Working in the natural food industry, we see all kinds of food fads – some of them are perfectly legit and are eventually accepted into the mainstream, and some fade away for a host of different reasons. One fad that I hope will develop into mainstream diets are chia seeds, which are considered to be a ‘superfood’.
“Why a superfood”, you ask? Most of us know chia seeds only because of Chia Pets (which are a non-food grade version of the seed), but they pack a lot of punch in a really small package. Chia seeds have been traced as far back as the Aztecs, who valued them because of their high nutritional value. These teeny tiny seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants and also contain a respectable amount of protein, Omega 6 fatty acids, and calcium. They help you stay hydrated (they hold over 10 times their weight in water) and are a great snack if you need a little pick-me-up. Chia seeds are also great for diabetics because they help slow your body’s conversion of starch to sugar.
So….how do they taste? Pretty boring, which is a good thing. They have a slightly nutty flavor and are pretty bland, so they mix well into a variety of different foods – you can mix them into just about any cold liquid (try stirring a spoonful into water, milk, iced tea, juice, smoothies, etc.) and you can also incorporate them into your bowl of oatmeal or yogurt. The biggest complaint I hear about them is the gelatinous layer that forms around them when they have soaked in liquid – it can be a little strange if you haven’t tried them before. I personally like that quality about them – it definitely makes them more interesting!
A great use for them is chia pudding – you can make a “pudding” with the seeds simply by putting some in milk and letting them hydrate, but this recipe adds some additional healthy foods like raw cashews and Medjool dates and doesn’t contain any added sugar. It is appropriate as a snack, breakfast, or dessert and has the consistency of tapioca pudding (although it isn’t nutritionally deficient like tapioca pudding is). It’s also really easy to make, since you are basically just throwing everything in the blender – no cooking involved! This naturally gluten-free and vegan pudding was a huge hit with everyone who tried it (except for one small boy whose father was very disappointed because he liked the pudding so much!) and will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days – so make some all for you or to share with those you love!
Vanilla Chia Pudding
From Martha Stewart Living (there are some great recipes on her website that are gluten-free – just type “gluten-free” into the search box for related videos, articles and recipes)
- 1/2 c organic chia seeds
- 1 organic vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped—reserve seeds and pod
- 1 c (5 oz) organic raw cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours or overnight, at room temperature
- 4 c filtered water
- 7 organic Medjool dates, pitted
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 t ground cinnamon
- 2 T organic raw coconut butter, such as Artisana
- 4 t pure organic vanilla extract
- 2 c mixed berries—raspberries and blueberries are great
- 3/4 c organic maple syrup for drizzling
- Place chia seeds and vanilla pod in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Drain the cashews and rinse them well.
- Add cashews, water, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds to a blender.
- Gradually bring up to high-speed and blend for 2 minutes.
- Pour mixture into the bowl with the chia seeds and vanilla pod—whisk well.
- Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent the chia seeds from clumping. The pudding should thicken quickly (it won’t come to pudding consistency until it has been chilled in the next step).
- Refrigerate pudding until cold, about 3 hours.
- Remove from fridge and discard the vanilla pod.
- Whisk the pudding.
- Divide pudding among 8 bowls. Top each with berries, and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired.
You can find almost all the ingredients in our bulk department, including organic chia seeds. I served them with Remlinger Farms Berry Jubilee, grown in Carnation, WA and organic bulk maple syrup. The berries are in our frozen section year-round.
The pudding can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in a covered glass container.
Soaking the cashews first makes them more digestible by deactivating the enzyme inhibitors that are naturally present. They also won’t turn into a really smooth paste if they are not soaked. Don’t soak them for more than a day as the nuts will disintegrate into a gelatin-like substance.