Salt, sugar, and fat… Since I use at least one of these in every meal I cook, and in every recipe I create, I am continually trying to make sure I am choosing the most mineral rich salts, the least refined sugars, and the healthiest oils I can.
Salt… as a general rule, I recommend using Sea Salt when salt is called for in the recipes on this blog. Pink Himalayan Salt or Celtic Sea Salt are also great options. The more natural, and less refined the salt, the more trace minerals it will contain. I figure that if a dish calls for a little salt, I might as well get as much benefit as I can from adding that salt. I do stay away from table salt, even the iodized (iodine added) salt due to how it’s processed and the added anti-caking agents.
Sugar… oh dear, this is a tough one for me. I avoid sugar as much as possible, but there are times when a sweet treat is called for. So, like with salt, I opt for the most nutritious and least processed option I can. Substituting alternative sweeteners is tough since baking is an exacting science. If a recipe calls for a certain amount of white sugar, it is hard to sub in a few drops of liquid stevia without changing the solid to liquid ratio. So, I would say to proceed with an adventurous attitude when changing up your sweeteners. I like to use Stevia when I can. It is said to be 200-300 times sweeter than regular sugar, so very little is required for sweetening things. But the rest of the family aren’t fans since it does have a bitter aftertaste. Also, be wary of the packaged brands that are super processed and have lots of additives. I have found that stevia goes well with sweets that have citrus as their main flavor. Another option is to use honey or maple syrup in lieu of sugar. If subbing maple syrup or honey, I will use ½ to ⅓ the amount of sweetener that is called for (this does reduce the sweetness of the recipe, but that is usually a good thing). I have also experimented with palm sugar and date sugar. Both work well texture-wise, and each imparts a distinct and pleasant taste. Basically, I figure that if sweet is called for, said sweet should be decadent and as healthful as possible.
Fat… ok, there are a lot of factors here… the biggest is what are you cooking, and at what temperature. My preferred oil, unless I specify otherwise, especially for dressings and non-cooked recipes, is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Get the highest quality you can, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is a pretty safe bet. I also use olive oil for sautéing, and for roasting. Coconut Oil is another favorite in my house, it’s great for sautéing and for baking, but where I live coconut oil is solid nine months of the year, so it has to be melted before it can be mixed into anything, I’m a lazy cook, so I’ll opt for olive oil to avoid extra steps and dishes. I do use Avocado Oil for some cooking, but am not sure how I feel about the processing of this oil. Ghee (clarified butter) is another great option for cooking and lends a sumptuous flavor to whatever dish it is added to. Beef tallow and duck fat are also good wholesome options. For baking, I would say that coconut oil is your most healthful bet, but I have used olive oil and found the resulting sweets to be well loved. I have heard that sesame oil can be used for low temp cooking, but I only use it for dressings or for adding to a dish after it’s cooked. I stay away from vegetable oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, etc.) mainly due to the ways they are extracted. As with salt and sugar, I opt for the options that are the least processed, with no (or as few as possible) added ingredients.