A bit of healthy baking

Today I’ve baked a healthy twist on the traditional flapjack, which is usually full of butter and sugar and little other nutritional content aside from oats. I have made sweet potato, banana and dark chocolate flapjacks and I will explain how adding these ingredients along with the oats can benefit your health. There is some plant based margarine in them but only 75g which is over half the content of the standard flapjack and I have cut them into twelve good sized squares which means there is just over 6g per portion. So onto the nutritional content:

Sweet potatoes

These contains carotenoids which are converted by the body into the active form of Vitamin A called retinol. Vitamin A plays an important role in enabling cells to become specialised so that they can carry out specific tasks. For example, in the eye, certain carotenoids improve night vision, help keep the eye moist and healthy and can prevent cataracts. Vitamin A is also needed to keep the immune system functioning and a deficiency can lead to this being weakened, resulting in the body being less able to fight bacteria and viruses. Many carotenoids, such as the beta carotene in sweet potato, are excellent antioxidants and can protect against diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Vitamin A is also needed for the building and regulation of hormones, for reproduction and for the growth of bones and teeth.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of Vitamin C, which is essential for building collagen. You will probably be familiar with the story of sailors developing scurvy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which was linked to a lack of Vitamin C. Their teeth would loosen and their gums would swell and this was caused by the breakdown of their gums due to lack of collagen in these tissues. Vitamin C also helps the body to use fat for energy, is a powerful antioxidant and supports immune function.

Bananas

Bananas are an excellent source of fibre, which keeps your bowels healthy and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B6 which is needed to allow amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to be broken down for energy and also for them to be built. It helps retrieve the glucose that is being stored in your liver when your body needs energy and supports the immune system. Bananas contain potassium which is vital for life. Potassium lives inside your body’s cells and is involved in muscle contractions, your heart beat and the transmission of nerve impulses.

Bananas are also a prebiotic which means that they provide an indigestible, fermentable food supply to healthy bacteria which then arrive in your intestines, activated, to exert beneficial activity in your gut. This activity includes enhancing the absorption of several nutrients and making certain vitamins, like Vitamin K.

Dark chocolate

This is a good source of iron and zinc. Low iron intake is linked to dental problems, reduced sense of taste and smell, poor appetite and anaemia (shown by low haemoglobin levels when blood is taken). Complications of anaemia include greater risk of heart disease, memory problems, falls and fractures among the elderly. Zinc deficiency is linked to poor wound healing, taste changes, reduced appetite and reduced immune function.

Oats

Oats are an excellent source of fibre and have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing cholesterol. They contain choline, which helps transport fats and other nutrients in the body and aids memory and muscle control. It also helps clear fat and cholesterol from your liver. Oats also contain the two essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) Lysine and Tryptophan. They are essential because your body cannot make them itself and you need to get them from your diet.

Lysine is needed for growth and protein building and Tryptophan is important for maintaining your body’s tissues. It also enables serotonin to be made which is used by the brain to regulate mood, behaviour and memory.

So, as you can see, adding these foods into your diet can have beneficial effects to your health. There are so many other dietary sources of these nutrients but as long as you are healthy and do no have a chronic disease that may affect your absorption or the way your body uses the nutrients in food and are eating a healthy, balanced diet full of a variety of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains such as brown rice/pasta, wholemeal bread and cereals, lean proteins (animal or plant based), healthy fats (sunflower/vegetable/olive based) and the occasional treat, then you should be getting everything you need.