My Healthy Baking Secrets Revealed!

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With a few healthy ingredient substitutions, you can prepare delicious, nutritious, guilt-free baked goods in your own kitchen

Five top baking secrets are revealed—and they include butter and chocolate

If you’re like many, the thought of baked goods hot out of  the oven may represent some of your warmest memories. The aroma of chocolate  chip cookies or cinnamon rolls baking may fill you with excitement—or send you  running for cover, in fear of their repercussions on your health and fitness  goals.

But before you head for the hills, realize that there have  never been more options for healthy baking swaps than there are today.

Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of misinformation  about what constitutes a healthy ingredient  substitution. For example, one of baking’s major assets, butter, has been unfairly  eschewed for decades.

An enormous amount of effort has been put into developing  “better butter substitutes”—needlessly! Fortunately, butter is making a  comeback now that more folks are learning that many saturated fats are actually  good for you.

On the other hand, refined sugar and wheat flour should be  banished from your pantry and replaced with healthier alternatives.

It really IS possible to fill your home with the mouth-watering  aroma of baked goods—without sabotaging your health. Read on, as I will be sharing my favorite baking  secrets for delicious, guilt-free baked goods.

Tip #1: Use Butter to Replace Margarine, Shortening,  and Refined Vegetable Oils

    The era of butter  bashing may finally be coming to an end. Butter consumption in the US has hit a 40-year high, really  taking off over the past five years. This is largely a result of the shift in  consumer preferences away from processed foods.

Between 1920 and  1960, Americans’ butter consumption declined by more than 75 percent, yet heart  disease went from a relatively unknown condition to the number one killer.

After decades of believing the  myth that butter clogs arteries, people are now beginning to realize that  partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, and shortening are the real enemies,  along with sugar and refined grains.

Instead of the conventional recommendation to replace  butter with margarine, you should be replacing margarine with butter! Butter, especially raw butter from grass-fed  cows, is rich in beneficial nutrients including vitamins, trace minerals, CLA,  and beneficial fats.

However, butter  produced from the milk of cows raised in confined animal feeding operations  (CAFOs) is nutritionally inferior as the cows are fed almost entirely  genetically engineered (GE) grain. Some are also fattened up with additional  sugar from GE sugar beets and cottonseed. So, use butter, but be choosey about what butter you select.

Tip #2: Use Coconut Oil to Replace Unhealthy Fats

    Another saturated fat that is extremely nutritious and  works well for baking is coconut  oil, which you can substitute  measure for measure in place of margarine, shortening or other oils. Try it in  pie crust or in dark chocolate chunk cookies! As explained in Time:1

“Shortening and coconut oil  look similar in that both are generally white and 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 trans  fat, the nutritional villain that’s been linked to a host of health  problems, from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to fertility challenges.

Fully hydrogenated oil (aka  interesterified oil), while technically trans fat free, may be even worse for  your health. A Brandeis University study2 found that subjects  who consumed products made with interesterified oil experienced a decrease in  their ‘good’ HDL cholesterol a significant rise in blood sugar—about a 20  percent spike in just four weeks.”

Coconut oil has  none of these risks but boasts a large number of health benefits for your  heart, brain, skin, immune system, and thyroid, among others. It’s rich in  lauric acid, which your body converts to monolaurin, and this special agent has  antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties.

Coconut oil is also  rich in capric acid, which further protects you from infections. Using coconut  oil in your baked goods may even benefit your waistline due to its medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), known to stimulate metabolism.

Tip #3: Replace Wheat Flour with Coconut Flour

    You can turn your standard baked goods into delicious gluten-free treats by replacing the wheat flour with coconut flour. Coconut flour is 14  percent coconut oil and a whopping 58 percent dietary fiber, which is the  highest of any flour. For comparison, wheat bran is only 27 percent fiber.  Coconut flour is very low in digestible carbohydrates—even lower than some  vegetables.

One word of caution when baking with coconut flour: baked  goods will just fall apart if you substitute it 100 percent for regular flour. However,  if you apply the following trick, you can avert this culinary blunder.

You can use 100 percent coconut flour IF you add eggs. The  secret is to add one egg per ounce of coconut flour, on average. Why eggs?  Coconut flour has no gluten, and the eggs take its place by helping your  ingredients stick together.

Other gluten-free alternatives to wheat flour that you  might want to experiment with are amaranth and quinoa  flour, both rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Amaranth is very  dense, so you might want to combine it with other flours. Quinoa is  particularly rich in two flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, which have antioxidant  properties. Quinoa is also being studied for its anti-inflammatory compounds.3

Tip #4: Replace Refined Sugar with Pureed Fruits and  Vegetables

One of the best things about making your own baked goods  is having control over the amount of sugar they contain. Excess sugar is a primary factor in countless chronic  diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. In one study,4 mice were fed a diet containing 25 percent sugar—the equivalent of three cans  of soda daily—were twice as likely to die as mice fed a similar diet without  sugar. Added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under  more than 60 different names, even in so-called “health foods.”

A recent Time article5 suggests replacing  up to 50 percent of the sugar in your recipe with pureed fruit, such as bananas,  mangoes, papayas, or dried dates pureed with water. In addition to being  bundled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, the naturally  occurring sugar in fruit is much less concentrated.

For example, a  quarter cup (four tablespoons) of mashed banana contains less than seven grams  of sugar, compared to 12 grams in just one tablespoon of table sugar. They  recommend substituting one-quarter cup of pureed fruit for one half cup of  sugar, as a rule of thumb. Fruit has higher water content, so you’ll also need  to reduce the liquid in your recipe, typically by a quarter cup.

You aren’t  limited to just fruits—sugar-rich vegetables can also be used. For example, beets add sweetness, nutrition, and flavor complexity to baked goods,  especially those containing chocolate. Beets have been shown to lower blood pressure,  support detoxification, and fight cancer.

Organic Authority6 has an excellent article about using veggie and fruit purees to make healthier  baked goods, including avocados, beets, and squash. Pastry chef Marissa  Churchill, and author of Sweet &  Skinny, suggests adding two-thirds of a cup of finely grated raw beets to  brownie batter and reducing the sugar by a quarter cup.7 The Baking Bird has a recipe for Chocolate Beet Loaf Cake8 that looks intriguing—just remember to make the appropriate substitutions.

If you find that  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 to your  body than table sugar, which is 50 percent fructose. Chances are, the more you  avoid excess sugar, the more your sweet tooth will adapt so that your baked  goods will taste sweet enough with only fruit purees. Under NO circumstances do  I recommend adding artificial sweeteners, which are even WORSE for your health than  refined sugar.

Tip #5: Replace Conventional Chocolate Chips with Dark  Chocolate

    Chocolate lovers rejoice—chocolate can be a health food! The  key is that your chocolate should be low sugar and as close to it’s raw state  as possible. This means high quality (ideally raw) organic dark chocolate with  minimal processing and adulteration. Mounting  scientific research has linked chocolate consumption with more than 40 distinct health benefits. Cocoa powder is  rich in minerals and antioxidants, and the latest studies have discovered anti-inflammatory  properties.

New research has shown that your gut bacteria, including  Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, break down and ferment components of dark  chocolate, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your  health. Most of the research about chocolate’s benefits has been done with 70  percent dark. Try chopping up a dark chocolate bar or use organic dark  semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips in your baking recipes. Popsugar has  a recipe for Vegan Brownies with Spinach.9 By making the substitutions I’ve suggested, you’ll end up with a decadent,  mouth-watering and healthy brownie  that no one will believe contains spinach!

Just Desserts

    If you love desserts or an occasional “continental”  breakfast, the healthy substitutions suggested above will warm your heart, while  at the same time protecting it. By preparing  these recipes in your own kitchen, you have complete control over what goes  into your food, which is a major step toward taking control of your health.

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