I’m a big believer in having fun with food, but most people take their diet much too seriously. They follow strict and arbitrary diet rules. They calculate nutrients. They anguish over finding the perfect diet. “Is it paleo? Or is it gluten-free? Or maybe I should just cut carbs. I did lose 15 lbs on South Beach, nevermind that I gained back 20.” Even those who’ve got eating healthy all figured out are stressing about having the time to cook! With all that pressure, it’s easy to loose the fun in cooking (and eating!).
If the only use for chia seeds you’re aware of is their ability to make a ceramic pig grow “hair,” then you might be wondering why someone would want to eat it. Chia seeds are a staple food in many South American diets and have been for centuries. Recent research has shown chia seeds are a nutrition powerhouse, which has fueled their recent popularity.
Omega 3 fats
Just two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 5 grams of omega 3 fats, the same amount as an equal serving of flaxseed. Chia seeds are more digestible than flaxseed, so the omega 3 may be more bioavailable.
Chia is incredibly high in fiber, in fact one ounce contains 10 grams. About 25% is soluble fiber, the type that lowers cholesterol and slows digestion, while the rest is insoluble, the type that keeps you regular.
Chia seeds are a good source of bone building nutrients including phosphorus, manganese and calcium. Two tablespoons contain 18% recommended daily intake of calcium and about 30% your daily needs of phosphorus and manganese.
Because of these compounds, researchers are looking at chia’s ability to prevent and treat chronic disease. They hypothesize that because soluble fiber slows gastric emptying into the small intestine, chia will help promote weight loss and help regulate blood glucose. Rat studies have shown benefit, but the limited human studies have had scattered results, possibly because chia was given as a supplement, rather than as a food.
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 1 banana, chopped
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 pinches cinnamon
- Mix and match toppings:
- wheat germ
- chopped unsweetened dried fruit
- pure maple syrup
- unsweetened shredded coconut
- crystallized ginger
- dark cocoa powder
- Mash the banana in a medium bowl. Mix in the chia seeds and milk, then the cinnamon and vanilla extract. Place in the refrigerator overnight to thicken.
- In the morning, top with your choice of toppings. My favorites: all-fruit strawberry jam and almonds and shredded coconut with crystallized ginger.