These yummy little treat balls are a firm favourite at our house – the kids love snacking on them for morning tea, and they are quite filling. I love to use cacao powder in raw recipes, as it has so much more goodness than cocoa. It’s a bit like the difference between Rapadura and refined sugar, or extra virgin olive oil and refined oils. Regular cocoa is usually heat extracted (up to 150 degrees celcius!) with solvents. Organic cocoas are better, such as ‘Planet Organic’, which is sun-dried, chemical free and fair trade – but cacao powder is the best (and is generally fair-trade also)! (I use Planet Organic cocoa powder when cooking, but cacao powder in raw foods such as treat balls, raw slices, smoothies, and raw chocolate pudding.)
Cacao is cold pressed without solvents, and the nutrients are preserved much better than in cocoa – in fact, organic cacao has over 360% more anti-oxidants than regular cocoa! It has 21 times more anti-oxidants than green tea, and 7 times more than dark chocolate! Cacao does not raise blood cholesterol, it contains a fair amount of protein, and all three types of energy: fat, carbohydrates and sugar. It also contains high levels of catechin, fiber, carbohydrates, B vitamins and anti-oxidant-like substances. Calcium, Phosphates, Vitamins A, C and D occur in smaller quantities. (Read some really interesting facts about cacao here, as well as some myths about chocolate!)
Since Cacao contains fat, sugars, carbohydrates and protein, it has historically been used as energy food — it’s energy content is high, 18500 kj/kg (2000 kcal/lb). There is no caffeine in cacao (or chocolate, contrary to popular opinion), but it does contain small amounts of theobromine, which is similar to caffeine in that it stimulates the mind, muscles, kidneys and heart – but it has less effect on the central nervous system than caffeine does. Theobromine is not addictive, and is a much gentler stimulant than caffeine (see findings here), but it’s still best not to overdo it. I find cacao powder makes me feel wide awake, so don’t munch out on these just before bed! (And if you’re breastfeeding, don’t eat too many or your baby will happily stay awake for hours!)
If you’re dairy free, you’ll be pleased to know these balls are a good way to get some calcium into your diet because both the cacao powder and the tahini contain calcium in usable forms.
These are great for school lunch snacks – if your child’s school is ‘nut-free’ you can just substitute the almonds for a mixture of pepitas and sunflower seeds.
[Amounts are very flexible – I don’t generally measure, I just chuck in a couple of handfuls of dates (and sometimes sultanas or other dried fruit), and a couple of handfuls of almonds (and/or cashews and seeds), a couple of heaped tablespoons of cacao powder, a few blobs of tahini and a splash of agave syrup… and grind it all up adding more dates if it needs more moisture!]