Contrary to the popular belief about low fat diets, researchers have found that it is no better and healthier than moderate or high fat diets.
To combat this "low fat is best" myth, nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and chefs and registered dieticians at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) have developed five new muffin recipes that incorporate healthy fats and whole grains, and use a lighter hand on the salt and sugar.
Their goal is to "make over" the ubiquitous low-fat muffin, touted as a "better-for-you" choice when in fact low-fat muffins often have reduced amounts of heart-healthy fats, such as liquid plant oils, but boast plenty of harmful carbohydrates in the form of white flour and sugar.
Other low-fat processed foods are not much better, and are often higher in sugar, carbohydrates, or salt than their full-fat counterparts. For good health, type of fat matters more than amount. Diets high in heavily processed carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
"It's time to end the low-fat myth," said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.
"Unfortunately, many well-motivated people have been led to believe that all fats are bad and that foods loaded with white flour and sugar are healthy choices.
"This has clearly contributed to the epidemic of diabetes we are experiencing and premature death for many. The lesson contained in these healthy muffins-that foods can be both tasty and good for you-can literally be life-saving."
A regular blueberry muffin from a national coffee shop chain has 450 calories on average and most of those calories come from carbohydrates, primarily white flour and sugar.
The new Blueberry Muffin recipe offered by HSPH and the CIA is less than half the size of a coffee shop muffin and contains just 130 calories. It is made with a mixture of whole wheat, white, and almond flour and uses canola oil, a healthy fat.
"There are so many ingredients available to home bakers who want to offer their families healthful, flavorful baked goods," said Richard Coppedge, Jr., chef-instructor at the CIA and a Certified Master Baker.
"These five recipes not only include a wide variety of whole grain and nut flours; they also demonstrate how more unusual ingredients like canned chickpeas and extra virgin olive oil can be used in baking," Coppedge added.