A bliss ball without all the sweetness. Don’t be put off by the ingredients – especially the chickpeas! These are a lovely sweet treat with the added bonus of gut soothing, anti-inflammatory ginger.
There are lots of bliss ball recipes all over the internet, whether they are called “bliss” or some other word. Basically, its a little ball of yumminess.
The majority of them, while not including refined sugar, often have large quantities of dried fruit, such as a cup of dates as the primary ingredient. Even though it’s not refined sugar, dried fruit can still lead to spikes in blood glucose levels so I wanted to create something that was lower in sugars yet still tasted indulgent. In this recipe, a small quantity of raisins is an optional extra only, and there are other ingredients in there that act to stabilize blood sugar levels.
And as this series of blog posts is all about how to eat during chemo, I wanted to create a bit of bliss that not only was a nice general treat, but also helped reduce nausea and vomiting.
I have to admit that if I was looking at this recipe, the chickpeas and stevia could well put me off trying them. Chickpeas in a sweet bliss ball??? But don’t be afraid! These have a lovely texture and taste. And many health benefits. Lets take a look at why I included some of the key ingredients.
Fresh ginger adds a special flavor to many different dishes, both sweet and savory. Along with exciting our taste buds, it is also very effective at reducing nausea and vomiting, and soothing the intestinal tract. It helps with nausea associated with chemotherapy, but also motion sickness and pregnancy. It also has anti-inflammatory properties due to the “gingerols”, immune boosting action, and also some anti-cancer effects. Animal studies have shown chemopreventive effects for colorectal, liver, lung, prostate, ovarian, and breast cancer, as well as some anti-metastatic activity. A recent study looking at an extract of ginger on breast cancer cells found that it was capable of changing a wide range of cancer mechanisms simultaneously including induction of apoptosis, regulation of certain cancer-related genes, and reduction in resistance to chemotherapy. Another study found that the compound 6-shogaol in ginger inhibited breast cancer stem cells, which are often resistant to conventional chemo. Including ginger in your diet whether or not you have nausea can therefore be a good thing.
Instead of the usual dates as the main ingredient, these bliss balls have chickpeas/garbanzo beans! But they don’t taste of chickpeas and their texture isn’t like chickpeas. Its lovely and smooth – a bit like cookie dough. The chickpeas add lots of fiber, which helps provide nutrition for our gut microbiota and stabilizes the flow of food through the digestive system, thus regulating blood sugar levels. Chickpeas contain about 12.5g of fiber per cup. It is recommended that we eat 1/2 cup of beans a day. While I’m not expecting you to eat your half cup full from these bliss balls, even if your appetite is reduced, eating a few of these bliss balls can make a helpful addition to your diet.
But they are more than just fiber. Chickpeas also contain anti-oxidant phytonutrients such as the flavonoid quercetin, as well as being excellent sources of the minerals molybdenum and manganese. And they are a good vegetable protein source with 14g/cup.
I use organic chickpeas, in BPA free cans. Unlike canned vegetables which can lose much of their nutritional value, canning does less damage to the key nutrients in garbanzo beans.
Hemp seeds are a good source of fatty acids, containing both omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega 6 (gamma linoleic acid GLA) fats in a good ratio. These fats can really help in reducing inflammation in the body. Hemp seeds are also a good complete protein source (containing all 20 amino acids) that is easily digestible, a source of soluble and insoluble fiber, and contain vitamins and minerals.
4 tablespoons (42g) of hemp seeds contain 15g of essential fats, 15g protein along with 2.5g fiber.
OK. While I love the idea of stevia in that it is a natural sweetener, virtually calorie free, I hate that bitter after-taste. I tried growing stevia in my garden to see if that was better, then dried the leaves and ground them up, but I still got that bitter taste. But what I have recently discovered is that we tend to get that bitter after-taste when too much stevia is used. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar – several hundred times sweeter – and most recipes still use too much – and that is when you get the bitterness.
I generally don’t use any sweeteners in my cooking as that is what I have got used to, but I wanted this recipe to have a sweetness, without any or too much fruit. If you are adding the optional raisins to this recipe, you may not need any stevia, but if you aren’t including any fruit, adding just 3- 5 drops of liquid stevia may be all you need. Taste it as you add the drops.
If you have cancer, controlling your blood sugar levels may be one of the best things you can do for yourself, so switching to stevia may really help by giving you some sweetness without the blood sugar spikes.
If you really don’t want to use stevia, you can substitute it in this recipe for 1-2 tablespoon of Grade B maple syrup (Grade B as opposed to grade A as B contains a higher mineral content).
Cinnamon is added as again, this is something that helps control blood sugar levels. Like fiber, cinnamon seems to slow the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar levels after eating. In a study of type 2 diabetics, adding 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon daily to the diet reduced blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol. I like to add a little cinnamon to most sweet recipes I make.
I came across rosehip powder a few years ago and add it occasionally to different recipes for its vitamin C content. It also acts to lift the taste, giving some freshness and sharpness – a bit like lemons. Most places sell it in large quantities so I bought some and shared it amongst some friends. I keep it in the fridge and am still using the same batch that tastes great. Here is the rosehip powder that I bought – so why not share the recipe with others and give them some of your powder! While you can use cocoa powder instead or other things like hemp seeds, the rosehip really makes the recipe, so I encourage you to give it a try.