How To Adapt A Favourite Recipe For Better Immunity

brain health healthy eating healthy living healthy recipes real food resilience sugarfree Mar 26, 2023

What if there was a better way to eat your favourite foods and provide your body with more nutrients that could support your immune system and calm down inflammation? All the while still enjoying it.  You’d opt for it, right?

Well, here is a simple exercise for you to do. Try adapting one of your favourite recipes with a few ingredient changes so you’ll not only love it more, but know that it’s an investment in your health!

Last week I provided you with a list of foods to help balance immunity.  If you missed it, you can find that list HERE.

The goal is to eat a variety of foods to get a wide range of nutrients. Many of these foods can just be added to existing recipes or meals that are already prepared. 

And if you have any food sensitivities or allergies, it’s still possible to enjoy some of your favourite recipes, with just a few tweaks!

How to Adapt a Favourite Recipe

Pick a favourite recipe and look at each ingredient. Based on what you have now learned about different nutrient-rich foods, identify the ingredients that may not be doing the most for your immune system.

Now think about how you might switch these ingredients for something better. What would those ingredients be? What kinds of flavours do you like?

Tip:  Don’t switch too many ingredients at once until you understand how much you like the new ingredients and what they do to your recipe. Start with one or two for the first round. If there are more ingredients you would like to change, you can save them for the next round. 

This will be a great way to learn what does work and what doesn’t work.

Here are some tips for substituting some common ingredients:

Substituting prepared ingredients

For many common ingredients that you buy – ranging from ketchup to mustard to tamari sauce – the best thing to do is to buy organic. When raw ingredients are produced organically, they don’t receive pesticides and other chemicals if they’re plants. 

And if they’re animals, they don’t receive drugs or vaccinations, and they’re not subjected to as much stress as conventionally raised animals. Their food will also not have chemical residues. Because the animals are organically raised, they build more of their own natural immunity and, therefore, have more antioxidants. Plants will have higher phytonutrients, too. 

Go to the health food store or grocery store and find the organic version of your favourites. Many of them, like organic ketchup, are also richer tasting as well. Try the organic dairy products too – they’re delicious!

Do you need to substitute cow’s milk products? 

If you know you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, you can first try organic varieties, or alternatives like goat and sheep.  Goat’s milk makes a great substitute because it basically has the same thickness. 

And then there are the plant-based alternatives.  Coconut milk is a great option from a performance perspective, and it tastes good, too. Full-fat coconut milk can be used for replacing cream in recipes, and either the light coconut milk or the coconut beverage can be used for recipes that call for milk. The light coconut milk in the can is a bit thicker than cow’s milk, and the coconut beverage is thinner, so adjust the recipe accordingly. Add water to the light coconut milk to thin it a bit. Use less of the coconut beverage in the recipe to account for its thinner consistency. 

For almond and other nut milks and the coconut beverage, purchase carrageenan-free brands.

Almond or other nut milks do make good substitutes in recipes calling for milk.  They’re a bit thicker than the coconut beverage. 

Substituting white sugar (in moderation, of course!)

Sugar provides sweetness, moisture, binding power and texture in a recipe. This has to be kept in mind.

Try maple syrup, raw honey (use raw even if you bake with it), evaporated cane juice (also known as raw sugar or organic sugar), coconut sugar, palm sugar, molasses, or brown rice syrup. Honey and maple syrup have known immune benefits – the others are waiting for the research to be done.

Of these, evaporated cane juice will work the same as white sugar. Its advantages are that it hasn’t been bleached, no harmful chemicals have been used to make it, it still has some nutrients, and it tastes better. White sugar doesn’t actually taste as good as you think it does. 

Maple syrup, coconut sugar and palm sugar would work the next best, and you would notice little difference in the results and taste. They all have more nutrients and phytonutrients than evaporated cane juice, and of course, no chemicals are used to produce them.

Raw honey is by far the healthiest sweetener with many benefits. It can work well in muffins, cakes and puddings. However, it can turn crunchy or chewy recipes into cakey ones. It’s a natural humectant, meaning it draws moisture to whatever it’s added to. 

Honey and brown rice syrup are also natural humectants, and they don’t perform as well in recipes. They also have less nutrients, but they do make a good substitute for corn syrup.

Any of the liquid sweeteners won’t work in recipes where something, like a cookie,  has to be formed, but if you really wanted to use any of them for this, then bake the recipe mixture in a pan and cut it into squares.

Substituting regular peanut butter

Buy natural peanut butter. You’ll avoid the added white sugar and questionable oils. There are brands that simply contain ground, roasted peanuts with some extra peanut oil, and there are some that have evaporated cane juice added to make them taste more like regular peanut butter. These are better options. 

You can also try other nut butters like hazelnut, almond and cashew. Or sunflower seed butter. All of these will perform well in any recipe that calls for peanut butter, and they’re tasty, too. Cashew butter tastes the most similar to peanut butter. Buy organic brands to get even more phytonutrients.

Substituting GMO foods

This is an easy one. Buy the organic version or look for ones labeled non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. Look on their website for a list of foods that may be GMO. The main ones to avoid are corn, soy and canola oil.  For the full list of foods that have been genetically modified, check the Non-GMO project website. They also certify products that have been manufactured without GMO ingredients.

Substituting margarine or shortening

This is also easy – choose butter, coconut oil or ghee. They perform the same, taste better and have more beneficial nutrients.

Did you know?  Margarine is not a naturally occurring food, rather it is manufactured and the chemical formula is very close to plastic!

Substituting canola oil

Most of the time, canola oil is recommended because it contains healthy monounsaturated fats. It is also quite inexpensive and used frequently in processed foods.  Canola oil is a trade name for low-erucic acid rapeseed oil that has been bred in a lab. Erucic acid is a toxic substance that has been linked to some health issues. 

Fortunately, there are some great substitutes – olive oil, high-oleic sunflower oil, high-oleic safflower oil and avocado oil. Sesame oil, peanut oil and rice bran oil are also great, and they’re good for high-heat cooking. All these oils are nutrient rich and very flavourful. Rice bran oil is also very neutral tasting. 

Look for cold-pressed, unrefined oils. Refining isn't the issue, but how that is accomplished is a cause for concern. Refining is an old technique to remove volatile compounds that exist naturally in the plant that will cause the oil to go rancid faster. However, most oils are refined with machinery containing hexane, and studies have shown that minute traces do end up in the oil. What cumulative or long-term issues this may cause aren’t known as hexane is a known toxin and at higher levels can cause a multitude of symptoms and issues. 

If you do want a refined oil, look for one that is filtered for refinement with a method called water-aqueous solution. This is a healthy option.

Substituting gluten-free flours for wheat

This requires lots of technology to replace the performance of gluten. Often gums are added to the ingredients to help bind. Ground chia seeds, flaxseeds or psyllium husk are used to help make the recipe more flexible. Eggs and baking powder will help the recipe rise, even when yeast is in the recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment. There are lots of types of flours to choose from that are nutrient rich and flavourful, such as quinoa, brown rice, teff, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, chickpea (garbanzo bean) or other legume flours, and nut flours like coconut and almond. Be careful with coconut flour – a little goes a long way. Mixing these flours often gets the best results. Bread is the most difficult to make gluten-free and muffins are the easiest.

Home Practice This Week ~ 

It’s not necessary to give up all your favourite recipes.

Whenever you get out your recipe book, look for any substitutions you can make to make the ingredient list more healthy and less likely to lead to inflammation.

And when looking for recipes online, you can add certain descriptions, like gluten-free or dairy-free, to the search engine to find recipes that have already incorporated the substitutions for you.

  • Pick one or two of your favourite recipes this week, check out the ingredients and make any substitutions – don’t be afraid to experiment!  You can always modify it next time.

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