3 of the Best Ways to Bake Healthier
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena

Baking can be a great way to provide delicious foods for your friends and family.

It also can be a fun hobby.

Why Bake?

While some don’t bake during the warmer months (to avoid overheating their home), many deal with the added heat produced by their oven and bake year-round. Others only bake for special occasions, such as a birthday or holiday.

Whatever the reason or occasion, many people derive satisfaction from baking, especially when it’s for the ones they love. It’s common to experience positive feelings when baking.

Indeed, there’s a whole host of benefits to consider since baking can…

  • help relieve stress
  • have a positive effect on mental health
  • encourage creativity by adjusting recipes/experimenting with ingredients
  • help improve concentration
  • be a sensory experience
  • help heat a home during cold winter months
  • provide a sense of accomplishment
  • be an act of kindness to others
  • help you feel good about yourself
  • be fun for everyone and requires no special skills
  • bring back special memories from childhood
  • be a form of mindfulness
  • encourage socialization when friends and family pitch in
  • be a cause of celebration during special seasons/occasions

And the list goes on and on!

But while baking is generally viewed as a positive activity, did you know there are both positive and negative motivations for baking?

Baking for the Right Reasons

At the top of this list is baking for family and friends. You’ve probably heard the expression “made with love.” Though actually tasting the love in food is a tad metaphysical, one can probably taste the attention to detail and perfect balance of ingredients in the preparation of the food. Plus, there’s probably a psychological effect to eating food prepared by a loved one.

Other positive reasons for baking (many of which are listed above) include its ability to help relieve the stresses of the day and allow you to be in the moment. Baking helps sharpen focus and concentration since recipes require specific measurements of ingredients to be combined in a specific order at a specific time. Remembering to buy all the ingredients necessary to start baking and keeping track of all the different steps in a recipe can help strengthen the memory.

Baking also can be an altruistic expression. Whether making cookies for a bake sale or taking some baked goods over to a new neighbor, baking can be a great way to show others how much you care.

In the end, many people bake simply because they enjoy it.

Baking for the Wrong Reasons

The opposite of baking with love is baking out of anger. Some take out their frustrations on pots and pans or when mixing ingredients. Although it may feel therapeutic in the moment, baking in anger may fill your home with an air of tension. Plus, recipes might not turn out right if you rush the process.

Showing off your culinary skills isn’t a proper reason to bake. Nor is baking to seek the praise of others, curry favor with others, or compete with others to show them up. When the scale tips from selfless baking to selfish baking, there’s a problem.

Some use baking as an excuse to stay busy or to avoid making an important or uncomfortable decision. This has been referred to as “procrastibaking.” The Urban Dictionary defines procrastibaking as “the practice of baking something in order to put off doing something else you need to do.” Even though baking cookies or muffins for a local family in need or sick neighbor can be a good deed, whatever you’re avoiding will still be there after you’ve cleaned up the kitchen.

With the appropriate motivations for baking identified, here are some tips for how to use healthier ingredients when baking…

3 of the Best Ways to Bake Healthier

Ditch the Butter  Bake Healthier 2

Butter is high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association advises that saturated fat should make up only 5 to 6% of your daily caloric intake.

To avoid the potentially harmful effects of baking with butter, swap butter for olive oil or avocado oil. These healthier oils work well in most baking recipes.

Though coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it might support weight loss, improve brain function, and help regulate cholesterol. Coconut oil offers a healthier option to butter for vegans.

Pitch the White Flour

Stripped of the bran and germ of the wheat kernel, white flour loses most of its fiber and nutrients during the refining process. Also, white flour can spike blood sugar levels.

An excess of white flour in the diet has been linked to a host of health problems, including weight gain, heart health issues, poor cognition, low mood, and increased cravings. One of the healthiest decisions you can make for yourself and your family is to pitch white flour.

The good news is there are alternative flours available, which offer different tastes and textures – and better nutrition. It’s recommended that you substitute the white flour in your baking recipes with oat flour or coconut flour.

Switch the Sugar

Table sugar is devoid of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Having too much sugar in your diet is linked to an unhealthy inflammatory response in the body, unhealthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels, weight gain, and liver and heart health issues.

One simple way to make your baked goods healthier is to use less sugar than what the recipe calls for. Also, you can take it a step farther by switching white sugar for an unrefined sweetener.

Unrefined sugars are generally lower on the glycemic index scale – which means they won’t spike your blood sugar like table sugar does. Among the most popular unrefined sugars are pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, unsulphered molasses, brown rice syrup, date sugar, and fruit.

Overripe bananas, applesauce, and dates also are healthy sweetener options. To make muffins healthier, use these fruits or combine them with a small amount of unrefined sugar. You can experiment with the amount of sweetness, but less sugar is always better.

Bake Away

Baking can be a fun pastime and a great way to show your love, compassion, and appreciation for others.

Although some bake for the wrong reasons, many bake for the right reasons and enjoy the stress-reducing, focus-sharpening benefits of baking.

Use the above tips for how to bake healthier and feel free to share success stories and healthy recipes below.

Bake away!

At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.

Keith Rowe