Truly healthy snacks can be hard to come by, but these cookies really fit the bill. I started making them for my household a few months ago; they have been disappearing as quickly as I can turn them out, and no one feels guilty about it! These gluten-free cookies have a host of health benefits, but why are they the perfect pick-me-up for busy brains? Let’s take a look at the ingredients to find out.
Tahini is a paste made from crushed sesame seeds, and it is a classic “rejuvenating” food. Tahini’s high levels of essential fatty acids and amino acids help boost brain function while protecting the body against premature aging and environmental toxins. The fatty acids contained in tahini also help improve mood and memory. Few foods pack the nutritional punch that tahini does, providing high quality protein that is easily digestible by an over-stressed digestive system (pre-test jitters, for example). Tahini is also full of calcium, lecithin, and a host of B vitamins that all work to support our immune system, nervous system, and basic metabolic functions. In Ayurveda, tahini is one of the prime “vata pacifying” foods, which means that it is nourishing, grounding, moisturizing, and helpful for both physical and mental endurance.
Pumpkin seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and they provide a healthy boost of energy for the body during times of stress. Pumpkin seeds are best known for being cardiovascular and prostate protectors, but they also help fight depression! Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan, which is known to help alleviate the symptoms of depression and help with sleep problems. Glutamate, another amino acid within pumpkin seeds, creates anti-stress chemicals in the brain, helping to reduce nervousness and anxiety. Like tahini, pumpkin seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely nourishing to the brain and nervous system and help to improve memory and mood. Pumpkin seeds’ high levels of zinc also work to support immune function and alleviate learning problems and poor performance in school.
Sunflower seeds are much like pumpkin seeds in their brain-boosting benefits, and they are even more effective than pumpkin seeds at fighting depression. Their generous quantities of dietary Vitamin E have been proven to help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s and help support healthy brain and nervous system functions. Studies have shown that sunflower seeds, like pumpkin seeds, can increase the body’s production of serotonin; this has a calming, uplifting, anti-anxiety effect on the brain and body, helping to decrease tension and increase focus. Both sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are nourishing and supportive of the nervous system in general. And of course, sunflower seeds are also packed with essential, energy-packed vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Back-to-school season can be very taxing on the immune system. Oats help boost immune function in addition to having a high fiber content, antioxidants, and cholesterol-reducing properties. Oats help prevent bacterial infections, and they help us heal faster from pathogenic infections. Oats also stabilize our blood sugar, helping keep our energy levels steady throughout the day to increase focus and concentration. Overall, oats are supportive and soothing to the body’s natural processes, and the protein and nutrients they provide can help maintain energy during stressful times.
Note: To make these cookies truly Gluten Free, make sure to look for certified gluten free oats.
The scientific jury is still out regarding the official differences between refined sugars, fruit sugars, and honey. Personally, I don’t experience the inflammation from eating honey and fruit that I do from eating refined sugar– no sugar crash, either. So I consider these cookies to be sweet but “sugar free”. Any honey will work in this recipe. Raw honey is delicious, has the most health benefits, and has long been revered as a classic “brain food”. Raw honey produces liver glycogen, which is literally our brain’s energy reserve, while helping to control the levels of glucose in the bloodstream; this is why raw honey is the recommended sugar source for diabetics. In addition to this, honey also helps release the hormone melatonin, which helps enhance immunity and promote deep, restorative sleep. And of course, like all of our other ingredients, raw honey is rich in zinc, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins that all help promote mood, memory and brain function.
Cinnamon is getting a lot of attention these days as a blood sugar stabilizer and an ally against Type-2 diabetes. Stable blood sugar levels make for improved energy, concentration, and focus. Cinnamon has been shown to help improve nervous system and motor function in those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In this recipe, cinnamon also adds flavor and helps with digestion. Cinnamon is also a friend to the immune and nervous systems, as its volatile oils are unfriendly to pathogens and help to clear excess mucous from the body.
Now for the fun part…
1 cup tahini
1/2 cup honey
1/2 heaping tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick-cook oats (the less oats, the chewier the cookie)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
Handful of sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix tahini, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
2. Roast seeds in a pan, stirring constantly so as not to burn them. This step is optional but delicious!
3. Pour seeds and oats into the large mixing bowl with the tahini mixture, and mix together. I use my hands and just scrunch it until everything is incorporated.
4. Place parchment paper onto cookie sheets.
5. Wet your hands and form the “dough” into cookie shapes. If you wet your hands every so often, the dough is less sticky and easier to work with. The water on your hands does not affect the cookies. The cookies should be in the range of 1-2 tablespoonfuls of dough.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on cookie size, or until edges are slightly brown. Let the cookies cool for a minute or so on the baking sheets before transferring them to cooling racks.
Note: This recipe is highly malleable. I’m thinking of trying it with dark chocolate chips. You could also add any variety of dried fruit such as dates, apricots, figs, etc. Orange extract might be good too. The possibilities are endless! Enjoy!
Nicole can be reached at email@example.com.