I've never been fond of store bought granola/protein/energy bars. Maybe I haven't acquired the right brand, but I find them monotonously dry and tasteless. Not to mention that a majority of them contain sugar or other unwanted additives, negating the point of a healthy snack. These, on the other hand, are addicting and couldn't be more easy to prepare at home. The cacao and dates create an almost brownie-like texture and flavor while each component offers an abundance of health benefits.
Cacao- Not to be confused with the processed and heated cocoa, raw cacao is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Although processed chocolate still does contain health benefits, that amount is lowered with processing. Cacao contains theobromine which helps to push toxins out of your body. The phenylethylamine found in cacao is considered to be a mood enhancer and can give you a sense of well being. This is why some people crave chocolate when they are feeling down. Essential minerals include magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese. Stick with cacao in its natural raw state to benefit from all of its vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that while cacao is highly nutritious, it can be fattening if not eaten in moderation.
Walnuts- Packed with omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial in reducing depression, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Walnuts also contain more healthful antioxidants than any other nut.
Hemp Hearts- A superior source of protein and one of the most nutritious foods on earth. Read more about the benefits of hemp in my green hemp smoothie post.
Chia Seeds- A nutritional powerhouse containing vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and protein. Because of their fiber content, chia seeds can help you feel fuller longer and eliminate unnecessary toxins. When exposed to liquids, chia seeds expand and form a gel. As this happens inside your stomach during digestion, this slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. This gives your body energy and eliminates blood sugar spikes. Chia seeds have the ability to absorb 12 times their weight in water which can help your body store more nutrients and regulate your bodily fluids, eliminating the possibility of dehydration.
Bee Pollen- The collected pollen that bees take back from flowers and store in the hive for food. It is considered to be one of nature's most completely nourishing foods, containing every nutrient required by humans. It is very high in protein and contains all 22 amino acids. Bee pollen is also loaded with enzymes that help us break down and digest food. Store in the refrigerator and sprinkle over yogurt, into smoothies, or even just ingest a spoonful each morning to benefit from its nutrients.
Goji Berries- Another one of the most nutrient-rich foods on earth. Goji berries are a vegetarian form of protein packed with essential amino acids, rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. They posses over 20 trace minerals and vitamins including zinc, iron, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin E as well as carotenoids, including beta-carotene.
Dates- High in soluble and insoluble fibers that aid in digestion. Low in calories and fat, dates contain naturals sugars that give an energy boost. They are also rich in protein, B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K.
Coconut- A nutritious source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and amino acids. Coconut also contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, and electrolytes. Although high in healthy fats, this fruit should be eaten in moderation.
If buying all of these items at once, it can seem a bit pricey, especially for a batch of protein bars. Though once you start incorporating all of the above ingredients into your lifestyle, stocking your pantry for the daily use of each component is well worth the expense.
These are perfect as a quick breakfast, a post work-out bar or a mid-afternoon energy boost.
(makes about 12 bars)
1 cup walnuts
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup hemp hearts
2 tbs chia seeds
22 medjool dates, pitted
4 tbs raw cacao powder
2 tbs goji berries
1 1/2 tbs bee pollen
1. Add walnuts, coconut, hemp hearts, and chia seeds to a food processor and run for about 10-15 seconds, just to break down the walnuts and slightly blend the other ingredients. Pour into a large bowl and add in bee pollen and goji berries. Stir to combine.
2. If the dates contain pits, remove and add the pitted dates and cacao powder to the food processor. Run until completely smooth, about 1 minute. This should form a ball in the food processor.
3. Using clean hands, add the date and cacao 'dough' to the dry ingredients, almost kneading in order to incorporate everything evenly.
4. Once all is combined, spread into a pan, pressing firmly. Your hands are still the best tools for this job. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to facilitate cutting. Remove and cut into bars.
5. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (though trust me, they won't last that long).