Last week, I couldn't get enough chocolate. I found myself constantly playing around with some sort of variation of food involving chocolate. I also wanted something fast, I mean under 10 minutes fast and no cooking involved. So I raided my pantry for exactly 6 ingredients and got to work.
Now as I've mentioned in a previous post, nutrient density is always important to me so even sweet treats have to have some nutritional benefit if my family is going to be eating them. These little balls are packed with goodness so not only will you tame the chocolate beast but you'll get some excellent nutrition along the way. These little guys are dense so you don't need a whole lot to satisfy your craving.
Since there are only 6 ingredients and no cooking involved, you want to make sure you use quality ingredients. And since I love talking about the benefits of what we put into our bodies, lets look at why you should feel good about eating these foods. The ones I really want to highlight for their nutritional benefit are going to be cacao, coconut oil, dates and chia seeds. While cashews and unsweetened shredded coconut have their own nutritional benefits I really wanted to focus on the four.
Benefits of raw cacao:
- Contains anandamide, which is a neurotransmitter that has been found in cacao. It's a feel good chemical that the brain naturally releases when you're feeling happy.
- Full of antioxidants. In fact, cacao has shown to contain more antioxidants than blueberries, goji berries, red wine and pomegranate combined.
- Lowers blood pressure and improves circulation.
- Full of Magnesium. It is said that cacao is the highest magnesium containing food on the planet. Most Americans are deficient in this key mineral, which helps with everything from calming anxiety, to increasing energy, aiding with constipation, preventing migraine headaches, improving heart and muscle function and more.
- Serotonin release. That's right this is the very one that's contained in our standard antidepressants (SSRIs -Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors). "Magnesium and tryptophan, both necessary chemicals for the production of serotonin, are contained in raw Cacao. Tryptophan is heat-volatile and therefore non-existent in cooked chocolate or a cooked food diet, making raw chocolate an excellent way to obtain dietary tryptophan and maintain sufficient levels of the stress balancing serotonin."
Coconut oil benefits:
- Contains MCT- (Medium Chain Tryglicerides) - the fatty acids found in MCTs are called Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) these have shown to help with weight loss. "Because they have fewer carbon atoms, MCTs have a number of advantages over LCTs (Long Chain Fatty Acids). Although MCTs are fat, and feel like fat in your mouth, they cannot make you fat. They resemble carbohydrates more than fat, are easy to digest, and are burned as energy—so there is no where for them to go, and no place for you body to store them."
- Prevention of metabolic syndrome: These include a cluster of conditions which can increase heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. A peer review has shown that MCFAs play a role in preventing and treating metabolic syndrome.
- Cancer prevention: This is one of the most startling discoveries. Coconut oil is turned into ketones in the liver. Tumor cells cannot access ketones and are dependent of glucose in order to proliferate and thrive. For a more in-depth look at ketones, here is a great resource.
- Improved digestion: The fats in coconut oil contain antimicrobial properties which help to ward of some of the unwanted bacteria and parasites in the gut, which lead to indigestion.
Benefits of chia seeds:
- High in Fiber: I think everyone always hears about the importance of fiber but not everyone understands why this is. Most fiber is not digestible by the small intestine and passes through to the colon, where it becomes food for the numerous colonies of bacteria living in the tract. This is why eating refined sugar and flour is not too good for our bugs. These break down very quickly and are absorbed by the small intestine. An overgrowth of bacteria can occur in this unwanted place, leading to SIBO (Small Intestininal Bacterial Overgrowth). If we starve the bacteria which rely on fiber for food, they will feed on the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract, causing a lot of problems. I will address this in detail in a future post.
- High Omega 3s: I've mentioned this in prevoius posts, but Omega 3s help with preventing heart disease, inflammation, help to lower blood pressure and are crucial for women of child bearing age or those who are pregnant or nursing. Additionally, some other sources of Omega 3s can easily become rancid but chia seeds have a very long shelf life - something like 4 years.
- High in Antioxidants: These fight free radicals and assist in the prevention of cancers.
Benefits of dates:
- Assist with constipation: Dates have been shown to have a laxative effect. Soaking 4-6 dates overnight and consuming them along with the liquid has shown to assist with constipation.
- Easy energy boost: Dates are high in natural sugars and are quickly metabolized providing an almost intimidate burst of energy.
- Easier labor: This will apply to both women and men as men do have to suffer along side of women! But it's been shown that eating dates leading up to the due the date, could ease labor.
- 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 tbsp melted unrefined coconut oil
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 15-20 roasted cashews
- 1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes plus an additional tbsp for rolling
- 1 cup chopped dates
- optional - coconut flour dredging
- Food processor
- Mixing bowl
Melt coconut oil either in the micro for 30 seconds or on the stove and combine with cacao in a medium bowl until well incorporated. Set aside. In a food processor, add the chopped dates, cacao and coconut oil mixture and blend until fairly small and well incorporated. Add cashews, chia seeds and shredded coconut and continue pulsing for an additional 30 seconds or until well incorporated. Put everything back in the bowl.
With clean hands or wearing kitchen gloves, form small 1" balls and dredge them through coconut flakes. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. I don't recommend storing them at room temperature as coconut oil melts once it get past 76 °F.
* An option is to dredge some of the balls in coconut flour and if you want to get creative, melt additional coconut oil and mix with cacao and add a 1/2 tsp of raw honey. You can add another layer of chocolate to some of them if you so desire.