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Chocolate Muffins Recipe: Vegan, Whole Wheat, and Low Fat

Updated on September 23, 2017
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.

Muffins made with one hundred percent whole wheat flour often have a "rustic" look.
Muffins made with one hundred percent whole wheat flour often have a "rustic" look. | Source

The Joy of Chocolate

I love chocolate. It’s my favourite variety of ice cream, smoothie, cookie, cake, and muffin. Cocoa gives chocolate its flavour and has many health benefits, but unfortunately the cocoa in chocolate bars and foods is often accompanied by unhealthy ingredients. Chocolate muffins sold in stores are frequently high in fat and sugar and may contain artificial colours and flavours as well.

Luckily, muffins are quick and easy to make at home, where it’s easy to control their ingredients. The recipe for chocolate muffins shown below contains whole wheat flour and is very low in fat. Although no oil or solid fat is included in the list of ingredients, the muffins aren’t completely fat free, since the rice milk sold in stores contains a small amount of added oil. The pumpkin puree and apple sauce in this recipe provide the texture that fat usually supplies in baked goods.

The muffins contain no animal products, so they are suitable for vegans. Since they are dairy free, they are also suitable for people who are allergic to dairy products. In addition, the muffins contain no added sucrose from table sugar. They are nice to eat as a snack or as part of a meal. They make a delicious dessert when they’re eaten with vegan chocolate pudding or vegan ice cream.

Apple sauce is a good substitute for fat and oil in a recipe.
Apple sauce is a good substitute for fat and oil in a recipe. | Source

Muffin Types: Bread and Cake

Muffins come in two basic varieties. Most supermarkets sell large muffins with a cake-like texture. These are soft muffins that are generally rich in fat and very sweet to taste. Muffins with a bread-like texture are generally firmer and denser and have a coarser crumb. They are often less sweet as well. Bread-style muffins frequently resemble mini quick breads. They are often—but not always—healthier than cake-style muffins. Cake muffins may be nice for a treat, but the only muffins that I make at home are bread muffins.

Three bread-type chocolate muffins
Three bread-type chocolate muffins | Source

Potential Health Benefits of Cocoa

I enjoy chocolate and chocolate flavoured foods for their taste. Cocoa is a healthy substance as well as being tasty, however. It contains chemicals called flavonoids which may benefit us in several ways.

The best studied flavonoid in cocoa is epicatechin, which seems to be especially helpful in maintaining cardiovascular health. Cocoa flavonoids are thought to inhibit the clumping of platelets together to form blood clots. Blood clots inside blood vessels can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Cocoa flavonoids also act as antioxidants. Researchers have shown that they can reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). Oxidized cholesterol stimulates the buildup of deposits called plaque in arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Cocoa also seems to reduce inflammation and hypertension (high blood pressure).

The health benefits of cocoa may be negated if the cocoa is eaten with lots of fat and sugar, since these increase the risk of health problems. In addition, the research that has been done has examined the effects of cocoa ingested as a drink or in chocolate rather than inside baked products like chocolate muffins. Another important point to note is that cocoa comes in different varieties. The cocoa type that has been studied by scientists is especially rich in flavonoids. The muffin recipe below is healthy, though. Any extra benefit from the cocoa will be an added bonus.

Cocoa powder containing flavonoids has health benefits.
Cocoa powder containing flavonoids has health benefits. | Source

Health Benefits of Whole Wheat Flour

Whole wheat flour contains bran, which is the outer layer of the grain. This gives the flour a flecked appearance, a rich taste, and a much higher level of insoluble fibre than white flour. It does produce a denser texture in the muffin, though. For people who would like a lighter textured muffin but would also like to obtain insoluble fibre, mixing whole wheat and white flour in equal amounts might be a good plan.

Insoluble fibre is healthy for the intestine. It provides bulk to the contents of the gut by absorbing water and speeds up the movement of the material. This helps to remove wastes from the intestine and prevent constipation. In addition, whole grains (including whole wheat) may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Chocolate can be healthy in small quantities due to the cocoa that it contains.
Chocolate can be healthy in small quantities due to the cocoa that it contains. | Source

Pumpkin Health Benefits

Like apple sauce, pumpkin puree makes a good substitute for fat in muffin recipes. It's rich in beta-carotene, which is the plant form of vitamin A. The chemical gives pumpkin its orange colour. Our bodies can convert beta-carotene into the animal form of vitamin A that we need.

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant, which is a substance that inhibits the oxidation of chemicals. Oxidation leads to the production of free radicals. Free radicals can potentially damage cells, so antioxidants are very useful substances in our bodies.

Vitamin A that is eaten in foods from animal sources or is made from beta-carotene is important for vision. Beta-carotene may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

Pumpkin and other bright orange foods such as carrots and yams (sweet potatoes) are a great source of beta-carotene.
Pumpkin and other bright orange foods such as carrots and yams (sweet potatoes) are a great source of beta-carotene. | Source

Agave Syrup and Nectar

Agave syrup is also known as agave nectar. It's obtained from the agave cactus. It's often used as a vegan alternative to honey. The makers of the brand that I use claim that their syrup has a glycemic index of 39 or less, which means that it has a low effect on blood sugar level.

Agave syrup and nectar are high in fructose. Like any concentrated sweetener, they shouldn’t be used in large quantities. Regularly eating large amounts of products that are rich in concentrated fructose may increase the level of triglycerides in the blood. A high triglyceride level increases the risk of insulin resistance and heart disease.

It's important to look at ingredients carefully when a recipe claims to be sugar-free. The problem is the definition of the word "sugar". Sometimes the word means table sugar, or sucrose, in which case a sugar-free claim may be accurate. Using this definition, my recipe is probably sugar-free. I say "probably" because sucrose is found in small quantities in a variety of plants besides sugar cane and beets. In chemistry, the word sugar refers to a group of related molecules with a sweet taste and the ability to provide calories. Using this definition, fructose is a type of sugar.

Vegan chocolate muffins
Vegan chocolate muffins | Source

Ingredients for Twelve Muffins

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vanilla rice milk (unsweetened)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
1/3 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
1/2 cup of agave syrup

Tips for Mixing Muffin Batter

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda together.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, apple sauce, agave syrup, and rice milk together.
  • Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Be careful not to over-stir the mixture. Over-stirring causes tunnels to appear in the baked muffins. No more than fifteen stirs should be used.
  • Spoon the mixture into twelve oiled, lined, or nonstick muffin cups, filling each cup about three quarters full.
  • Bake the muffins for twenty minutes. I check to see if they are done after fifteen minutes.

The muffins are ready to take out of the oven when a skewer or toothpick that is inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Once they’re out of the oven, leave the muffins in their pan for five to ten minutes, then remove them from the pan and cool them on a wire rack before eating.

Low Fat Vegan and Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Another recipe for low fat vegan chocolate muffins is shown in the video above. The muffins are gluten-free, which is essential for some people, but they aren't made from a whole grain flour. They contain unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener.

A gluten-free diet is vital for someone with celiac disease. In people with this disorder, the ingestion of gluten causes the destruction of villi on the lining of the small intestine. The villi are tiny folds that absorb nutrients from digested food.

The variety and availability of gluten-free foods is increasing, at least where I live. Chocolate muffins without gluten are sold in specialty stores. Unfortunately, they are often expensive and contain unhealthy ingredients. One advantage of making muffins of any type at home is that the baker can modify a recipe to improve nutrition or taste. Experimentation is often fun. Muffins can make both healthy and delicious snacks and meal additions.

References

  • "Science celebrates cocoa and chocolate's potential health benefits." American Chemical Society. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2012/march/science-celebrates-cocoa-and-chocolates-potential-health-benefits.html (accessed September 22, 2017).
  • "Heart Healthy Benefits of Chocolate." Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/benefits-of-chocolate-heart-health (accessed September 22, 2017).
  • "LDL Cholesterol and Heart Disease." University of California, Berkeley. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/preventive-care/article/ldl-cholesterol-and-heart-disease (accessed September 22, 2017).
  • American Institute for Cancer Research. "Whole grains decrease colorectal cancer risk, processed meats increase the risk: Report analyzing the global research finds hot dogs and other processed meats increase risk of colorectal cancer, eating more whole grains and being physically active lowers risk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170907093623.htm (accessed September 22, 2017).
  • Obenschain, Chris. "6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1 (accessed September 22, 2017).

© 2011 Linda Crampton

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    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, Pragati004. I appreciate your visit.

    • Pragati004 profile image

      Pragati 7 months ago from India

      Thanksfor this wonderful recipe...mam..!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, techygran. I hope you enjoy the muffins.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 21 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Dear Alicia, Thank you for this yummy sugar-free low-fat recipe-- I'm going to give it a go!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Nikko. I don't actually live in Vancouver, but I live right next to the city. It is very nice to have so many health food markets and restaurants near by!

    • Nikk0 profile image

      Nikk0 4 years ago

      Definitely! I see you're in Vancouver (I'm in Vancouver, too)... We're lucky that we have such an incredible supply of healthy food stores and restaurants that cater to this kind of life style.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment, Nikko. I have to be careful about what I eat too. Eggs and lactose don't bother me, but some other foods and ingredients do. It's good that there's such a wide variety of foods available in many stores now!

    • Nikk0 profile image

      Nikk0 4 years ago

      Thanks for this recipe - it's next on my list! I'm allergic to eggs and lactose intolerant... so essentially I need to eat vegan (except for meat.... nothing like a good steak and glass of red wine!). Been looking for an easy vegan muffin recipe for a while now! x

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit and the votes, Peggy!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Many good reasons to enjoy these chocolate muffins! Thanks for the recipe and info on the health benefits of chocolate. Up and useful votes.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, oliversmum. I love to drink hot cocoa too! Thank you very much for the comment.

    • oliversmum profile image

      oliversmum 5 years ago from australia

      AliciaC Hi. Thank you for this wonderful Recipe and all the great information on the different ingredients.

      I also love a hot drink made with cocoa, especially for supper, delicious.

      Seeing the step by step photo,s throughout the making of a recipe are very helpful, it's great. Thanks again.:):)

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comments, gryphin423. It's nice to meet you!

    • gryphin423 profile image

      gryphin423 6 years ago from Florida

      Oops, wasn't signed in yet ;-) It looks like you have some other good hubs, off to read those as well...

    • profile image

      gryphin423 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for the recipe, the ingredients are going on my shopping list! :-)

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit and the comment, Lucky Cats!

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Alicia, this is perfect in all ways...thank you so much.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Hjjjjj. Thanks for the comment. Making the muffins with another gluten-containing flour should work, although I haven't tried this. The texture would probably be a bit different. An equivalent muffin could certainly be made without gluten, but this recipe would need some changes, which I haven’t tried. Eggs (or xanthan gum or guar gum) would have to be added to the recipe to replace the binding action of the gluten. The liquid content in this muffin recipe might have to be reduced to account for the liquid in the egg. It’s also important to use finely ground gluten-free flours, or they can taste gritty, and to bake the muffins at a lower temperature. I bake my gluten-free muffins at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which works well in my oven.

    • profile image

      Hjjjjj 6 years ago

      Hello,

      These look great. Do you think you can make them with a wheat or gluten-free flour?

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks a lot, Simone. I appreciate your visit!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      This sounds like my cup of tea!! I've GOT to try this!! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, AliciaC!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love a rich chocolate taste, too, b. Malin! It is wonderful that cocoa is so good for us and can provide such a great taste when it's combined with the right ingredients. Thanks for the funny comment.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 6 years ago

      Isn't it Nice, for a change, that something we like is Actually GOOD for Us. I do have a Sweet Tooth and must have a little Chocolate treat after my Meal...Once again Alicia, I have enjoyed the "RICH" (ha, play on worlds) and informative Hub..And I just may try this recipe.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the visit and the vote, Seeker7. I always try to satisfy my cravings for cakes and desserts with healthier alternatives too!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      These look delicious! I have to admit that I'm a chocolate fiend as well but I do like to try healthier alternatives and so will definitely give these muffins a try. Many thanks for sharing. Voted up + bookmarked.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and the vote, Eiddwen!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe.

      I bookmark and vote up.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit, breakfastpop. I enjoy collecting or creating low fat recipes too, and I also like to find low sugar ones as well.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Thanks for the recipes. I am always looking for low fat recipes that taste good and these look wonderful.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, Tom! I appreciate your kind comment and vote very much, as always.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, those muffins sound and look very yummy, thanks for all this great information about chocolate .

      Vote up !!!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Moon Daisy. Thanks for the comment. I'm interested in cocoa's health benefits too. I like to make a hot drink from cocoa as well as eat it in muffins.

    • Moon Daisy profile image

      Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London

      These look lovely. And I like to hear any benefits that cocoa may have!