Listen – I have to be honest with you. I’m not the most savvy when it comes to baking. Do I love it? With all my heart! But let’s just say, my creations haven’t always gone over so smoothly in the past when it came to the recipe critics (aka my family). Personally, I don’t feel like I should take full responsibility for this lacking talent. In fact, I blame coconut flour. Has anyone ever baked with that stuff?! I’ve got one (or a few) words for you – DRY. CRUMBLY. ABSORBING. DRYNESS. That stuff is pretty wild. However, if you tend to lead a Paleo-ish or whole foods based lifestyle like myself, we have no choice but to learn to love it’s dry coconut goodness.
Don’t get me wrong – I love coconut and all of it’s healing properties. Coconut got quite a bad reputation for a while for having a high saturated fat content which was somehow previously linked to raising cholesterol levels and leading to heart disease and other various health problems. There’s a few reasons why this came to surface, one of the main reasons being that the sugar industry thought it would be fun to pay off some Harvard researchers in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead. Coconut oil, even while being a saturated fat, is also made up of medium chain triglycerides which is a unique form of dietary fat that isn’t directly stored as fat and is instead, broken down and used as energy. In fact, they’re actually quite helpful in assisting with weight loss as they enhance thermogenesis (fat burning) and can suppress appetite due to it’s satiating nature which prevents overeating. It also has a high smoke point, meaning that it’s safe to cook with on high heat (along with avocado oil and grape seed oil), unlike olive oil which should not be heated or used only on very low heat only as it tends to be carcinogenic when heated.
All that to say – I love coconut and with that, I’ve learned to love coconut flour despite the challenges it may present in my gluten and wheat-free baking endeavours. That was a bit of a tangent, I know. You came here for muffins, right? Let’s talk muffins, or how I previously used to refer to as “muffs”. True story – I worked in a coffee shop in Sydney while I was galavanting across Australia during my last semester of university and would abbreviate all of my words (like a true Aussie!), even to the point where I referred to muffins as “muffs” until my boss corrected me and told me what I was actually saying when I said the word “muffs” (a quick search on urban dictionary will answer that one for ya!)
I get extra excited about making healthy treats that are made up of whole foods. Not only is it that much more nourishing for the body, but you don’t have to feel guilty about them for a second! I will say that though these treats are still considered “healthy” given the wholesome ingredients they contain, we should still consider them as a treat. Even though we’re still technically putting healthy whole foods into our body, we still have to be mindful of the sugar content (yes, even natural sugar has the same effect on our body as refined white sugar) and the effect it has on the brain.
Be it a piece of cake, those zero calorie artificial sweeteners or Spiced Zucchini Carrot Muffins, your brain perceives this treat as a reward and will release dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for your motivation to pursue a specific behaviour) as a result. As long as dopamine has captivated our attention, we will become fixated on the reward. The dopamine release will also trigger a release of stress hormones, hence why we feel like we have no control when it comes to deciding whether we should have that treat or not. This induced stress will take away all of our willpower and will cause you to only consider what’s in front of you, instead of thinking long-term. Just think – you haven’t even consumed the actual treat yet and all of these chemical processes have occurred in your brain and resonated in your body. Think of what might happen when we run into this scenario over and over and end up eating this said treat, over and over.
These healthified treats are wonderful, delicious and still do contain a number of healthy ingredients, but let’s shift our thinking to not perceiving it as a treat or a reward and instead think of it as fuel for our bodies by consuming it when we’re genuinely hungry or for breakfast, alongside a yummy elixir or cup of tea. Before you’re about to consume a treat, ask yourself “Am I genuinely hungry? Am I eating out of boredom? Am I eating from an emotional place?” Being present and recognizing the intent behind our actions will ensure that our body gets what it truly wants and needs to thrive.
And so, are you ready to whip up some wicked awesome Spiced Zucchini Carrot Muffins?!
Spiced Zucchini Carrot Muffins
Makes 6 small loaves or 12 mini muffins.
- 1/2 cup ripe banana (2 small bananas)
- 5 medjool dates, pitted
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup carrot, shredded
- 1/2 cup zucchini, shredded
- Soak dates in warm water for 1 hour prior to baking.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin or loaf pan with coconut oil.
- Mash dates in warm water, strain, pit and add dates to food processor. Add banana, vanilla extract and eggs. Process until smooth.
- In a small bowl, whisk dry ingredients (coconut flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, sea salt, baking soda). Add dry ingredients to food processor with wet ingredients and processed until well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
- Remove blade from food processor and stir in shredded carrots and zucchini to mixture, along with semi-melted coconut oil. Stir until everything is incorporated.
- Distribute batter into prepared muffin pan or loaf pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. Test with a fork.Note: These come out very moist. If you don’t like them that way, I would scale back, just slightly on the coconut oil (just under 1/4 cup).
What’s your favourite healthy treat to make up?