Jan’s Low Carb Pumpkin Muffins

Those wonderful looking muffins at the coffee shop pack a minimum of 60 grams of carbohydrates, and sometimes over 100! That makes them unsuitable for a diet with a goal of 30 – 40 grams of carbs per day. The alternatives we’ve tried all seem dry or just not very tasty.

But Jan has come up with an alternative muffin that comes in at less than 6 grams of carbohydrates per muffin. At 6 grams, the muffins can complement any meal, and serve as a good snack. As in all of these lower carbohydrate recipes, a balance between taste and carbohydrate levels has to be reached. I think Jan has nailed it on this recipe!

Because these contain a small amount of flour, sugar, brown sugar and commercially produced spices, they may not be appropriate for paleo dieters. They are also not gluten free. Substituting more almond meal for the white flour does work, and removes the gluten, but makes the muffins denser. We like them this way — low carb and tasty!

These have a firm texture like a bran muffin, but with a smoother, not-so-sweet pumpkin bread taste. They are especially good sliced down the middle, slathered with butter, and then heated for 15 seconds in the microwave. The coconut and brown sugar topping provides a satisfying crunch, complemented by the crunchy walnuts. Our tastes have changed, and we don’t like “too sweet” desserts any longer, but increasing the sweetener may be appropriate for some. This recipe makes 24 muffins.

INGREDIENTS:

Dry Ingredients
2 1/2 Cup Almond Meal Flour
1 Cup Flaxseed Meal
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
1/4 Cup White Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
Wet Ingredients
9 Large AA Eggs
1 15 Oz Organic Canned Pumpkin
1 Tablespoon Dark Molasses
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
18 Drops EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose (equal to 5/8 Cup of Sugar)
1/3+ Cup Water
Topping Dry Ingredients (Optional)
3 Tablespoon Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

Procedure:

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

Grease cupcake pans with butter, coconut oil or (gasp) vegetable shortening, then flour them. See This Link for a tutorial on greasing a cupcake pan (“The Internet has everything, Wilma!”) You’ll need enough cupcake pans to make 24 muffins.

Combine dry ingredients (except for the optional topping and walnuts) in a mixing bowl and mix well. Combine wet ingredients in a larger bowl and mix well, then mix in the dry ingredients, adding them slowly. You can adjust the water from 1/3 to 1/2 cup as needed while mixing; the mixture should be thick, about the consistency of cooked oatmeal. When fully mixed, fold in the chopped walnuts.

Fill the greased cupcake pans with the mixture, nearly to the top. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix well, then sprinkle on top of the mixture in the cupcake pans. This topping rests on top and forms a crunchy, crumble-like topping as it is baked, so don’t fold, spindle or mutilate it — just sprinkle it on top.

Place filled cupcake pans into the oven for 20 minutes. When done, a wooden toothpick inserted into a muffin will come out clean.

Net Carbs Information

Our carbohydrate analysis is calculated using the labels on the packaged ingredients (pumpkin, etc.) and Internet sources for things like the eggs. We have subtracted the fiber grams from the US labeled product to achieve the net, digestible carbohydrate count.

We did not calculate the grams of fiber, protein and fat in this recipe, as we rarely worry about those in our daily diet. Those of you who care, and use nutritional calculators at sites like FitDay, are welcome to chime in with your analysis in the comments.

Eliminating the topping brings the muffins down to 5 grams of carbs each. You may find other places to save, such as substituting more EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose for the sugar (saving another 24 grams of carbs), and bring these in at about 4 grams of carbs. But we would rather save that gram of carb elsewhere.

Net Carbs in Ingredients
Amount Measure Ingredient Net Grams of Carbs
2 1/2 Cup Almond Meal Flour 20
1 Cup Flaxseed Meal 0
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour 16
1/4 Cup White Flour 20
1 teaspoon Baking Soda 0
3 teaspoons Baking Powder 0
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice 0
1/8 Cup Sugar 24
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts 0
Wet Ingredients
9 Large AA Eggs 4
1 15 Oz Organic Canned Pumpkin 21
1 Tablespoon Dark Molasses 15
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract 0
18 Drops EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose 0
1/3 Cup Water 0
Topping Dry Ingredients (Optional)
3 Tablespoon Unsweetened Shredded Coconut 2
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar 12
Totals
Full Recipe 134 grams
Per Muffin 5.58 grams

Good Stuff Inside

We like coconut and almond flour, as well as flaxseed meal, but used alone, they can rarely replace white flour in a recipe. We find flaxseed muffins dry and tough. Combining the three “alternative flours” in the proportions above works well in this recipe. One note about coconut flour: it is very thirsty, so if you use more, expect to add more water.

We haven’t had good success baking with any of the alternative sweeteners except for EZ-Sweetz Liquid Sucralose. The problem with granular Splenda, Stevia, Truvia and other sweeteners is that they turn bitter when baked at 350°F. Each drop of EZ-Sweetz equals a teaspoon of sugar in sweetness without any malitrol, dextrose or other “carrier” to turn bitter.

Let us know how you like these muffins, and if you come up with other modifications.

Vitamin D-isappointing?

Low carb dieters have emphasized the need for supplements from early on, and one of the supplements growing in importance has been Vitamin D. This is largely due to the growing body of cutting edge research showing its benefits for a wide range of disorders, from asthma to parkinson’s disease.

The SunDrs Mike and Mary Dan Eades recommend regular sun exposure, without sunscreen, in The Protein Power Lifeplan, and the paleo community regularly touts the importance of being outside and active in the sun just like our ancestors. Today’s office dwellers realize their fluorescent lit lives do not allow enough sun time each day, and supplement with vitamin D.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) was asked to look at vitamin D in order to evaluate if the current recommendations, expressed as “Daily Recommended Allowance” (RDA) in health literature, was adequate. After reviewing the current state of the science they surprised all of us by “staying the course” with vitamin D RDA the same as stated by the NIH in 2009 – just 600 IU per day for most people.

Cardiologist Dr. William Davis of the Heart Scan Blog commented:

Instead of a careful, science-minded conclusion that meets the painfully conservative demands of crafting broad public policy, the committee instead chose to dogmatically pull the discussion back to the 1990s, ignoring the flood of compelling evidence that suggests that vitamin D is among the most important public health issues of the age.

How can this happen when so much has been discovered about this important vitamin in the last few years? With possible implications for asthma, autism, auto-immune disorders, cancer, depression and mental illness just to name a few, its hard to understand the findings. Even my family practitioner commented to me that sunscreen may have caused more cancer than it prevented by blocking synthesis of this vitamin in many people. Part of the reason for the FNB’s ultra-conservative recommendation may be found in the approach they took:

In sum, with the exception of measures related to bone health, the potential indications examined are currently not supported by evidence that could be judged either convincing or adequate in terms of cause and effect, or informative regarding dose-response relationships for determining nutrient requirements.

Other than bone density, they really didn’t consider any of the other benefits researchers have found, for two reasons. The first is that studies showing a beneficial effect of the nutrient don’t provide enough evidence that the vitamin is the reason for improvement. While that is debatable, I think the second reason is the most important: studies that do show a benefit do not provide a “dose-response relationship for determining nutrient requirements”. What does that mean? It means that the studies did not provide an easy way for the committee to develop new standards for how much vitamin D you need.

Public policy is often too careful, conservative to a fault, and lags years behind the state of the art.

The Vitamin D Council, a private group of doctors, researchers, and patients, issued a statement:

Disturbingly, this FNB committee focused on bone health, just like they did 14 years ago. They ignored the thousands of studies from the last ten years that showed higher doses of vitamin D helps: heart health, brain health, breast health, prostate health, pancreatic health, muscle health, nerve health, eye health, immune health, colon health, liver health, mood health, skin health, and especially fetal health.

The committee’s findings are more understandable when you realize they are looking only at bone health, and discarding the emerging research showing benefits for an array of other conditions.

Grassroots Health, a public health organization with a large panel of scientists from prestigious universities and hospitals, provided space for several of their colleagues to comment on the report. Dr. Robert P.Heaney, MD, John A Creighton University Professor and Professor of Medicine at Creighton University, said:

There is an impressive body of scientific evidence supporting levels higher than the IOM panel is currently recommending, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, the panel has discounted that evidence. The public needs to know that that evidence exists so that they can make up their own minds. It’s helpful in making those decisions, to know that intakes higher than the IOM [FNB] recommends are safe. For me, that makes the decision easy. Even if the evidence for a higher intake were uncertain (and I don’t believe it is), intakes 2-5 times the IOM recommendations would carry a good chance for benefit at essentially no cost and no risk.

The committee provided their recommendation for a “safe upper limit” of supplementation at 4,000 IU for most people. This recommendation is a low risk proposal, intended for the general public, and most people think it may be due to the prospect of vitamin D toxicity. As a “fat soluble vitamin”, vitamin D is one that can build up and present the ultimate “too much of a good thing.” Yet the same report indicates vitamin D toxicity does not occur in studies except in those supplementing at 50,000 IU and above.

The committee had to deal with a variety of studies showing different “bad effects” for different groups, with black and Asian women differing from white women in increased bone fractures with higher levels of vitamin D (due to the way the vitamin and calcium interact in the body), higher and lower cardio-vascular disease rates in men, etc.

The gold standard of vitamin D supplementation is to test the blood serum levels to dial in the optimum, at least 40 – 60 ng/ml, according to Grassroots Health. They point out that in people taking just 1,000 IU a day, serum levels ranged in people from 15 ng/ml to 85 ng/ml, a wide range that highlights the problem in establishing an RDA (or even an upper limit that is safe for everyone).

How do you get tested? There are some on-line sources for vitamin D testing, taking a simple pin prick to elicit a drop of blood onto a test blotter that you mail in; these are legal in many states. You can also ask your doctor, although your insurance may not cover “voluntary” tests.

For those in the US who cannot convince their family doctor to test for vitamin D levels, Grassroots Health is conducting a 5 year study and preforms the necessary tests every six months. The cost is a recurring $60 per test, and is legal in every state except for New York. See this page for details.