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Wellbeing with Nutrition
Nurturing the Mind and Body

At the Hub cafe, I make these truffles regularly. This is the updated version of my original recipe as the combinations seem to work better. So for this week, I'm sharing my Hub Cafe version of the cacao truffles recipe.

To make these truffles, I've used cashews as they have a natural sweet taste, are packed with ample protein and provide a boost of monounsaturated fats plus vitamin E a potent antioxidant. If you don't like cashews then feel free to use any nut/seed combination of your choice.

I've incorporated dates, with virgin coconut oil and cacao powder.  Again if you prefer using dried fruits like apricots, figs, raisons etc then the recipe will still work. The fibre and minerals in dates along with the coconut oil help sustain energy and prevent blood sugar spikes from occurring. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil also provide an alternative form of energy to glucose for fuelling body cells.

What is Cacao?

I'm using raw cacao powder, which is extracted from the seeds of the cacao fruit. These seeds are usually referred to as "beans" and are found within cacao pods, which grow on cacao trees. Cacao beans contain a range of nutrients including: protein, fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals like magnesium, calcium and zinc. Cacao has a mood enhancing effect due to a range of "bliss" chemicals found in it. These chemicals help increase circulation and the availability of serotonin plus other neurotransmitters in the brain. As a result this helps improve mood and may be useful with combating issues like  depression.

Cacao also contains the alkaloid theobromine, which gives cacao its bitter flavour. Theobromine has a stimulant and diuretic influence like caffeine but helps relax smooth muscle, dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Cacao is also rich in antioxidants like resveratrol, which has been found to help strengthen and protect blood vessels from damage.

Cacao beans are rich in saturated fatty acids, which makes them very heat stable as a cooking fat. The beans also contain some monounsaturated fatty acids and small amounts of omega 6 fatty acids.

To make cacao powder, the cacao beans are usually naturally fermented first. Fermentation is an important step in my opinion as it helps to reduce anti-nutrients like oxalates and phytates, which are compounds of oxalic acid and phytic acid bound to minerals like magnesium, calcium and zinc making them unavailable for absorption during digestion. The fermentation stage also develops the characteristic bitter taste of chocolate. Unfermented beans have a much milder flavour. Look for cacao powder, which has been made from fermented beans if you wish to include the mineral benefits.

The next stage of processing involves cold-pressing to remove the fatty cacao butter. The heating temperature during cold-pressing for raw cacao, is still low enough to retain some enzymes and heat-sensitive nutrients. Any heating above 45OC , which occurs during the roasting of cacao beans for cocoa production degrades these nutrients but does help to reduce phytates. So there are pros and cons for choosing raw cacao and it all depends on your state of health and what you wish to achieve from consuming cacao.

The pressed cacao beans are then dried and ground up to create cacao powder.

Cacao and Cocoa - What's the difference?

Cacao is therefore the less processed form of cocoa. Cacao has been processed with lower temperatures and may have undergone a shorter fermentation period or the fermentation step was omitted. As a result cacao retains more nutrients like antioxidants but the bioavailability of certain nutrients like minerals may be lower due to the increased presence of phytates and oxalates.
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Cacao powder like pure cocoa (cocoa with no added sugar/cocoa butter) has a naturally bitter taste. This helps to balance the sweetness of the dates. So if you find that the recipe is too sweet for you then add a little more cacao powder. However cacao does have a drying affect so if you add more cacao then you will need to add a little more water to help the mixture stick together.

Ingredients

1 cup dried pitted dates
1 cup cashew nuts
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon of cacao powder
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (for coating the truffles with)

Method

  1. I always check the dates have been pitted by cutting them with a knife before washing them in water. The last thing you want is to hear the crunch of a date pit in your food processor.
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  2. I placed the cashews in my food processor and processed until they were finely chopped.
    I emptied the mixed nuts into a bowl and set them aside for later.
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  3. I then placed the dates in my processor and processed them until they stuck together and formed a ball.
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  4. At this stage, I added in my chopped cashews, 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of cacao powder.
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  5. I then processed all the ingredients in the food processor until they were properly mixed and then emptied out the nut/date mixture into a bowl.
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  6. Using wet hands scrunched the mixture until it all came together. You may need to add some water as it depend how dry the mixture is.
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  7. The next stage is easy, I rolled small amount of the mixture into balls and then coated each ball with desiccated coconut.
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These truffles will keep in the fridge for around 28 days.

When introducing new foods like cacao into your diet, observe how it makes you feel as everybody has a unique digestive system. If cacao has any adverse affects like making your heart race, you feel more anxious, headaches then leave it out of the recipe or substitute cacao with other ingredients like carob or maca powder.

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