Perfect Pumpkin Oat Muffins & Shocking News From My Doctor!

First up the good news –Perfect Pumpkin Oat Muffins! Pumpkin is just one of the things I adore about Fall. Okay it doesn’t feel like Fall here but I’m sure it does somewhere -maybe where you live? Daughter Katy asked me last week if I could make some pumpkin muffins. I was determined to make a healthier version so I could eat one without any guilt. I found a chefs formula for making muffins that gave the ratios for the dry and wet ingredients for making basic muffins.

Of course I had to make some healthy tweaks like cutting back on the amount of oil, swapping whole grains for all purpose flour, using less sugar, egg whites instead of whole eggs and less buttermilk since there was canned pumpkin to add moistness. I referenced an old favorite muffin recipe by Ellie Krieger for my spice mixture.

While I was mixing these little gems together I was chatting with Katy and dumped in the entire can of pumpkin instead of the 1 cup I had intended. Not one to waste ingredients I decided to cut back on the buttermilk to compensate for the extra moisture and it worked beautifully! The family told me not to change a thing about this muffin that is was perfect as is! I must agree with them.

Bob’s Red Mill products are available at most grocery stores in the health food aisle. You might also find Quaker Oat Bran in the hot cereal section in a red box. Check the bulk bins at the health food store as well and if you don’t bake a lot store your whole grains, flours and rice in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid. Oat bran is so heart healthy and good for lowering cholesterol! More about that at the bottom of this post.

Whole Foods sells a variety of organic canned squash and canned sweet potato puree. I love the labels! I’m thinking the canned butternut squash would be perfect for making a quick Fall soup. Yum! Yum!

Everyone loved these incredibly moist muffins spiced up with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and fresh nutmeg. OMG!

Oat bran and whole wheat pastry flour add healthy fiber yet the muffins have a nice, tender crumb and just the right amount of sweetness. I had intended to freeze some of the muffins but they vanished before I could. David and Katy both asked me to make more. I have a batch in the oven right now! It’s a wonderful way to start your day! 🙂

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar — packed or 1/2 cup Sucanat-organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg — freshly ground if you have it as it has so much flavor
  • 2 egg whites
  • 15 ounces canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk — low fat or 2 T Saco Buttermilk powder & 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or grape-seed oil or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium size bowl combine all of the dry ingredients oat bran through nutmeg, sirring to combine.

In a separate large size bowl combine all of the wet ingredients, egg whites through molasses, using a wire whisk to combine. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet in two batches, whisk just until combined.

Pour batter into a 12 cup muffin pan that has been sprayed with non stick spray or lined with cup cake liners. Bake for 24-27 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. (Mine took 26 minutes)

Yield: 12 servings     Serving Size: 12 muffins

Nutritional Information

Per Serving: 132 Calories; 3g Fat; 4g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 218mg Sodium.


Nutmeg Notes

When I had my physical last month I was shocked when my doctor told me I had borderline high LDL cholesterol with a number of 149 – it should be under 130! I said “You’ve got to be kidding! You should see how I eat, healthy, low fat, tons of veggies and fruit. I walk 3 miles a day, how can this be? My doctors answer was, “genetics.” He asked me to imagine what my numbers would be like if I wasn’t making all those healthy choices. The good news is that my good cholesterol HDL is also high at 66,( it should be greater than 35), so it helps to balance it all out. Not surprisingly I am also low in Vitamin D and am taking a supplement.

Now mind you Hubby Tom does not make all of the same healthy choices that I do, he frequently eats hamburgers and french fries and other fast food when he travels and yet his LDL is better than mine! Genetics! Honestly this ticked me off a little bit! I work hard at my healthy lifestyle and he slides by and still has great numbers! That isn’t fair.

Thank goodness I don’t need to go on a Statin drug but I do need to be aware that I am genetically predisposed to having high bad LDL cholesterol and I need to make some dietary adjustments.

From my research on Mayo Clinic.com, Web MD and the Dr Oz web site I learned a great deal about cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is used to make steroid hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. It’s needed to make bile salts, a necessary component for digestion of fats, it allows liquids and gases to go in and out of a cells membranes. It also helps make vitamin D.

The body produces 75 – 80% of the cholesterol in our body(mostly in the liver) and the rest comes from what we eat. I didn’t know that. I also learned that at menopause as the production of estrogen drops so does the production of healthy HDL cholesterol.

Since blood is mostly water and cholesterol is fat, it needs help getting to where it needs to go so it gets a ride on lipoproteins. The only way to know your numbers is to have a blood test.

Low -density liproprotein LDL

This is the lousy type. It tends to hang inside of arteries and can narrow or block blood flow. Over time it gets thicker and harder turning into plaque. It can become unstable and flake away, it damages the vessels lining which triggers a chain of chemical events that can lead to clot formation and inflammation – another risk for heart disease. The higher the LDL in the blood the greater risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

LDL Values (mine is 149)

  • Optimal – less than 100 mg/dL
  • Near optimal – 100-129 mg/dL
  • Borderline high – 130-159 mg/dL
  • Risky – 160-189 mg/dL
  • Very risky – 190 mg/dL and above


High – density lipoprotein HDL

This is the healthy type of cholesterol. It moves cholesterol around nicely from other parts of the body to the liver where it is discarded or recycled as needed. The more healthy HDL the better!

HDL Values (mine is 66)

  • Optimal – 60 mg/dL and above
  • Borderline – 40-59 mg/dL
  • Risky – 40 mg/dL and below


Tryglyceride Values (mine is 62)

  • Optimal – 150 mg/dL or lower
  • Borderline – 150-199 mg/dL
  • Risky – 200-499 mg/dL
  • Very risky – 500 mg/dL or higher

What can be done to normalize cholesterol?

LDL is most worrisome because when LDL is slightly elevated blood vessel narrowing occurs. If it is very high it deposits much faster. Treatment is mostly focused on lowering LDL to an optimal level.

  • Maintain a healthy weight and BMI. Losing 10 pounds can reduce LDL up to 8%.
  • Daily exercise
  • Reduce stress
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat less foods that increase LDL and eat more foods that lower it
  • Reduce intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of total calories. These fats are found in animal products – butter, meat, eggs, whole milk dairy and cheese products, certain oils, processed foods and baked goods.
  • Don’t eat more than 200 mg of Cholesterol a day. (The avg American diet contains 400 mg of cholesterol a day!)
  • Eat more LDL – lowering foods like plant sterols and stanols found in many grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts seeds and sterol/stanol enriched products and soluble fiber like oatmeal, psyllium and bran.
  • Limit salt and sugar
  • Medical approaches include the use of Statin drugs that lower cholesterol.

Top 5 Foods to Lower LDL Cholesterol

Oatmeal, oat bran & high fiber foods

Oats have the highest amount of soluble fiber among cereal which reduces your LDL cholesterol. I will sub oat bran in my baked goods when possible. I have started having a tablespoon of oat bran in my yogurt too. Soluble fiber is also found in foods like beans, legumes, apples, apricots, pears, barley, peas, carrots citrus fruits, broccoli, potatoes and prunes.

Fish and Omega -3 Fatty Acids

Eating fatty fish can be heart healthy because of its high levels of omega 3 fatty acids.

  • Mackerel
  • Lake trout
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Albacore tuna
  • Salmon
  • Halibut

Walnuts, Almonds & Other Nuts

Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. According to the FDA eating  about 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts may reduce your risk of heart disease. Just make sure the nuts aren’t salted or coated with sugar and raw nuts are best.

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachio
  • Pine

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your bad LDL choesterol but leaves your god HDL cholesterol untouched. Extra virgin olive oil is less processed and contains more heart healthy antioxidants.

Foods with added Plant Sterols or Stanols

Foods are now available that have been fortified with sterols or stanols, substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol. If you already eat these foods in their non fortified form it might make sense to switch to the products with added plant sterols or stanols. But otherwise it can be a calorie dense way to go!

Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce cholesterol by 10%. At least 2 grams of sterols are needed daily for results which equals about 2-8 ounce glasses of sterol fortified orange juice a day.

My approach

I was so shocked at my blood work results. I thought I was doing well balancing my diet and eating the risky foods in moderation.  I already do a pretty good job with choosing low saturated fat foods. I eat my beloved bacon, butter and shrimp in very small amounts and eat very little red meat. Sigh. I choose low fat or fat free dairy products and I don’t eat a lot of store bought or home made baked goods.

Now that I know I have a genetic predisposition to have high bad LDL cholesterol I am going to need to read labels to look for saturated fat, cholesterol and tryglycerides.  I am concentrating on adding in those foods that help to lower the bad LDL cholesterol.

I have started eating more nuts, oatmeal, oat bran and legumes. The nuts are calorie dense so I have to cut back in other areas to balance out the calories but I am enjoying eating them. I have started including some meatless meals in our menu and I want to experiment with tofu again and come up with more healthy plant based meals. It’s a learning curve for me.

To your hearts health!


Add Your Thoughts

Do you know your cholesterol numbers?

Do you have any favorite vegetarian meals or recipes you can share?

Feel free to link to a recipe in your comment. 🙂

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  1. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    My experience with tofu hasn’t been good. 🙂 You may have better luck with my most recent recipe attempt, Tofu Parmigiana. Link: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/tofu_parmigiana.html

    I’m fortunate in that my cholesterol efforts fall in the optimal and near-optimal ranges. That wasn’t always true; my HDL used to be too low. Exercise fixed that! I’m sure a few tweaks here and there will get you back in the good range.

    Oh, and for any of your readers who shop at Kroger, keep an eye on their house brand oat brand (only ingredient: 100% durum wheat). They periodically offer a 1-lb. box in their 10/$10 specials. That’s $4 less than the brand my local WF carried and the ingredients were the same.

    1. Tami says:

      Cammy I think you are right a few tweaks here and there should do the trick for me and get back into a healthy range.

      Great tip about Kroeger’s and the specials on oat brand but I am confused if the ingredient list is 100% duram wheat did you mean wheat bran perhaps? LOL!

  2. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    The muffins sound good!

    Sorry about your cholesterol results. I think focusing on adding in more foods that lower LDL is a smart idea since you already eat so healthy. I’m sure you’ll see results. Also, could stress be to blame for increased numbers? Maybe also focus more on stress reduction (yoga, etc.).

    1. Tami says:

      Andrea I am sure stress is playing a big part in this as well. I have thought about yoga, I have a yoga DVD for beginners I guess I need to get it out and try it again. I also enjoy guided mediation and use it to get to sleep but I think I also need to carve out some time during the day to do it for relaxation. Thank you for pointing this out to me. I do think a combination of stress, reduced estrogen and genetics are to blame because my lifestyle and diet are actually pretty good.

  3. Kris says:

    You can also use flax seed as an egg replacement. Maybe use one egg white plus flax seed equivalent to 1 egg.

    1. Tami says:

      Good hint Kris -I have had good luck using the flax meal for replacing an egg. I did have a carton of egg whites to use up this time so I went with that instead.

  4. Carol says:

    The muffins look great and I just might make some this afternoon..pretty sure I have all the ingredients.
    Tami..if I were to send you a recipe for muffins, would you look it over for me and tell me what you think of the amount of baking powder and soda that is called for?. I never get the dome look to the muffins…flat tops.

    Sorry about your cholesterol results.Last time I had mine done it okay. Need to go again but waiting until I’m down 25 lbs. Bryce’s results are always good. My bil has excellent numbers and he uses whipping cream in just about everything.

    1. Tami says:

      Carol as well stocked as your kitchen and pantry are I would think you would have everything on hand to make the muffins. Sure of course you can send me the recipe and I will take a look. I can send you the article I found on baking muffins too. I used baking soda in this one instead of baking powder because I use to make a delicious muffin that really domed well and it called for baking soda. I have found that the more dense ingredients like whole wheat pastry flour and wheat bran or oat bran don’t seem to allow the muffin to dome as much.

      I am just blow away by people like your BIL and my hubby who can eat like that and have great numbers!

  5. Loye says:

    Sorry to hear about the numbers. My mom has the same issue. Lucky for me, I take after my dad!

    I’m going to try the muffin recipe right now! My DH will flip out when he gets home! I don’t have buttermilk, so will try the 1% milk with a dash of vinegar.

    Thanks for the awesome blog!

    1. Tami says:

      Let me know how your muffins turn out! Lucky for you that you take after your dad. 🙂

  6. Helen says:

    Good grief indeed. And I have had that same conversation with my doctor and have so far absolutely refused meds. Mr. Helen and I have the same situation as you and yours. The sheer amounts of butter the man ingests makes my arteries clog just looking at it. And there I am with my lovely olive/canola/grapeseed/sesame oils and my cholesterol defying me!!

  7. Donna says:

    Tami those yummy looking muffins are going into my “Tami Cookbook” in Mastercook! 😀 I was shocked and sorry to hear about your cholesterol, too. You are probably one that I know that has always gone the extra mile to take care of your health! Wishing you the best in getting it under control and thanks for yet another great recipe!

  8. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    You probably read my cholesterol post not long ago. I was surprised that my LDL was the highest in a decade and exactly what it was last December given that I was eating so well all spring. Mine was 113 but my doctor wants it below 100 since my dad died young of heart related disease. I can’t imagine why mine was up recently since I had been eating so well. Sigh. I am now cutting way back on saturated fats; hating fat free cheese:( I get mine tested every 6 months because I have been on cholesterol meds for decades thanks to familial high cholesterol. BTW – it made me laugh that just the other night someone who I knew only slightly commented that she was surprised I could have high cholesterol because I’m thin. Always cracks me up.

  9. renee@mykitchenadventures says:

    oh genetics can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing…but one thing it is not, is something we can control. We just have to deal with whatever hand is dealt to us. I applaud you for doing all you can on your part…and ya….the other thing about life and genetics…it’s not fair! lol

    Muffins for 3pp each? I am so in! 🙂

    on the side…don’t you just LOVE that buttermilk powder? I always have some in the back of my fridge to cook and bake with in the absence of real lowfat buttermilk!

  10. Carla says:

    Sorry about your bad numbers! I guess since it is genetic, you will just have to work a little bit harder at it than your very lucky husband! 🙂 So far I have good cholesterol numbers.

  11. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    I am coming over right now for a muffin if any are left! 😉 YUM!!!!!!!!!

    Great post on cholesterol Tami!!! Like you, I tend to be higher in LDL but my HDL’s are always great & offset the bad. Been like this always – well, since I lost weight & started eating right. Like you said, genetics… and like you, my hubby does better even though I am healthier…. Also, with age, I think it does tend to get higher…. Good thing we both eat healthy! I eat most on your list of foods too! Except I don’t like fish but I get the omega’s elsewhere…

    I am loving my protein PB chocolate cookies: http://truth2beingfit.com/2011/09/08/protein-peanut-butter-chocolate-cookies-happy-bday.aspx

    1. Tami says:

      Head on over Jody I have a new batch ready to eat! Thanks for the link to your cookie recipes-you are clever in the cookie department! I printed off some recipes to try. Thanks! 🙂

  12. sarah@spinach and spice says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your cholesterol levels! Darn those genetics. It’s frustrating to hear that exercise + healthy eating can’t be the single “cure all” ingredients!
    But your pumpkin muffins look and sound absolutely delicious. I love the idea of powdered buttermilk… I hate to have the extra waste after baking!

  13. Dr. J says:

    I would suggest that with your doctor’s permission you go on a more extreme low fat diet for a while and then re check your levels. No added fats, no high fat foods except whole food sources. In my opinion, we live in a world that has lost touch with normal and thinks the unhealthy diet we now are used to is actually fine.

  14. Ann says:

    I agree with Dr. J. Very low fat diets, like Dr. Cornish’s diet, have been shown to not only reduce cholesterol, but reverse atherosclerosis. BUT, his diet is VERY low fat, 10% of calories from fat, and very hard to follow.

    I know how you feel as my numbers have also been high, despite consistently eating less than 30% fat diet (rec by American Heart Assoc) for nearly 2 years. My HDL is MUCH higher, but my chol didn’t budge much. AHH!

    On the advice of a cardiologist friend I added Omega 3 capsules and it has helped a lot. In fact, most doctors I know are on these supplements for various reasons, but esp cardiovascular protection. There is also eveidence it may delay dementia or prevent Alzheimer’s. Many neurologists think it improves memory. Plus some docs use it for arthritis/joint problems. Anyhoo-you might think about it and of course talk to your doctor first.

  15. Roz@weightingfor50 says:

    Grr…sorry to hear about the cholesterol. There is no justice when healthy living folks get news like that, and the sendentary, smokin’ junk food eaters have numbers in the normal range. sigh.

  16. Jenn @ Cooking Aweigh the Pounds says:

    How frustrating about your cholesterol results! 🙁 Darn those genes!

    Those muffins look amazing! My daughter and I may have to make them tomorrow!

  17. Tami says:

    I sent you the link and some instructions! Have a great day!

  18. Judi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I made the muffins today and they are wonderful and my house smells so good! I love how moist they are.Biggest compliment is from my husband…..mmmmmmm! I see many pumpkin muffins in my future! Thanks again.

    1. Tami says:

      Judi I am so glad you made them and got the seal of approval from your hubby! Thank you for leaving me a comment and letting me know how much you enjoyed them. That makes me so happy! 🙂

  19. Marsial2010 says:

    Great post to review those cholesterol numbers for everyone. My husband has the same cholesterol problem as you. He works out playing racquetball several times/week and eats pretty well (he eats more snacks than me though) and he still has to take statins.

    Your muffins look great.

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