We all crave something sweet. Sometimes it’s chocolate or cupcakes but other times you’re looking for something a little healthier and nutritious yet will still satisfy your sweet tooth. Enter these date cocoa energy balls. They are so sweet, rich, and luscious, they just hit the spot. With only a few ingredients you can be enjoying some too.
The Equipment: Food Processor
The only equipment that you really need to make these is a food processor. I can’t live without one because there’s so many foods that you can quickly do with it, from dips, to salad dressings, to flours, to these energy balls of course. You can get a small one for as little as $20. If you don’t have one, I would strongly suggest you invest in one- it’s a game changer!
Here’s how mine looks:
I’ve written an article about date nutrition here, but basically dates are a powerhouse for nutrition. Their natural sugars provide a burst of energy which is perfect for a quick snack before or after exercise or for a pick-me-up afternoon snack. They are also high in fiber, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6.
Cocoa vs Cacao
You may have seen cocoa and cacao powders before, but have you ever wondered what the difference is between them, besides the price difference?
Cocoa and cacao both come from the same plant, the Theobroma cacao. The cacao beans in the pods are harvested to make cacao powders and eventually chocolate. The main difference between cocoa and cacao is how the beans are processed. Cacao is processed at low heat, hence being referred to as ‘raw’, whereas cocao is processed at higher temperatures which helps reduce the bitterness of the cacao bean. Using low temperatures may preserve more of the nutrients and antioxidants found in cacao, however both cacao and cocoa provide many health benefits. One important health benefit is the antioxidant flavonoids present in the cacao bean. Flavonoids help reduce inflammation and have cardiovascular benefits such as lowering blood pressure. Other sources flavonoids are tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries, and peanuts. Cacao also contains magnesium, potassium and calcium, which help with blood pressure regulation. Some cacao powders undergo an additional processing called Dutch processing. In this step, the cacao is processed with a solution to reduce the acidity of the cacao, however this greatly reduces the flavonoid levels of the cacao.
So which to buy? At the end of the day it’s a personal choice as both raw cacao and cocoa have similar antioxidant benefits. If you do buy cocoa powder, make sure that it is 100% cocoa and that is not labeled as Dutch processed. Also, if you do buy raw cacao powder make sure that you don’t bake with it as the heat will reduce the flavonoid levels. Instead add it to smoothies or oatmeal to get its full benefit.
The addition of nuts in this recipe adds protein and healthy fats, which are important to help reduce the insulin response and stabilize blood sugars. This is especially important for people with diabetes. Whenever you choose a snack, try to combine all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This combination will also help you feel full for longer. You may use any type of nuts you have on hand; I used almonds in this recipe to create an ‘almond chocolate’ taste.
Date Cocoa Energy Balls
Sweet and rich chocolate date balls perfect for a snack or to satisfy that sweet craving!
- 2 cups pitted dates
- ½ cup whole almonds
- 1 tbsp butter softened
- 1 tbsp cacao powder
Soak pitted dates in water for 10 minutes until soft and moist.
In a food processor, add the almonds and pulse into small pieces.
Add the dates, butter and cacao and mix until a paste forms. You may need to stop a couple times to scrape the sides of the food processor using a spatula until everything is mixed.
Once combined, form 1” balls and place on parchment paper.
Store in the fridge for a week (if they last that long!)
If you have difficulty blending all the ingredients in your food processor you may find it useful to blend half the mixture at a time or use a larger food processor.