Last year, I wrote a post on date paste as a healthy alternative to white sugar. As you may know, lowering your white sugar intake can protect you from developing Type-2 diabetes, obesity or other conditions that lead to heart disease.
I’m not diabetic and I’m not overweight, but I am concerned by the high amount of sugar in processed foods and drinks. I also know that eating healthy is fundamental to good health and preventing disease. When it comes to sugar, we can’t eliminate it completely, but there are ways to consume less of it and still satisfy a sweet tooth.
When I bake or cook, I use little or no sugar. White sugar and other artificial sweeteners have no nutritional value—they offer nothing but empty calories. For years, I’ve been substituting white sugar with healthy alternatives, such as, dates, pure maple syrup, pure maple sugar or pure sugar cane. Here are some recipes:
- Blueberry muffins
- Carrot date cake
- Rhubarb, strawberry and apple crumble
- Chewy chocolate brownies
- Apple cake
- Creamy vegan chocolate pudding
- Chocolate espresso muffins
- Cool mint cake
- Apple muffins
Having reduced my white sugar intake for some time, I don’t crave sweet tasting foods like I used to. Maybe I’m getting old and I can’t tolerate the sugary foods that I once enjoyed or maybe my tastebuds underwent some sort of detox or rehabilitation. As I read more about this, I think that the latter is far more convincing than the former. I’m not getting older; I’m just changing. That’s all. I’m getting better.
As Dr. David Katz points out: “Taste buds are adaptable little fellas. When they can’t be with foods they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with”. I agree. Our tastebuds can go through the motions—they can adapt and change over time. We can find pleasure and comfort if we stick to new recipes or new foods for a while, regardless of our age.
Speaking of pleasure and comfort without the added white sugar, here’s a wholesome and moist banana bread that’s naturally sweetened with almond cream. The almond cream is easy to make. All you do is blend together a mixture of softened almonds, water, dates and maple syrup. And voilà! There’s no need for sugar or fatty butter in this bread.
You can enjoy this healthful bread as part of your breakfast, dessert or as a mid-day snack. It’s chock full of raw ingredients including walnuts which contain those fatty acids that promote health. I call this bread “banana bread boost” because that’s exactly what it does. It will give you a boost. I like to have a slice before going for a run or to the gym. Vegans and non-vegans alike love it.
Banana bread boost
Preheat oven at 350 °F / 180°C
One loaf pan (26X8 cm -or- 10X3 inch), oiled and floured
- 2 tablespoons (tbsp) whole chia seeds + 1/3 cup warm water
- 1¼ cups (200 grams) almonds with skins + 1 cup water * (see note)
- 6 medjool dates, pitted
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 3-4 very ripe bananas — to make 1 full cup mashed banana (measure this exactly)
- ¼ teaspoon (tsp) pure vanilla powder -or- 1 tsp liquid vanilla extract
- 2 cups wholewheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup (130 grams) walnuts, chopped small
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
* In this recipe, I use whole almonds because they typically lend a fresh flavour, more than processed or pre-ground almonds. However, if you don’t want to use a microwave or don’t have one, you can substitute the almonds with 1¼ cup of pre-ground almonds (almond meal) and add 1 cup of boiled water and then proceed with the recipe as is.
In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds with warm water and chill in fridge for 15 minutes or so. It will form a gel.
Rinse almonds under running water. In microwaveable bowl, add the almonds and 1 cup of water and microwave on high with a cover on for 4 minutes. Take out and add the pitted dates to the hot almond and water mixture (press dates into the mixture). Put cover back on and set aside to soften for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, in a big bowl, mash the bananas and add the vanilla. Mix well. Set aside.
Pour the hot almond, date and water mixture into a blender and blend on low. Add the maple syrup and blend on low, gradually increasing to high. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes or until thick and smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Blend until the dates are small specks. Some almonds will remain as miniature granules, that is fine.
Pour the almond cream mixture into the banana mixture. With electric beaters, mix until well combined. Add the chia seed gel and mix again. Then add the flour and baking soda and mix with beaters again. Add the walnuts and beat (don’t put the walnuts in whole; not chopping them changes the texture of the bread). Add the balsamic vinegar and beat until well combined.
Pour into a loaf pan.
With aluminum foil, make a tent that loosely covers the loaf and bake on middle rack for 35 minutes. Take foil off and bake uncovered for another 35 minutes. Total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes or longer: until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cracks on the top of the bread are not wet.
Remove from oven. Let the bread cool completely before serving.
Cover leftover bread with foil or use a container. I like to store it in fridge. Tastes amazing the next day and the days after. Wonderful for breakfast or as a quick snack before a workout. It also freezes well.