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