Filling your house with the aromas of baking bread or a slow-roasting chicken might be reason enough to use your oven on a daily basis. But how do baked foods affect your health? As with most things in life, baking has its advantages and disadvantages, and there's a difference between baking foods yourself and buying commercial baked products.
Advantage: Nutrient Retention
Eating a variety of fresh vegetables in a rainbow of colors is key for good health. When it comes to cooking vegetables, baking or roasting -- a type of baking -- is one of the better methods. Because it uses dry heat instead of water, baking doesn't cause the loss of some minerals and water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins, that cooking methods like boiling do. In addition, a study published in Journal of Food Science in March 2009 found that baking, along with microwaving and griddling, led to the lowest losses of antioxidant activity in green beans, celery and carrots. Frying, boiling and pressure-cooking led to the greatest losses.
Advantage: Potentially Lower in Fat
One plus of baking is that you can use less oil than you would need for cooking methods like sauteing, stir-frying or deep-frying. In fact, you can bake without using any oil at all. In baked goods, you can use apple sauce, mashed bananas or avocado puree. You can bake veggies without oil by keeping the skin on, which prevents them from drying out. You can also bake meat and fish in the oven without the need for oil.
Disadvantage: Possibility of Trans Fats
A plastic-wrapped danish from the corner store might satisfy your sweet tooth, but it's not doing anything for your health. Manufacturers of baked goods sometimes use trans fats in their products because they are inexpensive and extend the product's shelf life. Trans fats lower your levels of healthy cholesterol and raise your levels of unhealthy cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. For better health, bake your own treats at home with nutritious ingredients and healthy fats from plant-based oils.
Disadvantage: Refined Flour and Sugar
Even if they don't contain trans fats, commercial baked products are likely to contain refined flour and sugar. Many homemade baked products will contain these two ingredients as well, depending on the recipe you use. Refined flours have had many of their nutrients and most of their fiber removed during processing. They are simple carbohydrates that are quickly metabolized by your body and can spike your blood sugar. The same is true for foods with lots of sugar in them. Sugar offers no nutrients, but it can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. If you can't give up baked goods, make them at home with whole-grain flours and reduce the amount of sugar you use.