Are Balls the New Bars? Biting into the Hype.
When I first heard about 'Bliss Balls', I assumed they were intended for somewhere other than your mouth...Oh how wrong I was! The latest food trend sweeping the lands of Vegandom, yoga studios and Pinterest are earthy coloured, sticky balls of fruits, seeds and nuts. Known as raw food balls, vegan truffels, or, my personal favourite; bliss balls. As with all superfoods in this series, my mission is to unearth the scientifically proven benefits behind the hype. So, little bliss balls, what's so special about you?
What surprised me most is the preparation of these babies. I'm not exactly a successful experimental cook, so imagine my joy to discover that creating bliss balls is literally throwing a bunch of dried fruits and nuts together in a blender, then squashing the sticky result into vague ball shapes. That's it. Despite many recipes meticulously listing gram quantities and all sorts of fancy ingredients (what in the world is carob?!) the basic bliss ball is made like this:
The ideal bliss ball is covered in coconut sprinkles and served on a pristine white plate.
Image Credit: Pixabay
- Nosey around your kitchen for any dried fruit, seeds or nuts. Bonus points if you find anything coconut related lying around (I didn't...)
- Make sure at least a couple of your ingredients are somewhat sticky. In my case, after some prodding, I discovered dried figs, those little orange chunks you find in muesli (which are in fact 'dehydrated papaya' according to the box), and cranberries suffice. If you have dates or woefully misunderstood sultanas, they work too.
- Throw a small handful of each ingredient into a blender. Along with the fruit add any nuts you have (I randomly had walnuts; but almonds, pistachios, brazil nuts or macadamias work equally well) and seeds. Super bonus points if you have chia or spirulina lying around! Don't have anything in your cupboards other than dried fruit? Add oats to balance out the texture. Blend while enjoying the ear splitting melody of the food processor.
- Scoop the result out of the blender and smush or roll into balls (heck, rebel, make triangles and launch a new craze!). Doesn't stick? Add more fruit. Or a spoon of honey. Too wet? Add more of the dry ingredients. No need to follow any recipe here!
- Sprinkle with coconut (you pro!) and take loads of artfully composed photos to post to Pinterest and Instagram boasting about your new healthy vegan/veggie/gluten-free/paleo snack. Store in the fridge or freezer to harden a little. Vow to take them to your yoga class to share after your session but proceed to devour all of them in one sitting.
Tadaa! Bliss ball virginity taken by these coconut-less but still delicious treats. I am currently waging a full scale willpower war against them. They will 100% win.
Image Credit: Marloes de Boer
In summary, there is nothing special about the preparation, and ingredients vary wildly. The benefits therefore depend on what you choose to add. The loosely held consensus is that cacao and coconut are frequently the star players in the mix, although I concocted my first bliss balls without either of these and they were still scrumptious. Add cacao if you are having the mother of all chocolate cravings and want more of a truffle, otherwise don't pay too much attention to it as a main ingredient. Coconut does have a great reputation, and makes the balls look a lot prettier! Definitely try to include walnuts or almonds if you can. These nuts are antioxidants, reduce cholesterol, balance appetite and even help alleviate depression.
Bliss balls are deemed a superfood precisely because many of their ingredients (especially the nuts and seeds) are bonafide superfoods themselves. However, despite being full of nutritious goodies, be aware of the number of these babies you consume. Dried fruit is very high in sugar, and nuts are high fat (albeit the good kind, but still). It's also best to cobble these together yourself rather than trying to find them in stores, and be wary of anything packaged. If you are mindful of how you eat bliss balls and see them as a treat or a pre-or-post-workout energy boost, then there is certainly nothing wrong with them. In essence, bliss balls are just homemade energy bars in a different shape. Because, y'know, rectangles are so last season.