Chocolate almond power balls

Are you sometimes at work or at home and feel like you need to eat something sweet? Many times we just crave something sweet and we then satisfy this craving by buying some unhealthy snack in a vending machine nearby. But that stuff is just highly processed food containing refined sugar, refined oils, and artificial sweeteners/preservatives/colors. We really don’t need that. You can make yourself healthy snacks, like these delicious chocolate almond power balls, which besides satisfying your desire for something sweet, will also nourish you. And in the end, they will be much cheaper too.

This recipe is delicious and super easy to make. It contains only 4 ingredients: almonds, dates, cacao powder, and coconut oil.

These power balls are suitable for vegan, paleo or general healthy diets.

 

Why is this recipe good for your brain?

 

Almonds

You have probably already heard that nuts are very healthy and that you should be eating a handful every day.

Several studies have found that long-term nut intake is related to better overall cognitive health [1, 2]. A recent study investigated the impact of almonds on cognition in elderly adults. They found that higher almond consumption (3 oz) improved cognitive measures (memory and learning) after 6 months [3].

Researchers think that what makes nuts so beneficial is their high nutritional value, because they are high in very healthy compounds such as polyunsaturated fats, protein, fiber, magnesium and vitamins. Make sure, however, that the nuts you are eating are raw, not roasted, as roasted nuts due to the high heat, have already lost some of their beneficial nutrients.

Almonds are a particularly rich source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals, and therefore reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. A review study found that vitamin E may also contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease [4].

 

Cacao

Cacao has also been shown to be neuroprotective. For example, cacao consumption could reduce the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance (working memory) [5]. Also, cacao consumption seems to lower cognitive decline, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, while promoting healthy brain aging [6], and is associated with better performance in memory tests [7].

 

Dates

Dates are also super healthy as they contain many minerals (for example, selenium, potassium, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, calcium), B-vitamins, antioxidants (carotenoids and phenolics), fiber, protein and healthy fat [8, 9]. Indeed, dates are increasingly being investigated as a powerful medicinal food [10]. Date palms are one of the oldest trees cultivated by man and people have consumed them for many centuries.

Despite their high sugar content, they actually do not worsen serum glucose or LDL (“bad cholesterol”) patterns, and can even be considered anti-atherogenic agents (prevent the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries) [11].

Eating a moderate amount of dates has many health benefits such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, and anti-diabetic effects [12, 13].

Studies have shown that dates can lower inflammatory markers in the brain (which are associated with a high risk of dementia) and may decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases [14].

 

Extra-virgin coconut oil

Several studies have investigated the potential of coconut oil to delay or prevent the onset of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Low brain glucose metabolism is an early hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids, and the ketone bodies produced during their metabolism can serve as an alternative energy source for the brain to compensate for the lack of glucose. In addition, coconut oil has neuroprotective antioxidant properties due to its polyphenolic content (type of phytonutrients) [15]. Also, studies have shown that coconut oil protects neurons from amyloid-beta toxicity (a hallmark of Alzheimer’s) by activating cell survival pathways [16].

In a pilot study, which included 44 patients with Alzheimer’s, the patients who received a coconut oil enriched Mediterranean diet for 21 days had improved cognitive functions when compared to a control group who did not receive this diet [17]. Although more studies with a higher number of participants need to be carried out, these are quite encouraging results!

In addition, coconut oil has been considered a potential antidepressant and antistress functional food [18].

 

So let’s go now to the recipe 😊

Chocolate almond power balls

Author: Ana Coito, Ph.D.

Ingredients

  • 200 g pitted dates (I used Medjool)
  • 200g g almonds
  • 2 tbsp 100% cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • Optional: coconut flakes

Instructions

  • Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse to crush them into small pieces.
  • Add the dates, coconut oil and salt, and blend until everything is well mixed.
  • Place a little bit of the mixture into your hands and roll into a ball. Repeat the procedure until the mixture has finished.
  • Optional: coat the balls with coconut flakes.

 

Do you enjoy power balls? Are you going to give this recipe a try?

Let me know in the comments below 🙂

 

P.S. – If you like my articles, please be sure to subscribe to my free newsletter to receive my new content directly in your inbox!

 

References

  1. O’Brien, J., et al., Long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women. J Nutr Health Aging, 2014. 18(5): p. 496-502.
  2. Theodore, L.E., et al., Nut Consumption for Cognitive Performance: A Systematic Review. Adv Nutr, 2021. 12(3): p. 777-792.
  3. Mustra Rakic, J., et al., Effects of daily almond consumption for six months on cognitive measures in healthy middle-aged to older adults: a randomized control trial. Nutr Neurosci, 2021: p. 1-11.
  4. La Fata, G., P. Weber, and M.H. Mohajeri, Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance during ageing and in Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrients, 2014. 6(12): p. 5453-72.
  5. Grassi, D., et al., Flavanol-rich chocolate acutely improves arterial function and working memory performance counteracting the effects of sleep deprivation in healthy individuals. J Hypertens, 2016. 34(7): p. 1298-308.
  6. Moreira, A., et al., Chocolate Consumption is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cognitive Decline. J Alzheimers Dis, 2016. 53(1): p. 85-93.
  7. Crichton, G.E., M.F. Elias, and A. Alkerwi, Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. Appetite, 2016. 100: p. 126-32.
  8. Al-Farsi, M.A. and C.Y. Lee, Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2008. 48(10): p. 877-87.
  9. Juhaimi, F.A., K. Ghafoor, and M.M. Ozcan, Physical and chemical properties, antioxidant activity, total phenol and mineral profile of seeds of seven different date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera L.) varieties. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 2012. 63(1): p. 84-9.
  10. Vayalil, P.K., Date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera Linn): an emerging medicinal food. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2012. 52(3): p. 249-71.
  11. Rock, W., et al., Effects of date ( Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) consumption by healthy subjects on serum glucose and lipid levels and on serum oxidative status: a pilot study. J Agric Food Chem, 2009. 57(17): p. 8010-7.
  12. Pujari, R.R., N.S. Vyawahare, and V.G. Kagathara, Evaluation of antioxidant and neuroprotective effect of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) against bilateral common carotid artery occlusion in rats. Indian J Exp Biol, 2011. 49(8): p. 627-33.
  13. Rahmani, A.H., et al., Therapeutic effects of date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera) in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity. Int J Clin Exp Med, 2014. 7(3): p. 483-91.
  14. Essa, M.M., M. Akbar, and M.A. Khan, Beneficial effects of date palm fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural Regen Res, 2016. 11(7): p. 1071-2.
  15. Chatterjee, P., et al., Potential of coconut oil and medium chain triglycerides in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Mech Ageing Dev, 2020. 186: p. 111209.
  16. Nafar, F., J.P. Clarke, and K.M. Mearow, Coconut oil protects cortical neurons from amyloid beta toxicity by enhancing signaling of cell survival pathways. Neurochem Int, 2017.
  17. de la Rubia Orti, J.E., et al., Improvement of Main Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease after Treatment with Coconut Oil Enriched Mediterranean Diet: A Pilot Study. J Alzheimers Dis, 2018. 65(2): p. 577-587.
  18. Yeap, S.K., et al., Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo. Exp Ther Med, 2015. 9(1): p. 39-42.

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