These Chocolate ‘Brain Truffles’ Improve Mood and Cognitive Function

Photo: Stocksy/Alberto Bogo
As a psychiatrist who specializes in using food for brain health, Drew Ramsey, MD, is often asked what to eat to improve both mood and cognitive function. He has a long list of go-tos—which he's written books about—but one of his favorites is a major crowd-pleaser: chocolate.

Before you buy up all the Kit-Kat bars, you should know that Dr. Ramsey isn't just talking about any type of chocolate. He's talking about dark chocolate—the darker the better. "Dark chocolate is amazing for brain health," Dr. Ramsey says. "There are some scientific studies showing that eating dark chocolate increases oxygen to the brain in the frontal lobes [which is linked to memory and cognitive skills]," he says. While the connection between chocolate and brain function may come as a happy surprise, Dr. Ramsey also points something else out about chocolate you probably already know: It makes us happy.

Plus, as luck would have it, dark chocolate pairs well with other brain-boosting foods, which is exactly how Dr. Ramsey came up with a chocolate "brain truffle" recipe, included in his new book, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety ($23). For it, the semi-sweet stuff is combined with rolled oats, cashew butter, Medjool dates, chia seeds, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, and vanilla extract. (Umm, yum.)

Experts In This Article
  • Drew Ramsey, MD, psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University

The nut butter, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are all high in healthy fats, critical for brain health and neurogenesis (the process by which new brain cells are grown). Meanwhile, the rolled oats are a good source of fiber, which is beneficial for the gut—and gut health is directly linked to brain health. The dates are also provide fiber and sweeten the truffles without using table sugar.

With the nutrient balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, these truffles aren't just a brain-healthy dessert, they can actually serve as a quick breakfast or snack, too. Check out the recipe below so you can make them yourself.

Chocolate "Brain Truffles"

Yields 12 servings (2 truffles per)

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/8 tsp kosher salt
12 oz. (about 20) Medjool dates, pitted
3/4 cup cashew butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup cacao nibs

1. Combine the oats, coconut, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add the dates, cashew butter, and vanilla extract, and process until the mixture starts to clump into a ball.

2. Add the chocolate chunks and cacao nibs, and pulse 15 to 20 times to chop up the chocolate and incorporate it into the dough.

3. Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls.

4. Place the dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, about one hour. Transfer to a storage container and keep in the refrigerator.

5. Let the truffles sit at room temperature for a couple minutes before enjoying.

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