Seed & Nut Brain-Boosting Energy Balls

Boasting high quality nutrition, these nearly raw, easy to make energy snacks, are a hit at our house! This recipe lends itself to a variety of dried fruit, seed, and nut combinations, and significantly healthier than your typical store-bought granola bar.  They are also quite simple to prepare, and my kids especially enjoy making them (with a little help).  I realize the importance of having healthy snacking options readily available, so we are less likely to grab a convenient, less-nutritious, packaged and processed snack.

When assessing foods for brain health we look for those high in antioxidants, healthy fats, and vitamins & minerals. Nuts and seeds are loaded with beneficial nutrients. Not to mention, they also add incredible taste and texture.  Healthy, mono-unsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, are essential for brain health. The healthy fats we consume encourage ketosis, which assists in protecting the brain against disease and providing lasting energy.  These fats also help with production of a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which improves learning and memory.

I add organic raw cacao nibs in this recipe because it is universally recognized now as one of the best superfoods around.  Raw cacao contains a significantly higher amount of antioxidants than heated cocoa does. As we know dark chocolate, in itself, is touted as a good antioxidant source. We know that antioxidants are proven to help our brains function. Raw cacao is rich in flavonoids, substances that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.  Studies show that these substances assist in brain blood flow, oxygen levels, and also promote nerve function. Raw cacao also contains phenethylamine, which plays a role in increasing focus and alertness. This substance is also shown to improve mental clarity, stamina, energy, motivation, and even joy.  I, for one, love a joyful child in my house!

Coconut oil, too, has properties which promote full-body health, including that of the brain. It can decrease inflammation and helps destroy harmful bacteria which can affect both our brain and mood.

These tasty balls are gluten-free, soy-free, and are suitable for both a vegetarian and vegan diet.

Makes 24 1.5 inch balls 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth/creamy nut butter (ie. peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar, honey, or pure maple syrup (or a combination)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats or instant oats (instant oats make the ball a little easier to form because they’re smaller flakes, but these are pictured with regular oats)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds (you may substitute for chia seeds or use a combination)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (or almond flour)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt depending on how salty your nut butter is.
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped (ie. raisins, apricots, dates, blueberries)
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Additional shredded coconut or unsweetened cocoa powder for rolling balls

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet or tray with wax paper or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl add: oats, flax seed meal, ground flax seeds, hemp or chia seeds, almond meal, raisins or other dried fruit, and shredded coconut. Stir to combine ingredients well.
  3. In a saucepan on low heat melt together: honey or syrup, nut butter, and coconut oil. With a spoon, stir while heating, so it mixes well. Then stir in vanilla extract and salt. Once mixture is melted together, remove from heat.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into your bowl over dry ingredients and mix well.  It is easiest to mix this all with your hands.  Use disposable kitchen gloves if you don’t want your hands messy.  Then form into 1.5 inch balls.  Set balls on lined baking sheet.  Finally, roll each ball in shredded coconut or unsweetened cocoa powder.  Place your baking sheet with balls in the refrigerator for an hour or more.  This will help them to hold together better before you remove them, stack, and store them all in an airtight container to maintain freshness.  Enjoy this grab-and-go snack all week!