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So what puts the energy in a gluten free, vegan snack ball?

Power balls, energy balls, bliss balls.  Anyone else confused? We caught up with Kitchen & Soul to get to the bottom of this healthy snack trend once and for all!

Nadra Shah is the founder of Kitchen & Soul which aims to support mental wellbeing through nourishing food. Her SoulBalls; natural energy balls blended with Ayurvedic spices are available to buy online and a select number of independent retailers in Buckinghamshire, Oxford and Bath. These little guys make the perfect gluten free and vegan snacks!

She is a graduate from the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, and is a registered Nutritional Advisor with the Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA) / @kitchensoulfood

Holly Miles is a registered nutritional therapist and health coach. She holds an MSc in Personalised Nutrition from Middlesex University and has a Nutritional Therapy Practice Diploma from the Centre of Nutrition Education and Lifestyle Management (CNELM).  She is also a member of the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

Okay, so let’s break it down and go back to the basics.  What makes something an “energy” food?

Firstly, there needs to be a good balance of macronutrients – or proteins, carbohydrates (including fibre) and fats.  Carbohydrates are the body’s favourite source of energy, but a healthy energy food such as our Kitchen & Soul Soul Balls, will also contain protein and fibre as these can slow the rate by which the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.  This reduces the risk of elevated blood sugar and the subsequent energy rollercoaster which can contribute to dips in energy and turn us from fun loving human beings to hangry monster beings.

However, there is a lot more to energy than macronutrients; you also need a whole host of micronutrients which include vitamins and the all-important but lesser known not so widely spoken about minerals. Say what?

I work alongside the very knowledgeable Nutritional Therapist and out and out guru Holly Miles and I consulted her on the micronutrients and their benefits. She had this to say on the subject.

“Micronutrients are substances which are required in very small amounts in the diet but are vital for life, including vitamins which are organic compounds and minerals which are inorganic elements which originate from the earth’s soil. Some minerals are needed in larger amounts than others, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and potassium, whereas others such as iron, zinc, selenium, manganese and copper are only needed in very tiny amounts and are therefore often referred to as trace minerals. They may be small, but they are still vital!”

Kitchen & Soul SoulBalls are a rich source of two trace minerals which play a key role in energy production; copper and manganese.

“Copper serves as a catalyst for many enzymes in the body and is involved in a whole host of processes, including connective tissue development, the formation of red blood cells and the metabolism of cholesterol and glucose.  The last point is particularly important for energy production. So what does that actually mean? Inside every cell in our body are tiny organelles called mitochondria.  These are responsible for turning the glucose in our food into a something called Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short.  ATP is the fuel that powers all the energy requiring processes in our body – so practically everything!  More specifically, copper is an important component in the last enzyme in the electron transport chain, a vital final stage in the production of ATP”

Mind bogglingly complex stuff if you look at the details but suffice to say copper definitely has a place in a healthy snack energy ball.

But there is more! 

“Like copper, manganese is involved in many processes in the body, including bone formation and energy metabolism, as well as being a constituent of an antioxidant enzyme which helps prevent free radical damage to cells.  In terms of energy production manganese is a vital cofactor in the Krebs cycle, an important step in the conversion of glucose into ATP (the stuff that gives energy)”

So there you go.  An energy ball cannot be called an energy ball unless it has all these very carefully constructed nutrients contained inside.

All this talk of energy got me thinking, how can you get these micronutrients into your diet and into a nourishing meal and not just a ball shaped healthy snack?

My go-to all time favourite dish is Dhal.  I grew up on it.  I believe it has all the components of a nutrient loaded meal.  You can also use a gorgeous mix of spices, something as a student of Ayurveda I feel passionately about.

May we present the Spinach & Moringa Dhal – a really simple and delicious recipe that is rich in manganese and other energy yielding nutrients.

As the title suggests this dish contains Moringa.  Moringa is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, and is now widely cultivated in the tropics as it is both cheap to grow and really versatile.  The leaves can be prepared like spinach however in the West it is most commonly sold dried and powdered

Moringa is a great source of protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids, iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin E.  It is also a source of magnesium which is another nutrient which is key for energy production.

Another key ingredient of our Dahl is lentils.  Lentils are a great source of plant protein, with one cup of cooked red split lentils providing 15gProtein is not only vital for growth and repair, but also the production of neurotransmitters which play a key role in mood.

Mental wellbeing is at the heart of Kitchen & Soul and our aim to create delicious interesting food that support you to feel balanced and mentally nourished.

“Lentils are also a great source of fibre which is really important for gut health as well as helping you feel fuller for longer after a meal, plus they are a source of the copper, magnesium and iron, all of which are really important for energy production”

Lastly, Spinach is also a source of fibre, as well as magnesium, vitamin C and a range of B vitamins including the all-important folic acid which among other things is needed for the production of neurotransmitters.  Folic acid is definitely a really good reason to eat your greens!