Simple ingredient swaps

IngredientsIt wasn’t until my son came along that a little switch went off in my brain and I became committed to further educating myself on food. Real food, as  nature intended with little or no processing. I’ve always been a make-it-from-scratch kinda girl, but even that kind of cooking can be a silent assassin if you’re using dodgy ingredients.

Anyway, don’t quite know how, but I managed to do a lot of reading through my zombie-like introduction to motherhood. It was actually a little crazy how driven I was (and still am) to offer the very best for my child. Hats off to that maternal instinct!

I bought a couple of things to begin with (let’s face it, I didn’t have a heck of a lot of time to cook up a storm in the beginning!) and slowly cleaned up my pantry as I used things up. I do recommend doing it that way as there’s no point in wastage. Here are some of the ingredient swaps that I made.

I’m constantly trying other things and learning so this list is evolving!

Coconut oil

Fantastic substitute for butter and olive oil when sauteeing and baking. Here’s some reasons why:

  • The fat in coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat and improves your cholesterol profile – helping to prevent heart attack and stroke.
  • The fatty acids in the oil are easily digested and converted into energy, which helps boost metabolism and burn stored fat.
  • Contains antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties that help strengthen the immune system.
  • Helps to regulate blood sugar levels and protects against insulin resistance – it can even help prevent Type II Diabetes.
  • Has a higher smoke point than most cooking oils. For example, olive oil will oxidise at high temperatures, creating free radicals which act as carcinogens.

Give it a try! A little bit every day goes a long way to better health.

Rapadura sugar

I try to keep my sugar consumption to a minimum, but when I do bake things that require a fair amount of sugar, I substitute sugar for rapadura 1:1. Here’s why:

  • The natural sugar cane is brimming with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibres and phytonutrients that help the body digest the naturally occurring sugars. The minerals required to digest sugar are calcium, phosphorous, chromium, magnesium, cobalt, copper, iron, zinc and manganese. It also contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which work synergistically with the minerals to nourish the body. Now, the white sugar that we pick up off the supermarket shelf actually contains none of this goodness. Why? Because it’s ultra processed at high temperatures which strips it of its minerals and enzymes. It’s even bleached to remove impurities that cause discolouration.
  • Rapadura on the other hand is the pure juice extracted from the sugar cane, evaporated over low heat whilst being stirred with paddles, then ground to produce a grainy sugar. This organic, chemical-free process ensures all the goodness of the sugar cane is retained. If you’re going to eat sugar – might as well have some nutritional benefit hey?

Coconut nectar

Tastes like butterscotch, delicious. I use it in small quantities in things like ganache, mousse, raw treats, custard, and savoury dishes where sugar is called for to cut through sour or spicy flavours. Here’s why:

  • Coconut nectar is a sucrose-based sweetener which means when digested, the increase in blood glucose stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas to facilitate glucose transport to your tissues. Whereas fructose-based sweeteners (e.g. sugar, honey, agave nectar) do not tend to stimulate pancreatic insulin production, so your body is likely to store the extra calories as fat which in turn increases your risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. Now, just to make it clear – there is still fructose within sucrose! However if you had to choose your sweetener, this would be a better option – particularly for people with diabetes.
  • Collected from coconut tree flower blossoms, coconut nectar is full of goodness – especially high in potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron (similar to coconut water) and is a natural source of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C.  It’s also low GI (35).*

I tend to use coconut nectar over rapadura as a first choice due to the sucrose-base. I’m yet to actually try coconut sugar in baking. I figure I have enough sweeteners to get me by for now! *

Raw cacao powder

Move over cocoa powder! I substitute for cocoa in baking 1:1 (and in hot chocolate of course!) Here’s why:

  • Raw cacao is full of flavanoids, which act as natural antioxidants – protecting the body from ageing and disease caused by free radicals. It is 20 times more concentrated in antioxidants than 70% cocoa chocolate, and about 15 times more than green tea and red wine.*
  • It has the highest concentration of several key nutrients including iron and magnesium.*
  • Raw cacao tastes REAL! It’s bitter like chocolate should be in its purest form. It’s rich, intense and hands down better than cocoa. The highly processed Cadbury Bourneville Cocoa packaging states that it contains: Cocoa Powder, Flavours. Hmmm, what “flavours” exactly? Don’t you just love how food regulations permit this information to be withheld from the consumer?!

Word of warning: don’t overconsume! The downside is raw cacao has a powerful effect on the nervous system. They say no more than 6 teaspoons a day… certainly do not consume close to bed time – sleep may elude you due to the caffeine-like effects on the body. *

Unrefined salt

Cutting down on salt intake is one of the beauties of using the Thermomix. You know what is in your food! And too much salt as we all know is bad. BUT our bodies still need a bit of salt – so I choose to use an unrefined salt as a condiment on my food. Here’s why:

  • Refined table salt is devoid of all nutrients. During the refining process, up to 82 trace minerals and essential nutrients are destroyed by the heating process, leaving only one compound – sodium chloride. But not only that, other things are then added to the salt to prevent it from going lumpy such as bleaches and anti-caking agents.
  •  Unrefined salt, such as Himalayan or Celtic Salt is salt in its purest form with all the minerals our body needs. You can find these salts at a health food store. Just so you know too, unrefined salt does not contain iodine (that’s why refined salts are sometimes called iodised salt). Iodine is an important mineral and you can add iodine to your diet by mixing your unrefined salt with some seaweed flakes (e.g. nori, dulse).

Spelt flour

I like to use spelt flour as a substitute to wheat flour where I can. Here’s why:

  • The modern wheat found in almost every processed food on the market is described as the “perfect, chronic poison” by experts. Why? It was genetically modified in the ’60s to massively increase yield. In doing so, the nutrient content reduced significantly and it introduced a new protein called gliadin which not only stimulates appetite, but it is one of the key triggers of celiac disease.
  • Spelt on the other hand, is an ancient grain that has not undergone any manipulation. It is actually a species of wheat so is very easy to swap in recipes but it has much more fibre and protein than wheat and is easier to digest. Modern wheat was manipulated to naturally fight off pests with enzyme inhibitors –  the consequence for humans is that when digested, the enzyme inhibitors further retard the enzyme activity that is needed for complete digestion. This leads to stomach inflammation and associated digestive problems.


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