Cereal bars have long been punted as the perfect snack, because of their low fat and high fibre content. In reality, we know that when fat is removed, sugar is added and normally in the form of poisonous high fructose corn syrup.These bars are normally made from overly refined cereals, leaving one wondering where the supposed fibre is coming from. Ditch these for this power bar made from dates and chia seeds - use them as snacks for your kids lunchbox, or for a pick-me-up before your afternoon workout.

I got this recipe form the Wellness Mama website, and hope to use them myself as a on-the-run snack for marathons. If you are following a low carb diet, you need to be aware that the carb content of these bars is quite high - approximately 30 g per bar if you split the end result into 3 pieces. However, if you are doing an endurance event such as a marathon, these could be a better alternative to a typical sports bar, which can often cause blood sugar lows, leaving the athlete feeling drained. These date bars contain coconut oil, a medium-chain fat which gets used up immediately for energy, making them the perfect endurance sports food.

There is much speculation over the benefits or non-benefits of chia seeds. On paper, these little seeds look great. They are high in antioxidants, fibre, omega 3 fats, protein and many vitamins and minerals. Their downfall, according to some, is that they are high in the essential fatty acid ALA, which the human body struggles to convert to EPA and DHA, the 2 forms of omega 3 that it can readily use. Because of this, it is in fact not such great source of omega 3.
Another supposed pitfall of chia seeds is that they contain a high amount of phytates, which block the full absorption of the minerals in the seeds, especially calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper.
According to Dr Loren Cordain, a paleo guru, extensive and long term use of chia seeds can cause chronic systemic inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and food allergies.

One can get around the phytate issue by soaking their chia seeds, which lowers the phytate level. Unfortunately, for this recipe soaking them causes the seeds to gives the wrong consistency. In addition,once soaked, they go off very quickly and so have to be eaten fast.

At the end of the day, I feel that if you are eating a varied diet and getting enough good sources of omega 3 in your diet (and not solely relying on chia seeds), having some chia seeds now and again can't hurt. They are packed with various nutrients and other good stuff, of which your body will be able to absorb some, and how is that a bad thing?

Now for the recipe:

You will need:

6 large Medjool dates (regular dates can also be used. Not a date fan? Try dried apricots, figs or raisins)
1/2 a cup of chia seeds
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla essence or a pinch of cinnamon
Optional extras: throw in some dark chocolate chips, shredded coconut or even some chopped nuts

Directions:

1. Remove the pits from the dates and pulse in a food processor until the dates form a paste.
2. Mix the date paste with the coconut oil and chia seeds. It should be a thick dough consistency now.
3. Stir in all your other ingredients.
4. The mixture can be eaten in this dough form, if desired - otherwise roll into balls or press into a dish and place in the fridge/freezer. This will give it more of a chewy consistency.
5. Once cold, cut into bars and wrap in parchment paper or clingwrap.