Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Everyone loves peanut butter. So much so that to this day my post on peanut butter remains my most popular and commonly brings newcomers to my blog. That’s perhaps because there continues to be confusion about this creamy spread, which still suffers in some circles from the “it’s high in fat and calories so don’t eat it” camp. Good news, folks. That type of thinking is based on decades-old science and we now have a much greater appreciation that’s it’s not enough to just say “fat” (or “carbohydrate,” for that matter), since it is the type that really matters when it comes to optimal health and disease prevention.
Remember, friends: when it comes to diet, the devil’s in the dietary details.
Indeed, nuts are powerful little foods that pack an amazing punch. They are rich in heart-healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Peanuts in particular are loaded in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid also found in olive oil, as well as manganese, copper, vitamin B3, and folate. Not to mention a number of antioxidants like resveratrol (of red wine fame) and p-coumaric acid that provide a broad range of health benefits. And, as you already know, nuts are a terrific source of protein.
Which brings me to the motivation for today’s post.
Holiday Treat or Post-Workout Protein Boost? The Choice is Yours
I originally created this recipe as an alternative to the protein bars you find in the supermarket. There are plenty of good ones out there, sure, but I recently decided to try my hand at a homemade alternative. The key is to have a good ratio of protein to carbohydrate, as protein is the key macronutrient needed to help your muscles repair, recover, and strengthen following an endurance workout. You also need electrolytes (sodium, potassium) and some carbs, too. Proper sports nutrition is another topic altogether, so let’s just suffice to say for now that whereas this was the original inspiration for today’s recipe, if you’re a peanut butter lover like me this tasty treat would be equally at place on your holiday cookie platter.
They’re that good.
Peanut Butter Balls
- 3/4 cup natural peanut butter, unsalted
- 1/3 cup granola
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup peanuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds, crushed
- 2 tablespoons flax seeds
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1-2 tablespoons dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
- Several pinches of flaky sea salt
Mix all ingredients together, adding more or less of what you like to taste. The salt is added only for those using this food as a post-workout food, when you are trying to rebalance your electrolytes following an endurance activity. (Like, say, a marathon.) If not, you could omit the salt (though sweet and salt play very well together). As well, note that another nut butter could certainly be substituted for the peanut butter if you have an allergy or another preference.
Shape into small balls and store in refrigerator. (Can be consumed cold or at room temperature.)
Whether you are an athlete or just have a sweet tooth, these peanut butter balls are absolutely delicious and packed with flavor and texture. I added a few ingredients to create a healthier version by including flax and hemp seeds, which are also high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. And just a bit of dark chocolate. This is, after all, my post-marathon fuel in a few days’ time.
All that said, do remember peanut butter balls are high in calories due to their fat content. As fat has more than double the energy per gram than protein or carbohydrate (9 vs 4), nuts are an “energy-dense” food and you’ll want to keep that in mind to maintain a calorie-balanced diet and healthy weight. In other words, if you’re consuming them as an athlete, the energy is the point, but if you’re eating them as a sweet treat, then remember to make them mini and enjoy them in moderation.
However you eat them, it’s just one more way to enjoy heart-healthy peanut butter.
PS. I’m currently storing my peanut butter balls in the freezer so they’re ready for my next long run… which will be the 2013 Boston Marathon!