Healthy Baking Guide: Sugar-free, gluten-free, low-carb, and dairy-free alternatives
I LOVE baked goods. Nothing can beat the taste of brownie in my mouth or a puffy pancake for breakfast. But conventional baking does no good to my gut health. Many health issues are related to gluten, high glycemic foods, high processed carbohydrates and sugars. Not to mention the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hormonal issues.
In this article I want to show you that you can still enjoy warm pancakes on a Sunday morning or homemade muffins without the use of any gluten or other grains, and still receive the sweetness you desire using all-natural low glycemic sugar substitute and the butter creamy richness with healthy fats.
First of all, let's go over why you should avoid highly processed white flours.
High glycemic foods can cause a spike in your blood sugar, raising your insulin levels and cause chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, PCOS, endometriosis, Candida overgrowth, SIBO just to name a few.
Another reason to avoid traditional flours is the protein called gliadin contained in gluten and wheat that is allergenic and causes health issues for many people (i.e. inflammation, sensitivity, allergies).
Do you also want get rid of the "muffin top"?
But wait! Do not run to the store right away and grab the "gluten free" mix from the organic section. These are usually loaded with high-glycemic ingredients like rice flour, potato starch, tapioca and sorghum flour.
So... what are the alternatives here?
Nut flours! They provide you with a buttery richness to all kinds of baked goods, and also come with healthy fats, low carb and are gluten free.
My favourites are:
Almond flour: This staple flour is easy to bake with and makes tasty pancakes or crispy cookies.
Coconut flour: Makes it the more difficult flours. Because of its density and high fiber content you only need a small amount of liquid. A rule of thumb: 1 egg for 1 tbsp coconut flour. Also very important to ‘sift’ your flour otherwise you might end up with a dry and dense consistency.
Hazelnut and pecan flour: These can be combined with almond flour to punch up the nutty flavor. They are great for pie crusts or all kinds of cookies.
Garbanzo bean flour: 7/8 cup to replace 1 cup of wheat flour
Black bean (flour): Great for chocolate cakes, brownies and mouse.
White bean or fava bean flour: Milder taste, suitable to substitute ¼ cup of the white flour in recipe
All nut flours should be stored in airtight containers, preferably in the fridge or freezer, to prevent them from going rancid.
Since I've been off the sugar train, I have seen huge improvement with my anxiety, fatigue, bloating, constipation, etc. (all signs of Candida!). Sugar is very addictive and raises blood sugar, disrupts the endocrine system and feeds candida – which lives in your gut and feeds of sugar and alcohol. Once its overgrown and fed too much sugar, it causes multiple symptoms and in worst case systematic reactions.
As of today, I'm still avoiding sugar as of today and found some great alternatives:
Erythritol: My absolute favourite! It does not give the bitter aftertaste like stevia and can be substituted 1:1. Those with corn allergies however should stay away from it as it is derived from corn.
Stevia: A very powerful plant. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than table sugar and requires you to be very delicate with it. It also creates a little aftertaste that might not be desired by many people.
Xylitol: Another sugar alcohol, like erythritol. It provides the same sweetness as sugar but with 40% less calories. This is a great alternative for our corn allergies as it is derived from Birch.
Palm sugar: Also called coconut sugar, because it's made from evaporated sap of the coconut flower, and tastes similar to brown sugar. Unfortunately it still provides 60 calories and 16g of sugar per tablespoon, so if you have to watch your sugar intake, you might have to be very careful.
Now what about other sweetener like maple syrup, agave syrup, and honey?
These are great alternatives and can be used in your baking process. However, these do provide calories and can cause your blood sugar to spike. These should be use sparingly by those with Diabetes.
Fats are healthy! Yes no joke! There are numerous studies proving that we need fats and certain fats are very healthy and can actually help us lose weight. What we are talking about are the good, healthy fats, like omega 3's, unsaturated, MCT's – not the highly processed, hydrogenated oils and trans-fats, which cause oxidation and cell damage and raise cholesterol.
Recent research has shown that coconut oil can help you melt those extra pounds and make you slim. Who would think that?!?
My favourite healthy fats to use include:
Coconut oil: Coconut oil is very resistance and has a low smoking point, thus does not cause oxidative damage to your cells. It’s also rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and lauric acid which kill a myriad of bacteria, protozoa and fungus, including Candida albicans. Because they are not metabolized by the liver and stored as fat, they are primarily used as energy. Have you ever tried blending it with your morning coffee?
Grass-fed butter: Grass-fed butter is very versatile and resistance to oxidation. Nothing beats its creamy rich flavor and high amount of Vitamin A. It can be used in almost any baked goods. However it might not be desired by our vegans.
Macadamia nut oil or almond oil: These are great alternative for recipes that call for liquid oils (canola oil, sunflower, melted butter etc). They’re also rich in anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats.
Eggs act like binders, leavers or moisturizers. They keep your baked goods together and give it the density you need. But for all our vegans and egg allergies this is not an option.
Luckily there are alternatives:
2 Tbsp cornstarch = 1 egg
2 Tbsp arrowroot flour= 1 egg
2 Tbsp potato starch = 1 egg
1 mashed banana = 1 egg
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 2 Tbsp water = 1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce = 1 egg
1/4 cup organic whipped yogurt = 1 egg
2 Tbsp water + 1 Tbsp oil + 1 tsp baking soda = 1 egg
1/4 cup cooked pumpkin or winter squash = 1 egg
1/4 tsp xanthan gum + 1/4 cup of water, let stand then whip = 1 egg white
To wrap this up, it might take some time to get used to the new flavours and textures, but I promise you it will change your sugar palette, your energy, your gut health and mood :)
Good luck on your journey to healthy baking!