When it comes to healthy eating, finding tasty alternatives for sweets and treats is one of the biggest challenges. I am totally addicted to chocolate but I try to limit the intake of unhealthy desserts as much as possible. The best way to satisfy your cravings for heavy, sugar loaded chocolate bars is to create your own healthy sweets.
Inspired by my mum’s vegan chocolate balls, I wanted to find a healthy version of these and get a healthy snack, that satisfies my desire for chocolate. With different nuts, seeds, dried fruits and cacao being a constant staple in my kitchen, I basically whipped up everything that seemed delicious, healthy and perfect for a blend of great nutrients and taste.
Nuts are a great source of healthy fats, protein and fiber, and they are awesome for sweet treats because of their fat content (as opposed to other unhealthy fat sources, such as transfats). Almonds are awesome for your skin due to their high vitamin E content and they contain a lot of flavonoids, which support heart health. Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which supports wound healing and is beneficial for people with thyroid problems.
Instead of using refined sugar (note that brown sugar is refined sugar mixed with molasses), I use dried fruits to add sweetness. Dates are a great base as they are thick and have no strong taste on their own. I also use goji berries and to be honest, I have a little crush on them! Considering, that only a year ago I didn’t eat any dried fruits whatsoever, I have become totally addicted to goji berries, not because they are incredibly healthy but simply because they taste beyond delicious! Orginally from Tibet and China, goji berries have only recently been introduced to the Western culture, but they have certainly made their way up on the health scales in the fruit section in no time. Goji berries have the highest concentration of protein in all fruits and they also have anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. They also contain a lot of vitamin C, fiber and minerals as well as all essential amino acids. I might not have mentioned it before, but keep in mind: they taste amazing!
The cacao protein balls are perfect for adding a variety of superfoods. While you certainly need some nuts and seeds, dried fruits, raw cacao powder and any type of healthy oil or syrup to make them stick together, you can play around with whatever powders and seeds you like. I recommend adding some protein powder, such as hemp protein or pumpkin seed protein powder to increase the overall protein intake. This will also help avoid sugar cravings. Also, I like to add different superfoods like maca powder, camu camu or acai berry powder. They all work very well as long as you don’t overpowder the balls, since this will give them a weird flavor. I could go on endlessly about the values and health benefits of superfoods and any of the ingredients, for that matter, but I don’t want to bore you with too many scientific facts, so here comes the recipe for the delicious Cacao Protein Balls.
Firstly, blend the brazil nuts and almonds in a food processor, before adding all the remaining ingredients and blending them all together. It has to be a sticky, munchy texture, so that you can easily form the balls with your hands. If needed, add some honey to make it stickier or add some oats to make it dryer. Once you have formed little balls, you can coat them with different toppings, such as cacao powder or nibs, matcha tea, sesame seeds, chia seeds or any other powders or seeds.
When you are done, place the balls in the fridge to set, but note that they are divine only after you take them out again and let them sit for a while. That allows their intense flavors to unfold. The cacao protein balls usually stay fresh in the fridge for about a week, but to be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience in that regard, since they never last that long but have been eaten up way too fast…
50 g almonds
35 g Brazil nuts
80 g dates
2 Tbs. oats
1 heaped Tbs. goji berries
1 Tbs. coconut oil
2 tsp. raw cacao powder
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. flaxseeds
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. raw cacao nibs
1 tsp. hemp protein powder
1 tsp. maca powder
1 tsp. camu camu powder
Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
I was just wondering if the name should’t be Cocoa instead of Cacao?
Thank you for pointing that out. I used to think the same, but actually, there is a huge difference between cacao and cocoa. Cacao consists of raw cacao beans that contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants and have no added sugar or fat. By cold-pressing the beans, their fat content, the well-known cacao butter, is removed. Cocoa, however, is roasted at high temperatures, which reduces their enzyme content and nutrient value. Often, sugar and chemicals are added to the commonly known cocoa powders in supermarkets, which makes them especially attractive for children, but they are definitely less healthy.
I hope that helps! Have a lovely day!