If the idea of healthy bakes is unfamiliar territory in your kitchen, then read on, because nutritionist and food stylist Niamh Browne is on hand to show you that making simple changes to your baking pantry can result in healthy and delicious bakes!
Vary your flour
Plain white cake flour tends to be highly processed and refined. During processing most of the fibre is removed and with that you are also losing a lot of the vitamins and minerals that are naturally contained in the outer layers of the whole grain. There are so many different varieties of flour available right now, both in supermarkets and health food shops that trying out different types and seeing which ones work best for you should be easy and fun.
Spelt is an ancient relative of the wheat grain we know today. It is however lower in gluten than wheat and therefore many find it to be more easily digestible. It is also has a higher overall protein content to wheat. I find it to be really useful for bread, scone and pastry recipes.
Ground Almonds/Almond flour
Ground almonds are readily available in most supermarkets but I have also used almond flour which is really just the same but milled to a finer grind. You can also grind your own nuts at home with the aid of a food processor. Almonds are naturally gluten free and high in protein and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats aid in reducing levels of LDL cholesterol which in turn helps lower the risk of heart disease. I find them really useful for cakes and flourless brownie recipes.
Fruit & Veggies
Adding fruit and veggies is one of the best ways to add flavour, colour and natural sweetness to your bakes. It also means you won’t need to use as much added sweetener. They have the added bonus of increasing the nutritional content of your bakes with their extra vitamin and mineral content. It is also an amazing way of keeping your cakes moist as both fruit and veggies have a high water content.
Bananas are a good source of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. They are rich source of fibre and also of F.O.S or fructooligosaccharides which feed our good gut bacteria. Banana bread is the obvious choice here but they work equally well in muffin and flapjack recipes too.
Carrots are a rich source of Vitamin C which stimulates the activity of white blood cells and is one of the most important nutrients for a healthy immune system. Carrots are also a rich source of beta carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in the body and gives an overall boost to eye health as well as being important for diseases such as macular degeneration.
Paleo Lemon Squares
White sugar is called for in a lot of baking recipes but there are some great alternatives that are low G.I or Glycemic Index, this means that they don’t have such a dramatic effect on your blood sugar levels. Eating high G.I foods can cause sharp rises in blood sugar levels, followed by an inevitable dip which can leave you feeling tired, irritable and craving another sugary pick me up.
Maple syrup is made from the sap of Maple trees. It is naturally high in minerals, especially manganese and Zinc. It is also a good source of antioxidants which help reduce free radical damage that can cause inflammation in the body and contribute to chronic disease.
Raw unfiltered honey
Raw honey is sourced directly from the hive where the honeycomb is created by clever bees. It contains bee pollen which is known to boost the immune system and ward off infections. Raw honey is also rich in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of serious disease.
Niamh Browne is a chef and food stylist with a love of real food, grown and cooked simply. She trained as a Nutritional Therapist at The Irish Institute of Nutrition & Health, gaining an in depth knowledge of food and how it can effect our health. To check out her work, log onto her website www.niamhbrowne.com