 30gr of coconut flour. Because Coconut flour has no gluten, the eggs take its place by helping the ingredients stick together.
Other gluten-free alternatives to wheat flour that you might want to consider experimenting with are amaranth and quinoa flour, both rich in protein, fibre, and other nutrients. Amaranth is very dense, so it is advisable to combine it with other type of flours. Quinoa is particularly rich in two flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, both have antioxidant properties. For my full article on cooling and baking with coconut flour click here
Swap Refined Sugar with Pureed Fruits and Vegetables
I always say that sugar is the enemy and is a primary factor in countless chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Added sugars, whether natural or artificial hide in about 75% of processed foods hiding behind more than 60 different names, even in so-called “health foods.”
Replacing up to half of the sugar in your recipe with pureed fruit, such as bananas, mangoes, papayas, or dried dates pureed with water. You may also use fruit pulp or sugar rich vegetable (or their pulp) such as beets. In addition to being full with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is much less concentrated and hence less harmful.
For example, a quarter cup (four tablespoons) of mashed banana contains less than 7gr of sugar, contrasted with 12gr in just one tablespoon of table sugar. As a rule of thumb, it is recommend swap one-quarter cup of pureed fruit or fruit pulp for one half cup of sugar. Because fruit is higher in water content, it is necessary to reduce the liquid in the recipe, usually by a quarter cup.
If fruit purees don’t make your baked goods sweet enough, you can add a small amount of one of the natural alternative sweeteners, such as stevia, Luo Han Guo, or xylitol. Another alternative is pure glucose (dextrose), which is less damaging than table sugar, which is 50% fructose. The less you use sugar the more your sweet tooth will adapt so that your baked goods will taste sweet enough with only fruit purees. Artificial sweeteners are absolutely a no-go zone.