We're cooking with arthritis and a few unusual ingredients today! The first of these is xylitol, a natural sweetener derived from birch trees (you can read more about it's origins and safety on the NHSChoices site here). Xylitol has some impressive health benefits that have been widely researched and are well evidence based: it has been shown to help prevent ear infections, has a lower glycemic index than sugar and may help protect against tooth decay. Now you might quite reasonably wonder what the state of you teeth has to do with your joints, but it turns out that there is a wealth of research linking tooth decay (or periodontal disease) and rheumatoid arthritis. It seems that people with periodontal disease may be more likely to develop severe arthritis and that some of the conditions associated with inflammatory arthritis, such as having less saliva due to Sjorgren's, may worsen existing tooth decay too.
You can find xylitol with the sugar in most supermarkets and online. It works well in sweet treats - especially ice creams or mousses as it has a cooling effect. If you are baking with it though you may want to add a little of another type of sugar as it doesn't caramelise like normal sugar so your baked goods can look a little pale and sad looking.
The second unusual ingredient is sunflower protein powder - it has a a mild nutty flavour and works well in baking, unlike a lot of protein blends. I've added it to these bars to help boost the protein and fibre content. Feel free to leave it out if you don't like the idea of it, you could either substitute it with another vegan protein powder (whey won't work as well) or simply replace it with oats.
50g sunflower protein
50g oat flour (grind oats in your food processor or replace with wholemeal flour)
2 small bananas
100g butter/low fat spread or coconut oil
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter (or other fat), honey and xylitol - keep the heat low and don't let it bubble too much. Take this mixture off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes whilst you get on with the dry mix.
Mix the oats, sunflower protein, flour and seeds (if using) together in a large bowl.
Add the two bananas to the warm melted butter and xylitol mix. Use a stick blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Add this liquid mix to the dry mix and give everything a good stir until. The mixture will get quite thick and gummy - don't worry! Plonk the whole lot into the greased tin and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C/375F or until the oat bars have risen slightly and are golden at the edges.
Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.