I don’t wear Birkenstocks. I don’t make my own granola, I’m not a raw foodist, and I have never subscribed to Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP Newsletter. In fact, I pride myself on a healthy suspicion of food and diet fads. But this summer, I decided to delve into the strange world of superfoods. A superfood, although not strictly defined, generally is considered especially nutritious or beneficial to health and well-being. From what I can tell, the more ancient cultures it’s associated with, the more “super” a food is; if the Mayans ate it, you should be eating it too.
Fittingly, my first superfood, chia seeds, actually come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which was grown in Mexico dating back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures. Perhaps their biggest benefit is the high concentration of fiber and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to reduce inflammation. Unlike flax seeds, another common source of omega-3s, chia seeds do not need to be ground for our bodies to take advantage of their benefits. They also avoid another pitfall of ground flax–they don’t go rancid. This superconcentrated source of nutrients has come back into fashion, overcoming its embarrassing image in the ‘80s, when it brought the world the Chia Pet. I tried to ignore the image of my stomach sprouting a green Mohawk as I stirred the seeds into a bowl of water, let them sit, and then came back to give them a try.
They don’t add much real taste, per se, but their texture is what makes them remarkable and useful. When put in water or other liquid, the seeds expand into little balls of gel. This gives any chia-thickened liquid a tricky consistency: not quite chewy, not quite smooth, and dotted with tiny black crunchy seed hulls. If you learn to like the texture, though, look for plain chia seeds at your local health food store, or try one of the many energy bars or juices touting chia seeds as an ingredient. Need ideas for preparing chia? Fulfill your chocolate cravings in a healthier way with some pudding.
Chocolate Chia Pudding
For a single serving:
½ cup unsweetened nondairy milk like almondmilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp maple syrup, or more to taste
1 ½ tablespoons chia seeds
Top with berries, orange slices, or lemon zest for garnish.
For other flavors, try adding: cinnamon and chili powder, almonds and banana with almond extract, or any other fruit.
- Whisk together milk, vanilla, and cocoa powder and add sweetener to taste. Keep whisking until cocoa is completely incorporated.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the chia seeds, keeping in mind that the chia will expand and add volume.
- Stir well, making sure the seeds are moistened. Leave at room temperature, stirring every 15 minutes or so to break up any clusters that form.
- Let stand until the pudding has thickened to the desired texture, at least one hour.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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