Fall is in full swing and pumpkins are ripe in the fields. Does cinnamon, pumpkin, and chocolate beckon? Here’s a delicious breakfast, midmorning snack, or high-energy meal (with a bit of great coffee of course). Brain muffins!
Back by popular demand (and growling tummies), these healthy but oh-so-delicious muffins are sure to be a hit. No, the main ingredient isn’t brains (thank goodness) but with just the right mix of chocolate, pumpkin, bran, and oats, these muffins honestly don’t taste like the normal “healthy” foods that may make you cringe.
They’re great for your brain and your appetite, too. Oat bran provides complex carbohydrates. Dark chocolate chips give your body and brain lots of antioxidants to improve memory. Flax seed meal has much-needed Omega-3 fatty acids to grow more healthy neurons. Olive oil helps prevent poor memory with its Vitamin E and antioxidants.
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Ingredients to Mix Together First
- 1 small can pumpkin
- ½ cup vegetable oil (or use only olive oil)
- ¼ cup light olive oil (or use apple sauce or yogurt)
- ½ cup white sugar (or use a sugar substitute)
- ½ cup brown sugar
Ingredients to Add Next
- 1 cup wheat flour
- ½ cup quick oats
- ½ cup wheat bran
- ¼ cup flax seed meal OR whole flax seeds
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 ½ tsp of cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ to ½ cup 2% milk (or skim to save on calories)
- ½ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Mix together oil and pumpkin and then add white and brown sugar.
- Set that aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together with a whisk.
- Mix the dry ingredients slowly into the wet. Add them gradually while mixing with a spatula.
Now for the best part…
- Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and ¼ cup of milk to the mix.
- Add ¼ to ½ cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips.
- Now find your muffin tins and spoon in the mix.
- This recipe should come out to exactly 12 muffins when using standard muffin tins.
- Preheat oven to 330 degrees F (yes, 330 degrees F), and bake for 35 minutes on the middle rack, either exactly in the middle or closer to the top.
- Don’t place the muffins near the bottom of the oven or they will come out a bit too dry.
- Remove promptly and cool.
- Eat them right out of the oven when they are piping hot or after they have been refrigerated and they are cool. They’re great either way!
Cocoa beans contain the flavanol epicatechin and antioxidants. Dark chocolate is best. Try to avoid chocolate with a lot of added sugars. Recent research suggests that chocolate can improve memory. “Several studies suggest that consumption of a special cocoa made to be rich in flavanols, a naturally occurring nutrient abundant in fresh cocoa, may improve blood vessel function. Now, scientists believe the potential blood flow benefits associated with consumption of this flavanol-rich cocoa may extend to the brain — which could have important implications for learning and memory.”
An article in the Journal of Nutrition shows that cinnamon is one of the richest sources of disease-fighting antioxidants. It has been shown to help improve scores on tasks requiring attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed. It also has anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent the unwanted clumping of blood platelets and dangerous blood clots.
Flaxseed meal contains fiber. The fiber steadies carbohydrate absorption, and therefore, contributes to a steady blood sugar. High-glycemic index foods cause dramatic blood sugar swings. So, steadying your blood sugar makes your brain alert, energetic, and constantly fed.
Olive oil is comprised of monosaturated oleic acid which we all need for proper and flexible function of our brain. Fatty acids contained in brain cell membranes provide structural flexibility for brain activity and protect our brain from potential age-related dysfunction and disease. Seniors in Italy who consumed a lot of olive oil and olive products in their daily diet are less likely to display cognitive decline than people who don’t. The ingredients of natural olive oil help to lower blood pressure, decrease bad cholesterol levels in our blood, and promote good hair, nail, and skin condition.
This is a high protein, low fat drink. Milk also has tyrosine, an amino acid and a precursor to epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It is essential for normal mental functioning and has been shown to help fight emotional and environmental stress as well as combating depression. Protein in dairy stimulates the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine. These neurochemicals keep our bodies energized and our brains alert. Dairy products also have low glycemic indexes (though are higher than legumes and lower than fruits) to ensure a slower rise in blood sugar.
Tyrosine in Whole Grains and Wheat
Aside from the fact that it is important to normalize body and brain functions, tyrosine has been seen to provide various health benefits. Studies have revealed that tyrosine can help fight the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, alleviate emotional and environmental stress, and combat depression. Those that take tyrosine supplements claim that tyrosine helps calm their bodies and increase their energy levels. Supplements have also been used in the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and dementia.
Vitamin E in Whole grains and Olive Oil
Studies appearing in several medical and health journals suggest that a regular intake of vitamin E might help to prevent poor memory and reduce the risk of dementia and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, seeds, eggs, brown rice, and whole grains. Unlike simple carbohydrates that give your brain a “sugar high”—and may make you feel lethargic and mentally “fuzzy”—complex carbohydrates digest more slowly and provide a steady supply of energy to your brain, making you feel sharper. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole grain breads, brown rice, oatmeal, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.