Vegan Low Fat and Sugar Free Chocolate Muffins Recipe
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 is very low in fat. Although no oil or 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 (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.
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.
Health Benefits of Cocoa
I enjoy chocolate and chocolate flavoured foods for their taste. Cocoa is a very healthy substance as well as being tasty, however. It contains chemicals called flavonoids which benefit us in several ways.
The best studied flavonoid in cocoa is epicatechin, which seems to be especially helpful in maintaining cardiovascular health. There is evidence that, like aspirin, cocoa flavonoids 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 causes 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).
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered that the Kuna people living on Panamanian islands drink a great deal of cocoa. The islanders have significantly lower incidences of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes than the Kuna people living on the mainland who don’t drink cocoa. This isn’t proof that cocoa can prevent cancer and other diseases, but it’s certainly interesting information.
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, and any extra benefit from the cocoa will be an added bonus!
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 a fifty:fifty ratio 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 their movement, helping to remove wastes from the intestine and preventing constipation. There have been suggestions that these effects of insoluble fibre reduce the risk of some gut diseases, but confirmation is needed for these ideas.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Like apple sauce, pumpkin puree makes a good substitute for fat in muffin recipes. It's very rich in beta-catotene, which gives pumpkin its orange colour and is the plant form of vitamin A. 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. Vitamin A that is eaten in foods from animal sources or is made from beta-catotene is important for vision.
Agave Syrup and Nectar
Agave syrup is also known as agave nectar and is 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 agave 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.
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
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 on the right. The muffins are gluten-free and contain unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener.
A gluten-free diet is essential for someone with celiac disease. In people with this disease, the ingestion of gluten causes the destruction of villi on the lining of the small intestine. The villi are the tiny folds that absorb nutrients from digested food. Some people without diagnosed gluten intolerance choose to follow a gluten-free diet, too.
The variety and availability of gluten-free foods is increasing, at least where I live. Muffins without gluten are sold in stores. The problem is that they are often expensive and contain less than healthy ingredients. One advantage of making both gluten-free muffins and muffins with gluten at home is that the baker can control their ingredients in order to improve nutrition or taste. Muffins can make both healthy and delicious snacks and meal additions.
© 2011 Linda Crampton