Until a few years ago, few Americans thought anything about chia seeds until the holiday season rolled around—and the famous “ch-ch- ch-chia” commercials began appearing on TV screens everywhere, featuring ever-wackier gag gifts to give to unsuspecting friends and family members. (Who doesn’t love a clay “Garfield” head with green sprouts coming out of it, right?)
But 30 years ago, researcher Dr. Wayne Coates was experimenting with an alternative food crop to grow in Argentina. The chia plant (Salvia Hispanica) is related to mint, and has been known in South America for centuries for its nutritional benefits. In fact, “chia” is said to be Mayan for “strength”.
Coates has since become a well-known advocate for the tiny black seeds, and in the last few years, adding chia seeds to everything from smoothies to pumpkin pie has taken off with health-food experts. Chia seeds are now officially on the list of superfoods, and here’s why: the seeds are a concentrated food containing omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium.
In fact, chia seeds (which are gluten-free) are packed with all sorts of powerful health benefits, including:
This is in addition to chia seeds’ antioxidants. As a quick refresher: “Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods that can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as ‘free radical scavengers’ and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals. Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer are all contributed by oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense and therefore lower the risk of cancer and infection.” (healthcastle.com) In other words, antioxidants are good.
OK, so chia seeds clearly should be a part of the health-conscious person’s diet. And one of the easiest—and tastiest—ways to incorporate them is at breakfast. The chia seed breakfast bowl is the power breakfast du jour, and all it takes is a couple of minutes of preparation the night before.
Here are several easy recipes culled from sites around the Web:
Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding
From VegKitchen.com via Christine Cavanaugh of Begin With Nutrition
“This breakfast bowl featuring chia seeds is just as easy to make as pouring a bowl of cereal, more nutritious and tastes even better! It takes two minutes to mix all the ingredients together, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight. Wake up and breakfast is ready. You can also portion out into smaller containers for a great grab and go breakfast on the run.
Packed with nutrition, each serving contains 4564 mgs Omega 3 fatty acids; and 1504 mgs Omega 6. You also get 10 grams of fiber; 12 percent [of the recommended] daily value of calcium from the chia seeds alone, and 10 to 15 grams of protein, depending on the type of milk you use. Talk about a power breakfast—and you get even more benefits by adding fresh fruit.”
• ¼ cup whole chia seeds
• 2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk of your choice
• 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Fresh fruit of your choice (mangos, bananas, berries, kiwi, pineapple, etc.)
• Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), optional
• Cinnamon and extra maple syrup, optional
Combine the chia seeds, nondairy milk, syrup, and vanilla extract in a bowl and stir together.
Let stand for about a half hour, then whisk together to prevent the seeds from clumping. Transfer to an air-tight container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, divide between two bowls, and serve with toppings of your choice.
Coconut-Chia Seed Pudding Breakfast Bowl
2/3 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 medium kiwi, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons raspberries
1 tablespoon roasted almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
Stir together the coconut milk, chia seeds and maple syrup in a cereal bowl. Refrigerate overnight, covered, to allow the seeds to plump and the mixture to thicken into a loose pudding.
Uncover the pudding, and arrange the pineapples, kiwis, raspberries, almonds and coconut flakes in neat piles on top of the pudding. Then take a photo!
Per serving (1 bowl): Calories: 400; Fat: 25 g (Saturated: 13 g); Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 35 mg; Carbohydrate: 41 g; Fiber: 12 g; Protein: 6 g; Sugar: 20 g
Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl
“I like mashed banana in this because it thickens the mixture while adding a lot of volume. If you aren’t a banana fan, you can omit it, but you might need to reduce the milk and I also suggest adding in your own sweetener and/or other fruit in its place. This porridge is especially creamy when made with Homemade Almond Milk. The thickness of the chia pudding will vary based on the kind of almond milk you use, so you can add more if necessary. If your pudding is too thin for you liking you can add more chia seeds and let it sit for 10 more minutes. Finally, if you aren’t a fan of the tapioca-like texture of chia seed pudding, try blending it until smooth.”
• 4 tbsp chia seeds
• 1 – 1.25 cups almond milk (it’s great made with Homemade Almond Milk)
• 2 small bananas, chopped small
• 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• two pinches of cinnamon
• 2 tbsp raw buckwheat groats, soaked
• 2 tbsp raisins, soaked
• 2 tbsp whole raw almonds, chopped and soaked
• couple pinches of cinnamon
• 2 tbsp hemp seeds
1. Mash bananas in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in chia seeds. Whisk in the almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon until combined. Place in fridge overnight to thicken.
2. Add buckwheat groats, raisins, and chopped almonds into another bowl. Cover in water and soak overnight in the fridge or on the counter.
3. In the morning, place your desired amount of chia pudding into a bowl. (Note: at this point, you can blend your chia pudding if a smooth texture is desired, but I don’t bother).
You can add more almond milk if you want to thin it out in the morning. Or, if it’s too thin, add more chia seeds to thicken it up. Drain and rinse the buckwheat/almond/raisin mixture.
Sprinkle on top of chia mixture along with a pinch of cinnamon and a tablespoon of hemp seeds. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.
Store leftovers in the fridge for 1-2 days.
Yield: 2 servings
Cheers for Chia
Admittedly, preparing your breakfast ahead takes a little more of your evening free time—but remember, these recipes make enough for two breakfasts. And the energy burst you’ll get from a nutritious, low-fat, high-fiber meal first thing in the morning will keep you going even during a long, tough day. You might even be inspired to sing along with those holiday commercials…which will be starting any day now.