The brownies used in this test were purchased from a 7-Eleven store in Norway. We're not sure how those compare to what's sold here in the United States but we would guess they're quite similar. Is there any redeeming nutritional value from them? You can't say brownies are healthy for you, that would be a stretch for sure. However they aren't necessarily bad for you if you're eating the right kind, at least relative to other desserts.
The lesser of the evils?
What was used in this test represents just about the cheapest, lowest quality brownie can find. Since they're from a convenience store, presumably they're loaded with preservatives and don't exactly use the highest quality ingredients, to put it nicely. Even then, their ORAC value - which measures total antioxidant content - came in at 600. This is by no means great, but it is about 30% more than a blueberry muffin which most people would view as a healthier food choice. The reason for this is because of the chocolate. Cocoa is an extremely potent source of antioxidants.
Though these gooey fudge-filled delights do have an Achilles heal. Compared to the average muffin, they're going to have higher sugar content and more calories from fat. At least, with traditional recipes they do. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Healthier vegan brownies with applesauce?
Before you cringe, hear us out on these 5 tips. By subbing out a few ingredients, you can boost the nutritional value big time in your homemade recipes.
1. Use Earth Balance instead of butter. This is a brand of vegan butter. It's not healthy for you when it comes to calories because it's comparable to butter. The nutritional improvement comes from the fact that it's 100% plant-based, so there is no saturated fat or cholesterol.
2. Use black beans to boost protein. Aside from being a nutrient you need, protein also can help you feel full for longer. By reducing some of the flour content and replacing it with black bean powder, you add in protein as well even more antioxidants since these beans have a very high ORAC value.
3. Use applesauce. This serves two purposes. First it helps with sweetening, which lessens the need for refined sugar (if any is needed at all). Secondly, it brings moisture to the mix and that allows for you to use less butter/Earth Balance (helping you reduce the calories).
4. Use a healthier flour. Rather than using white flour, try whole wheat or pretty much anything that's no so refined. This will have a lower glycemic impact (important for diabetics) and since your body will digest it slower, you will be satisfied for longer. You can also sub it out with a gluten free flour if that's your thing.
5. Use lots of cocoa powder. The majority of the antioxidants in brownies are coming from this, so buy some good organic raw cocoa powder and use it liberally!
If you don't have time or simply don't want to make these from scratch, check out what's at your local health foods store because in many regions (such as where we are at in SoCal) you can buy pre-made brownies using some or all of these ingredients.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't: Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, et al. Nutrition Journal NIH Jan 2010