Happy Monday friends! So excited to share this recipe with you all today:) This recipe is for “energy balls”, the ever popular internet-phenomenon consisting of nuts and dates that can come together in a limitless number of variations. They’re the perfect on-the-go healthy snack, like a handful of healthy trail mix. Plus they taste like cookie dough so there’s that. I’ve loved making these treats for years, but lately I’ve landed on a combination that exceeds all others. Bold statement, I know, but they are that good.
This variation came about after a recent interest in hormones.
Hormones: special chemical messengers, that travel through the bloodstream from endocrine glands to different parts of the body, whose job is to turn on and off different bodily processes.
They do everything from controlling simple basic needs like hunger and thirst to regulating complex systems like reproduction, emotions, and mood. So in a word, they’re extremely important. And pretty amazing! Sex hormones in particular have a natural fluctuation throughout the 28-day cycle (for women, for men it is less predictable). However, things like stress, disease, chemicals, and medications can throw this delicate balance off.
I first became interested in hormones this year when dealing with some personal symptoms and trying to find my way back to balance. I felt I already had a decent understanding of women’s reproduction thanks to my background in human biology, but discovered there was so much more to delve into. Alissa Vitti’s book Woman Code taught me a lot, as did Hormones and Women’s Health (borrowed from my University library). I learned a lot, and while my symptoms aren’t solved, I now know what is causing them. Losing sleep or carrying extra stress manifests in a certain way, as does rest and eating healthy. The goal is not to be perfect, but to be more aware of and in control of my health.
Whether you are experiencing brain fog, moodiness, painful periods, loss of periods, acne, weight changes, or fatigue, addressing your hormones can bring you one step closer to feeling better. I don’t know everything, and you should certainly talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet, but here are the main takeaways I have learned:
Excess estrogen is the root of many issues
Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women. During our cycle, estrogen peaks, and after menopause it drops off. Estrogen is a wonderful hormone, but in excess it can cause everything from PMS and acne to infertility and low libido. No bueno. Excess estrogen is cleared naturally by your liver. So really, as long as you are supporting your body’s natural processes, your estrogen levels should be fine. However, if you have acne, painful periods, or any other symptoms mentioned above, and have been covering the symptoms with birth control, then you are simply putting a band-aid over the problem. Or if your liver is so busy trying to rid your body of excess hormones from your diet, chemicals from products, alcohol, and drugs, not to mention stress hormones, your reproductive health may be put on the back burner. I’m not saying it’s bad that you are on birth control, consuming hormones, using chemicals, or drinking alcohol / taking medication. I do! But it’s all about awareness.
The main takeaway I found to help support your liver naturally was: eat a plant-based diet. You don’t have to cut out ANYTHING – I repeat NOTHING out of your diet to do this. Simply make the base of your diet plants. Get in one or two fruits and vegetables (raw, cooked, anything) at every meal and snack. The vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, all of it will naturally support your liver and your hormones. If you’re really interested, the liver primarily needs vitamin C, the B vitamins, and selenium, which are bioavailable enzymes if eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Oats, eggs, avocados, carrots, broccoli, spinach, apples, asparagus, and cilantro are good places to start.
Eat more fat
You’ve heard it before, but fat is essential to keeping your body working in tip top shape. You don’t need to be guzzling oils or fried foods, but rather incorporating more natural sources of fats. Avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs, and coconut are good places to start. Fat is needed to absorb and utilize the vitamins available in many plant foods (Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and therefore need fat to be absorbed properly). So you will absorb the nutrients in vegetables better if paired with a bit of extra virgin olive oil than on their own- plus, hello, it’s more delicious. In addition, the body needs fat to produce hormones in the first place. If you aren’t getting enough fat in your diet, the body will reserve it for essential functions such as the brain and the heart, and put a halt on the reproductive system since it’s not necessary to survive. Making sure you’re consuming enough fat, and if you’re not sure, try adding in an extra source or two and see how you feel. Not to mention, adding fat to your meals make them more satisfying. Bottom line: make sure you’re eating enough food overall – all three macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, and fat are important.
Give your body assistance when it needs it
If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely reached a point of hormonal unbalance and you want to get back. In addition to supporting your body through diet in the above ways, you can support your body through rest, stress reducing activities, and supplements. I’ve enjoyed the benefits of adding maca to my diet. In addition to tasting delicious, it’s high in amino acids (another essential component of hormones), and promotes energy, lifts mood, and helps balance hormones. It’s an adaptogen, meaning it helps your body adapt to whatever imbalance it is experiencing and helps to bring it back to homeostasis. Okay those are some lofty claims, and honestly your results will not be as cut and dry as described above. Every body will be differently, so try it out and see how you feel over a week’s time. If you notice benefits, continue, if you don’t or if you feel worse, then stop.
Now that we’ve gotten all of that information out of the way, we can talk about these balls. They’re full of healthy fats, fiber, protein, and, yes, maca. I’ve named them balance balls because they were created to balance your hormones and support all of your bodily processes. Plus, they taste like cookie dough, so you should try them regardless of your hormonal needs. Sweetened with only dates, they’re all natural, gluten-free, and vegan. They take 5 minutes to make and are the perfect poppable anytime snack. If you don’t have maca, sub with cinnamon or other herb to taste. And enjoy!
- ½ cup almonds, unsalted
- ½ cup cashews, unsalted
- 1 Tbsp ground flax meal
- 2 teaspoons maca powder
- 4 medjool dates, pitted (if not soft, soak in warm water first and dry before using)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup virgin coconut oil, melted (or sub nut butter)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor until a dough ball forms.
- Roll into 16 balls and freeze at least 20 minutes.
I was inspired to create these after reading Sophie’s post ‘Magical Moontime Latte’. She has lots of great information and a delightful recipe over there as well. Like anything, before making changes to your diet, I recommend talking to a doctor and doing your own research. We are all unique and there is no one size fits all lifestyle. xo