Increase the iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, & fiber in your diet. . .
Many people are deficient in important minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium because they aren’t getting enough of these minerals in the foods they eat. Focusing your diet on whole, unprocessed foods is a good way to get more of these minerals, as food processing tends to remove fiber and important vitamins and minerals. For example, in terms of carbohydrates, whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than their refined counterparts.
When it comes to fats, obtaining fats from whole plant foods rather than solid fats (butter, margarine) or refined oils is considerably more nutritious. I’ve illustrated this in the table below. Oils are generally a healthier choice than butter or margarine because they contain healthier fats. But the extraction and refining process to produce oils eliminates fiber, protein, and minerals. When it makes sense, substitute nut and seed butters for oils in your cooking, and you’ll benefit from more nutrients.
Smart Baking Swaps
Some types of fat are obvious ingredients for certain foods, like oils in salad dressings (but a good whole-food substitution here is to try an avocado-based dressing, that will provide fat with more nutrients; mayonnaise is another place where avocados sub wonderfully). Bake goods provide more opportunities to substitute all or part of the fat with nut or seed butters. Here are a few examples.
GREAT GRANOLA. I used this trick in my 3-ingredient granola recipe. Most granola’s contain quite a bit of oil, which adds plenty of calories with few nutrients: swapping the oil for a nut or seed butter increases the nutrition substantially (and improves the flavour!).
BARS AND COOKIES. You can also try this out in bar and cookie recipes. Many health-conscious cooks are now using coconut oil (the “healthy” oil du jour), because they think it’s a nutritious choice (read more about coconut oil here). In reality, coconut oil adds plenty of calories with questionable health benefits, and no vitamins, protein, fiber, or minerals. It makes sense if coconut oil benefits the flavour or texture of your baked good, but you can do better if you’re trying to improve the nutrition! The recipes below use a nut butter, which gives great flavour, while adding protein, fiber, and minerals.
PIE CRUSTS. Another place you can use nuts for fat instead of oils, butter, or lard is in a pie crust. The recipe pictured below, healthful walnuts provide the fat for the simple crust.
So you see, it’s possible to improve the flavour and nutrition of baked goods by substituting nuts for oils or other fats. Give it a try!