If you are a fan of chocolate desserts, you will love these healthy hazelnut & cacao energy balls. The complex flavor of these balls may remind you of chocolate brownies or cake; however, you will not experience the energy dip that comes about when eating a sugar-dense dessert.
These no-cook, gluten-free, vegan bars come together in less than 30 minutes and you can store these in refrigerator for a week to enjoy as a snack or dessert.
Dates make a healthy sweetener
Dates offer a healthy alternative to processed white sugar to sweeten desserts, energy bars, etc. Dates have a much lower glycemic index compared to sugar. Glycemic Index (GI) of a food measures how carbohydrates affect your blood sugar levels. Foods with high GI, such as white sugar, cause blood sugar to rise too quickly accompanied by a quick crash. This is why you feel tired after eating a sugar-dense dessert or drinking a sugar-laden soda. In contrast, a food with low GI, such as dates, are digested slowly causing to release energy at a slower pace, which offers sustained energy over a long period. Moreover, while white sugar only sweetens, dates offer a number of health benefits as a bonus. In addition to being a good source of fiber, dates are also high in bone-protecting minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. (Stay tuned for a longer blog post on health benefits of dates).
Use sprouted quick oats for the healthiest hazelnut and cacao energy balls
(the paragraph about using sprouted oats added October 27th, 2019)
Oats contain high amount of phytates–a natural substance that stores phosphorus in plant seeds. Most grains–cereals, legume, and beans contain phytates. The downside of consuming grains without removing phytates–especially if you rely heavily on grains in your diet, like I do–is that they can obstruct the absorption of a few essential minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Cultures that rely primarily on grains, have figured out the ways to remove/reduce phytates from grains. Oat is particularly high in phytates and sprouting is one of the ways to reduce phytates in oats considerably.
Since we are going to use raw oats in this energy bar, it’s best to use sprouted oats, especially if your diet consists primarily of grains. Since I couldn’t find sprouted oats both at my regular grocer store or my co-op, I buy these at Amazon.com. I have tried sprouted oats from both One Degree Organic and Pure Living Organic (no brand affiliation) and they are both good.
Meal plan this healthy hazelnut & cacao energy balls for snack and dessert
These healthy hazelnut and cacao energy balls not only sooth a sweet tooth, but also truly live up to their name by providing energy. Commercially-available energy bars and balls are often too high in processed sugar, which fails to offer long-term sustained energy. Here are some tips to meal plan this recipe:
- Put the ingredients on your grocery list.
- Make it on a weekend or whenever you have some extra 30 minutes on your hand. You can refrigerate these balls for a week. You can also make multiple batches and freeze them in one-week supply portions. Then take out one batch every week. You can freeze these healthy hazelnut & cacao energy balls for up to four weeks.
- I often eat two of these balls for breakfast, if breakfast running short on time to make breakfast.
Here are the step-by-step directions to make healthy hazelnut and cacao energy balls.
Healthy Hazelnut & Cacao Energy Balls
- 1 cup sprouted quick-cooking oats (using sprouted oats highly recommended, but can use regular kind*)
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts (can sub with equal amount almonds, lightly toasted or raw)
- 2 tbsp raw cacao powder (or sub with equal amount pure cocoa powder)
- 2 tbsp sun butter (can sub with equal amount almond butter)
- 3 medjool dates (seeded, or any other variety)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp maple syrup**
- 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/8 tsp Pink Himalayan salt (preferably coarse crystals, optional)
- Lightly toast, about 2-3 minutes, the hazelnuts over medium heat in an iron skillet. Alternatively, you can also toast hazelnuts in a toaster oven. Skip this step if using raw.
- Start out by processing oats in a food processor***. Add toasted hazelnuts and process till the mixture attains coarse consistency.
- Add dates, sun butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cacao powder, and Pink Himalayan Salt, and unsweetened shredded coconut. Process till the mixture comes together and forms a ball.
- Take the mixture out in a plate and form into balls. Enjoy as a snack or dessert.