Of all the so-called superfoods, the tiny chia seed just may be the mightiest of them all, and is certainly one of the most versatile. Once most associated with gag gifts (yep, chia seeds are what sprouted “hair” all over that Chia Pet you got in fifth grade), these nutritional powerhouses are packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants and are a great source of fiber—in fact, just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds fulfills almost half of your daily fiber requirement. They have more calcium than milk, more antioxidants than blueberries, and more potassium than bananas, and pound for pound are quite rich in protein, although you’d have to eat quite a lot to satisfy your protein requirements—and remember, they are positively full of fiber. On the plus side, chia seeds don’t need to be ground, as flaxseeds do, in order for your body to access their nutrients; you can sprinkle whole chia seeds directly on salads or cereal, or stir them into stews and baking batters for a nutritional boost.
Turbo-charge your morning meal with chia seeds! (Photo: Amy Neusinger)
When mixed with liquid the coating on chia seeds dissolves and forms a gel, a reason they are often used as an egg replacement in baking recipes. Soaking makes the seeds less crunchy but also makes it easier for the nutrients to be absorbed into your system. Commercially bottled chia beverages have become very popular, but you can easily make your own for a lot less. (For a refreshing and throat-soothing hot or cold drink, try swapping out the flaxseeds in the Flaxseed Lemonade, issue 20, for an equal quantity of chia seeds.)
My favorite way to eat chia seeds, though, is in this easy overnight pudding. It’s almost like magic; as the mixture sits in the fridge the texture becomes smooth and creamy, no cooking required. It couldn’t be easier and it’s the perfect neutral canvas for a few berries, nuts, or some crunchy granola. Make a big batch on the weekend and know you’ll be starting off your day with the fuel you need to set a personal best all week long!
Chia Seed Pudding
This is a real treat: a no-cook creamy pudding that’s good for you. Once plumped in almond milk and creamy yogurt, chia seeds remind me of tapioca—only they are high in omega-3s and fiber. Chia seeds can be found in some grocery stores these days as well as in natural foods stores. The great part, too, is that you make this pudding the night before. Come morning, you just pull it out of the fridge and top it with some almonds and fruit, and breakfast is ready. (From Giada’s Feel Good Food)
- 1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup plain low-fat (2%) Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (preferably grade B), plus 4 tablespoons for serving
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and diced
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted (see Cook’s note)
Cook’s Note: To toast sliced almonds, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350°F oven until lightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely before using.