Chocolate and Peanut Butter: The Best of Both Worlds
When this time of year rolls around, I get nostalgic for my childhood. The Easter egg hunts, dying the easter Eggs, the cute little Easter dresses, the chocolate rabbits, the jelly beans…. oh and those peanut butter loaded Reese’s eggs!
Controversies around peanut butter aside, I will never not love that divine combination of chocolate and peanut butter. If we disregard possible threats of toxin contamination (which may be overblown), peanuts (and the creamy butter they make) contain a lot of nutritional benefits.
With that in mind, I decided I might as well go try and create a healthified version of those classic Reese’s peanut butter eggs. These no-bake bites are super easy to make, sugar-free, and pretty darn delicious!
The Peanut Controversy
Before we dive in to the recipe, I do just want to share a bit more about the peanut controversy – as well as those potential health benefits.
First: The Good
Peanuts are high in protein and unsaturated fats, which keep you full. They are a great source of energy and because they keep you full and fueled with lots of nutrients, they can help with weight loss purposes. They also contain a lot of iron, as well as high amounts of magnesium (a nutrient which many of us have deficiency), potassium, calcium and zinc.
The unsaturated fats in peanuts improve insulin sensitivity, so they can also help prevent type II Diabetes. Peanuts are also high in fiber, vitamins A, C and E, antioxidants like folate and resveratrol which help fight diseases, including cancer. They also contain a phytosterol, a compound that research has linked to cancer fighting properties.
That all sounds awesome, but we know there are some major concerns with peanuts. First – peanut allergies. We all know that peanuts are one of the biggest allergens around; allergies to peanuts and tree nuts impact over three million Americans. And they cause some of the most serious food allergy reactions. Furthermore, for reasons that are unclear, peanut allergies are on the rise: between 1997 and 2008 the rate of peanut allergies has tripled.
Beyond allergies, peanuts are often contaminated with aflatoxin, a known carcinogen. That definitely sounds super scary. But I did a little digging and it turns out that aflatoxin levels in US peanuts and peanut butter are super low due to regulation (it’s virtually impossible to have absolutely zero) and way below levels that would be cause for concern. Peanuts are also not the only crop contaminated with aflatoxin – you’ll have to avoid pecans, pistachios, walnuts, milk, grains, soybeans, and spices in order to completely ‘eliminate’ your exposure.
Perhaps this is totally feasible for you (I already avoid milk, grains, and soybeans myself for other reasons). But there are so many toxins in our world, we will drive ourselves completely insane if we focus on eliminately all potential exposure. We will wind up in literal bubbles.
Certainly, long term exposure to low levels of toxins may be cause for concern as well, however if you follow the rules of moderation again we shouldn’t be overly concerned. Furthermore, there are natural antidotes to exposure to these toxins. Research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that chlorophyll – found in green vegetables like spinach – may inhibit aflatoxin’s carcinogenic effects. Phytochemicals like those in celery, carrots, parsnips and similar vegetables may also have aflatoxin-protective effects as well, as reported in a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.
The bigger issue with peanuts is really the PUFAs, the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, and the lectins. This is where peanuts give me a real pause. The Omega ratio is way off what is considered to be healthy, and this skewed ratio (too many Omega 6s) contributes to systemic inflammation, which is linked to myriad disease and health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, allergies, depression, and weight gain.
Ok. Together, that all might sound a bit scary. But the thing is, peanuts are not the only crop exposed to aflatoxins. They are not the only food that contain lectins. They are not the only food that can cause inflammation. And with all that said, they do contain all those health benefits. The fact is, if we eliminate all the foods that may potentially contain some health risk, basically we will be left with spinach and avocados. Oh but wait – ya still gotta make sure they’re organic!
In this world of increasingly complex and contradictory information, half the battle is actually not going completely crazy about the food we eat and just listening to our bodies. Feed your body a nutritionally balanced diet, stick with clean sources when it’s under your control, and you’ll likely be fine.
As for peanut consumption, the age old notions of balance and ‘everything in moderation’ hold true. Personally, I’m going to continue to eat peanut butter on occasion and just try to get the purest brand. Beyond that, I’m not going to worry too much.
To ensure maximum health benefits and purity, go for organic brands with no added ingredients, except for maybe a little bit of sea salt. Many brands – even organic – add palm oil or other hydrogenated oils, so we definitely need to check those labels!
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Bites
And here’s a reward for your patience: dark chocolate covered peanut butter ‘egg’ bites!
If you have digestive sensitivities or autoimmune concerns (or, obviously, a peanut allergy!) you can replace the peanut butter with any other nut or seed butter of your choice. Almond butter works well, but sunflower seed butter or a mixed-nut butter would be my go-to substitute.
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Bites
Like Reese's Eggs but better – and healthier! This simple no-bake paleo, vegan, and keto-friendly recipe is sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and oh so tasty!
- 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter option to use smooth almond butter or sunflower seed butter
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 tsp monk fruit can use 1 tbsp maple syrup (or Lakanto) instead
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 + 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup dark chocolate I mixed 100% chocolate with 85% sweetened with coconut sugar. Lily's works for a completely sugar-free version, though bear in mind it has sugar alcohols!
- 1/2 tbsp refined coconut oil refined coconut oil has less of a coconut flavor, you can use unrefined if you don't mind that!
In a medium bowl, mix the peanut butter, coconut flour, monk fruit, cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla until thoroughly combined.
Scoop out spoon sized amounts and roll into balls about 1 inch wide, and place on a parchment or wax lined cookie sheet. Press down on the balls slightly so the top is flat; option to make an egg shape!
Freeze the peanut butter bites for about an hour.
When the hour is almost up, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and mix in the coconut oil and other 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes (it should still be melted – don't allow it to set).
Take the peanut butter bites out of the freezer and using a fork dip them into the melted chocolate until they are thoroughly coated and transfer them back to the cookie sheet.
Place them back in the freezer for about an hour to set the chocolate fully.
Makes about a dozen!
For more peanut butter and chocolate deliciousness, check out these paleo peanut butter brownie bites!