Ten Healthy Foods to Include in Your Baking

All of sudden, orders for lingonberry jam were coming in, online and by phone.  Soon we asked, “Where are you leavening about lingonberry jam?”

. Oz of Oprah Winfrey fame had stated that lingonberries were higher in antioxidants than blueberries or cranberries and that folks should include them in their diets.  By then they were selling like crazy.

I called our supplier, “How much lingonberry jam do you have?”

“A warehouse full.  Sell it like crazy.”

There were two other sellers of lingonberry jam on Amazon.  Soon they were out of stock and we were the only seller.  We sold it like crazy for about ten days and then it died off.

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Why is home baking, healthier baking?

Home baking is fresh and it’s yours. You know what is going into your products. If you want preservative free, hydrogenated fat free products, you can do so. (And it’s very difficult to find baked products in the store that are preservative free and hydrogenated fat free though our mixes usually are.) If you want to incorporate healthy foods in your diet, you can.

Here are ten healthy foods that you can include in your baking—plus suggestions on how you to use them.

Blueberries

Blueberries are famed as antioxidants. They are thought to slow the aging process and are especially esteemed as a “brain food”. Some research suggests that they may slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Blueberries are made for baking. Stick them in a cake or your morning pancakes. Add a few to your favorite pie or cobbler. Blueberries in a peach pie are wonderful. Make blueberry pancakes or use our blueberry pastry filling to make blueberry stuffed French toast or blueberry pastries.  Our Blueberry Crunch Cake calls for fresh or frozen blueberries.

Cranberries

Cranberries are another healthy food. Current research suggests that cranberries fight certain bacterial infections in the urinary tract, reduce the risk of peptic ulcers, and may even reduce the occurrence of cavities by reducing the bacterial count in saliva. In addition, cranberries are a good source of fiber and contain vitamin C.

Both fresh and dried cranberries lend themselves well to baking. Our favorite apple pies are spiked with cranberries. Most cookie recipes that call for raisins, work well with dried cranberries. Try Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with dried cranberries substituted for the raisins and white chocolate added. For a nice marriage of cranberries and apples, try these recipes: Cranapple Crumble and Cranapple Crisp.

Chocolate

Eat chocolate for a healthy heart? The cocoa butter in chocolate is one of the fats that does not raise cholesterol. Furthermore scientists say that chocolate contains flavonols, naturally occurring compounds that promote the flow of blood through the vessels of the heart and reduces the chance of blockage.

Select a dark chocolate to get more of the benefits of the cacao bean. Milk chocolate contains butterfat which does raise cholesterol.

Carrots

Carrots make for healthy eating. They contain betacarotene, an antioxidant pigment called a carotenoid that gives carrots their orange color. Carotenoids are thought to forestall degenerative disease and to be cancer preventative.

Carrots can be a healthy addition in breads, pies, and cakes. They add a sweet goodness and a rich color. (See how to add vegetables to your bread.)

Everyone is familiar with carrot cake but how about carrot pie or carrot bread? This Carrot Pie Recipe tastes a lot like pumpkin pie and is certainly worth trying. And here’s a great quick bread recipe for Carrot Walnut Bread.

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Garlic

We have all heard of the near mythical powers of garlic. But there is substance to some of these claims. Garlic contains a phytochemical called allicin that lowers blood pressure and acts as a natural antibiotic. It also contains allyl sulfides which are thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells especially in the colon.

Garlic can be used as a flavoring in many dishes. We use it in Onion and Herb Focaccia and you can add it to most savory breads. If a bread contains herbs or olive oil, like our Tuscany Tomato Basil Bread, consider adding garlic. You can add garlic to pizzas also.

Eggs

There’s good news for bakers: Eggs used in moderation are a healthy food.

Eggs are a near essential in baking—they provide structure and mouth feel to many of the cookies and cakes that we bake. The cholesterol found in the yolks is insignificant for healthy people eating an occasional egg and eggs are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that are considered essential to good health. Eggs also contain choline, a nutrient that improves the memory function in later life.

So don’t hesitate to bake those cookies because they call for an egg or two. You can also add an egg to many bread doughs. The egg will add fat to the dough which will act as a shortening and create a slightly richer bread. Don’t add an egg to lean bread doughs such as French or Italian breads—it will make for softer breads with a less open crumb.

 

Olives and olive oil

Experts state that olive oil is a heart-healthy oil. Research shows that this healthy food reduces blood pressure and may help some forms of arthritis. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that reduces inflammation in the body. Olive oil is another food that contains phytochemcials.

Purchase extra virgin, high quality olive oil. Olive oil has a distinctive taste. Experiment to find the flavor that you like. In most breads, you can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil or melted butter. You may taste the olive oil in the bread but it will not be overwhelming and you may like the taste of the bread much better with olive oil. For baked goods where the taste of olive oil is not desired, consider a “light” olive oil with a less pronounced flavor for healthy eating.

Our Onion and Herb Focaccia and Tuscany Tomato Basil Bread, specifically call for olive oil.

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Walnuts and Almonds

Nuts are good for you. A handful of raw nuts every day is a good addition to most diets.

Yes, they are high in fat but it’s good fat. Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and the FDA states that walnuts may reduce the risk of a heart attack. In one California study, those who ate five servings of nuts per week had a 50% lower incidence of heart attacks. Both walnuts and almonds are a good source of vitamin E.

We use raw almonds and walnuts in much of our baking. We also like them in salads and stir fries.

Our only caution with nuts is to make sure they are fresh. Never eat nuts that taste or smell rancid for they may be harmful. Always smell nuts or taste them before adding them to a recipe.
Many of our products contain nuts. We buy the freshest nuts available from wholesale sources and then package them quickly. Though the nuts in these products are probably much fresher than those you might buy at the grocers, we package them separately so that you can check them before using. These products with nuts are not suitable for long term food storage unless you are willing to check and discard the nut packets.

Yes, the grocer stores his nuts on the shelf at room temperature. Once home, you will extend the shelf life if you store your nuts in the refrigerator or freezer. (Nuts will last a very long time in the freezer.)

Whole Grain Cereal

Whole grains make for healthy eating. Since the beginning of agriculture, grains have provided vitamins, minerals, protein, and even fat to the human diet. As long as grains are not highly processed to eliminate the fiber and some of the nutrients (Though the FDA requires that certain nutrients naturally found in wheat be added to white flour to replace those missing), products made with grains are healthful. Whole grains have a low glycemic index, that is they digest more slowly and moderate blood sugar spikes and stay with you so that you feel fuller longer. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. We believe that the one of the most healthful changes that many people could make to their diets is the addition of whole grains.

Whole grains—either whole wheat flour or coarser grain mixtures–are a wonderful addition to breads. Whole wheat flour adds a wonderful nutty taste to bread. Additionally, coarse grains add texture to the bread. Rolled oats are one of our favorite additions to breads.

You can find a wonderful selection of whole grain breads in our Healthy Breads section. We especially recommend Big Sky Cracked Wheat Bread, American Harvest Multi-Grain, and Sunrise Seven Grain Bread. You can also add whole grains in either cracked or rolled forms to your baking.

In many cookie, pancake, and quick bread recipes, a portion of the white flour can be replaced with whole wheat flour for healthy eating. We usually replace one-third to one-half of the white flour with whole wheat. Such a substitution will add goodness and flavor but not be so overwhelming that it will change the product structure and make it dry or crumbly.

Recently we introduced a line of breakfast cookies made with whole wheat and a generous amount of rolled whole grains.  They are really very good cookies at about 100 calories per cookie.

Source material: We relied on Andrew Weil, MD, and author of Eating Well for Optimum Health and Ann Louise Gittleman, ND, and author of Eat Fat, Lose Weight for much of the information in this article. We trust both sources.

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