Most of us love pancakes but tucking into a plateful might not be the healthiest. So, how can you get the best of both worlds?
1. Substituting the flour
Changing or substituting some of the flour in a pancake recipe has the potential to really boost the fibre content. Many pancake recipes call for white flour, which has relatively low amounts of fibre.
Fibre is important because there is strong evidence that eating plenty of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Choosing foods with fibre also makes us feel fuller, while a diet rich in fibre is good for our gut health, can help digestion and prevent constipation.
Brown flour (6.9g/100g) contains nearly double the fibre found in white flour (3.4g/100g); wholemeal wheat flour (8.8g/100g) and rye flour (11.8g/100g) can contain up to triple! Brown and wholemeal wheat flour also contain more protein than white flour (12.2g & 11.6g/100g vs 9.1).
So why not swap out some or all of the white flour for healthier flours? Wholemeal or brown flour can potentially increase both the fibre and protein content of your pancakes. You may need to add some additional liquid since these other flours can be a little dry compared to standard white flour. Substituting some of the flour for oats is another good way to increase the fibre content, as well as giving your pancakes more texture.
PulseON®, a type flour derived from chickpeas developed by Dr Cathrina Edwards’ group at the Quadram Institute, may be used as a white flour substitute for pancakes in the future. It contains a high quantity of resistant starch, which is digested slowly and thus reduces the blood glucose spikes associated with eating foods containing low resistant starch, commonly found in processed foods, such as white flour. Controlling these spikes could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
2. Using alternative milk
Another quick healthy hack for your pancakes involves the type of milk you use. Semi-skimmed milk has roughly half the fat content of whole milk; by simply using semi-skimmed instead of whole milk, you can reduce the fat content of your pancakes. Unsweetened soya milk is another good vegan, substitute for whole milk. It has a similar fat content to semi-skimmed but contains 96% less sugar.
3. Switching to bananas
In many recipes, eggs can be substituted for bananas. Bananas add natural sweetness, as well as having lower fat content and higher fibre content compared to eggs. The amount of banana needed to substitute for an egg varies, so if this is a substitute you would like to try, it is recommended to find a recipe that incorporates this, such as vegan pancake recipes.
4. Topping with berries
As for the toppings, fruit is a great way to add natural flavour and sweetness to your pancakes as well as adding to your 5 a day. The research currently ongoing in Dr Paul Kroon’s group at the Quadram Institute is focusing on a type of compound found in raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. These compounds, known as anthocyanins, are responsible for the bright colours of these fruits.
They are also a type of polyphenol, a group of compounds that can deliver many health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Apples also contain polyphenols. One type of polyphenol found in apples, quercetin, may help reduce chronic inflammation which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Like with all nutritional advice, these are only suggestions and you can use your own judgement to decide if these substitutes work for you.
All the nutritional information has come from the UK composition of foods tables managed by the Food Databanks team at the Quadram Institute, which can be found on their website.