Heart-Healthy Muffins

For years, the Food and Drug Adminstration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been telling us that diets rich in whole grains and low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

It’s a message that has been heeded by a lot of people — but not enough. Since February is American Heart Month, I thought it might be a good time spread the word.

I’m pretty conscious of the risk of cardiovascular disease. Back in November 1993, at the age of 42, I suffered a stroke. Luckily, the lasting effects of it have been pretty minor. Since then, I’ve done quite a bit to reduce the risk factors for heart and cardiovascular disease. I’ve lost about 40 pounds, quit smoking, exercise regularly and changed my eating habits.

Probably the hardest of all those changes was to starting eating healthier. But with a little perserverance, I’ve managed to do a pretty good job. And one of the changes has been to add more whole grains into my diet.

I’ve discovered that not only swapping refined grains for whole grains such as brown or wild rice, bulgar and barley gives me more nutrients and dietary fiber in my diet, the foods they are used in taste delicious and add an exotic flair to any meal. And more importantly, they low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to the USDA’s Food Pyramid, we should have six to 11 servings a day of whole grains. One of the easiest ways to do that is to add whole-wheat flour to your baked goods.

A good example is the following recipe for Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins. Whole wheat flour is higher in fiber than regular flour. And the low-calorie blueberries add flavor and keep the muffin moist, besides also being high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C. And they contain pterostilbene, a compound that appears to be effective in lowering the bad forms of cholesterol.

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 egg whites
½ cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper baking cups. Stir together flour and whole-wheat flour. Measure out 1 tablespoon flour mixture and sprinkle over blueberries; toss to coat evenly and set aside. Stir baking powder and salt into flour mixture; set aside.
Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in egg whites until well-combined. Stir in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, blending just until moistened. Stir in blueberries. Spoon into muffin cups, filling nearly to the top of each cup. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 12 muffins.
Approximate nutritional analysis per muffin: 198 calories, 26 percent of calories from fat, 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 14 milligrams cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 240 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.