Two versions of cardamom & tahini truffles

Cardamom is a spice with an intense, slightly sweet flavor, originated in India and used in both sweet and savory recipes for example in curry, coffee, cakes, and bread (1). There are two different types: black cardamom and green cardamom. They both have their unique taste and smell; the green cardamom has a sweeter taste while the black cardamom is said to be much cooler in its flavour, sort of like mint.
Cardamom is thought to have impressive medicinal properties and has been used locally in India and some other Asian countries to treat depression, some heart disorders, and diarrhea. It has also been used to counter vomiting and nausea (1) and has been traditionally used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine and the Unani system of medicine to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Not all of these diseases or disorders have been studied thoroughly but there are definitely some studies have looked at beneficial effects of cardamom.
One study looked at newly diagnosed individuals with high blood pressure (hence, primary hypertension), and showed that cardamom powder given orally as powder for 12 weeks effectively reduced blood pressure (2).
Another study reported that cardamom may be useful in reducing complications associated with inflammation and oxidative stress (3) especially in people with prediabetes (where HbA1c would be between 6.0 – 6.4 %) (4). And another seems to show a promise between cardamom intake and preventing skin cancer (5). You can find some more information on health benefits of cardamom right here.
Another recent and interesting animal study even showed that a mother’s exposure to cardamom during the whole pregnancy and until 15 days after birth, received through the placenta and/or from the mother’s milk, led to enhanced learning and memory retention in their pups as compared to control (6).
Cardamoms, according to USDA have minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and manganese. It also has, in smaller amounts, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. Furthermore, they have relatively high amounts of fiber, which could partly explain, alongside the methanolic extract from cardamom, why it seems to be helpful in controlling gastrointestinal discomforts such as acidity, flatulence, and stomach cramps (7).
Tahini is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds. Sesame seeds – and tahini – are common ingredients in cuisines across the world and they have a rich, nutty flavor. And since tahini is made from sesame seeds means that tahini can provide some of the benefits of lignans found in sesame seeds, named sesamin and sesamol. On fact, sesame seeds are one of the two best known dietary sources of lignans (the other one being flax seeds) (8). Lignans, are fiber-associated compounds found in many plant families and common foods, including grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and drinks such as tea, coffee or wine and they do seem to have some therapeutic potential (9).
A couple of interesting studies have shown that sesamin may get converted by your gut bacteria into another type of lignan, mammalian lignan, called enterolactone (10, 11). Enterolactone has been shown to  interfere with estrogen metabolism in animals and humans. Sesamin may thus play a part in protecting against certain types of cancer, particularly the hormone-sensitive cancers such as those of the breast, endometrium, and prostate, by interfering with the metabolism of sex hormones (12, 13).
Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can worsen symptoms of many disorders, including arthritis and other autoimmune diseases (14, 15, 16). One recent study found that after eating about 40 grams of sesame seed powder per day for 28 days, semi-professional athletes had significantly reduced muscle damage and oxidative stress, as well as increased aerobic capacity (17).
Another study showed that people with knee osteoarthritis had significantly fewer inflammatory chemicals in their blood as well as improved cholesterol levels after eating about 40 grams of sesame seed powder every day for two months (17, 18).
Thus, a lot of positive effects of sesame seeds (and tahini) has been shown. Sesame seeds, according to USDA also have a lot of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium as well as folic acid. It also has in smaller amounts iron and zinc as well as B-3 (niacin),  B-1 (thiamin), B-2 (riboflavin), B-6, vitamin A and vitamin E. Furthermore, they are a good source of dietary fiber and have a very low glycemic index (GI).

Cardamom & tahini truffles w/ oats and chickpeas
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: About 30
Ingredients
  • 1 can of chickpeas (400 g)*
  • 140 g (1 cup) soft dates**
  • 100g (3/4 cup) oat flour (plain oats blended into a flour in the food processor)
  • 3-4 tbsp (about 30 g) cocoa
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) tahini (or you can also use any nut butter)
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch of salt, optional
  • Topping and coating:
  • 100 g dark chocolate (70-86%), optional
  • OR cacao powder, optional
  • Sesame seeds to decorate
Instructions
  1. Add the chickpeas, dates and tahini to your blender and blend until you have a smooth mixture.
  2. Add the oat flour, cacao, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Continue blending until everything is well mixed.
  3. When everything is combined, start shaping into (approx. 20) balls.
  4. If you are coating with cacao; put few tablespoons of cacao in a bowl and roll 2-3 balls at a time to coat.
  5. If you are coating with dark chocolate; place the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan filled with few centimeters up with water. Bring the water to a simmer and leave simmering until the chocolate melts in the bowl. Put each ball in the melted chocolate until fully coated. It is good to use a fork to take them out, and then transfer them to a baking rack or a cutting board with baking paper, sprinkle with sesame seeds and allow the chocolate to harden.
Notes
* or 240 g cooked chickpeas.
** if you're using hard dates, soak them in hot water for 15 minutes to soften then drain and rinse before adding to the blender.

Can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks and in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: estimated per truffle - Calories: 59 | Fat: 2 g | Trans fat: 0 g | Carbohydrates: 8 g | Fiber: 2 g | Protein: 2 g |

Salted caramel cardamom & tahini truffles
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Just a heads up! The magic here is to leave the dates in the food processor until it looks like soft and sticky caramel and the mixture turns little lighter in color.
Serves: About 16
Ingredients
  • 330 g of soft (Medjool) dates*
  • 85 g (about 3-4 tbsp) tahini (or any nut butter)
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp salt, optional
  • 3 tbsp (or more if the dough is too sticky) oat flour (plain oats blended into a flour in the food processor)
  • Topping and coating:
  • 100 g dark chocolate (70-86%), optional
  • OR cacao powder, optional
  • Sesame seeds to decorate
Instructions
  1. In a food processor or high power blender, puree the dates until sticky and smooth and turn a little lighter in color.
  2. Then add the tahini and salt, and puree again until combined.
  3. Lastly, add the oat flour and combine everything well for few seconds.
  4. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes (or in the fridge for 20 minutes) and afterwards start shaping the dough into (approx. 16) balls.
  5. If you are coating with cacao; put few tablespoons of cacao in a bowl and roll 2-3 balls at a time to coat.
  6. If you are coating with dark chocolate; place the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan filled with few centimeters up with water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow to simmer until the chocolate melts in the bowl. Put each ball in the melted chocolate until fully coated. It is good to use a fork to take them out, and then transfer them to a baking rack or a cutting board with baking paper, sprinkle with sesame seeds and allow the chocolate to harden.
Notes
* if you're using hard dates, soak them in hot water for 15 minutes to soften then drain and rinse before adding to the blender.

Can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks and in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: estimated per truffle - Calories: 107 | Fat: 3 g | Trans fat: 0 g | Carbohydrates: 19 g | Fiber: 2 g | Protein: 2 g |

References:
  1. Sengottuvelu, S. 2011. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum Linn. Maton) Seeds in Health. Nuts and Seeds in Health and Disease Prevention,, 285-291.
  2. Verma S. K., Jain V., Katewa S. S., 2009. Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettara cardamomum). Indian J Biochem Biophys, 503-6.
  3. Kandikattu H. K. et al. 2017. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects of Cardamom (Elettaria repens (Sonn.) Baill) and its phytochemical analysis by 4D GCXGC TOF-MS. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 191-201.
  4. Kazemi S. et al. 2017. Cardamom supplementation improves inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in hyperlipidemic, overweight, and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. J Sci Food Agric, 5296-5301.
  5. Das I. et al. 2012. Antioxidative effects of the spice cardamom against non-melanoma skin cancer by modulating nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 and NF-κB signalling pathways. Br J Nutr., 08(6): 984-97.
  6. Abu-Taweel G. M. 2018. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) perinatal exposure effects on the development, behavior and biochemical parameters in mice offspring. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, 25(1): 186-193.
  7. Al-Zuhairb A., El-Sayeh B., Ameen H. A., Al-Shoora H. 1996. Pharmacological studies of cardamom oil in animals. Pharmacological Research, 34(1-2): 79-82.
  8. Exemine.com. Summary of Sesamin. 2018. Sesamin. https://examine.com/supplements/sesamin/ (Accessed 2019-16-02).
  9. Yoder S, C. et al. 2015. Chapter 7 – Gut Microbial Metabolism of Plant Lignans: Influence on Human Health. Diet-Microbe Interactions in the Gut. Effects on Human Health and Disease, 103-117.
  10. Coulman K. D. et al. 2005. Whole sesame seed is as rich a source of mammalian lignan precursors as whole flaxseed. Nutr Cancer, 52(2):156-65.
  11. Peñalvo J. L. et al. 2005. Dietary sesamin is converted to enterolactone in humans. J Nutr., 135(5):1056-62.
  12. Morris H., Vasey-Genser M. 2003. Flaxseed. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), 2003, 2525-2531.
  13. Wcislo G.,  Szarlej-Wcislo K. 2014. Chapter 8 – Colorectal Cancer Prevention by Wheat Consumption: A Three-Valued Logic – True, False, or Otherwise? Wheat and Rice in Disease Prevention and Health. Benefits, risks and mechanisms of whole grains in health promotion. 91-111.
  14. Di Dalmazi, G., Hirshberg, J., Lyle, D., Freij, J. B., & Caturegli, P. 2016. Reactive oxygen species in organ-specific autoimmunity. Auto- immunity highlights, 7(1), 11.
  15. Ahsan, H., Ali, A., & Ali, R. 2003. Oxygen free radicals and systemic autoimmunity. Clinical and experimental immunology, 131(3), 398-404.
  16. Keinhöfer D., Boeltz S., Hoffmann M. H. 2016. Reactive oxygen homeostasis – the balance for preventing autoimmunity. Lupus, 25(8): 943-54.
  17. Barbosa C. V., et al. 2017. Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. Front Physiol., 31(8), 196.
  18. Khadem Haghighian M., et al. 2015. Effects of sesame seed supplementation on inflammatory factors and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Acta Med Iran, 53(4): 207-13.
  19. Khadem Haghighian, M., Alipoor, B., Eftekhar Sadat, B., Malek Mahdavi, A., Moghaddam, A., & Vatankhah, A. M. 2014. Effects of sesame seed supplementation on lipid profile and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Health promotion perspectives, 4(1), 90-7.

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