Tag Archives: Superfood

Why I’m obsessed with Chia Seeds and you should be too.

I eat Chia Seeds every day, and they have become such a staple in my diet, that I wanted to begin my CU Culinary Society adventure by sharing my experiences with them. In this article you will learn about the nutritional benefits of Chia Seeds, and how easily they can be incorporated into any diet!


Chia seeds are white or black when fully matured.
Chia seeds are white or black when fully matured.


The Benefits

High Protein Content

Chia seeds have a complete protein profile (meaning they contain all essential proteins) and are also very high in protein compared to other plant-based foods. Approximately 15% of their weight is made up of protein. This makes chia seeds a desirable protein source, especially for vegetarians.

High Fiber Content

For every 12 grams of carbohydrates in an ounce of chia seeds, 11 grams are fiber, which essentially makes it a low-carb food. Chia seeds also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, unlike most foods, which only consist of insoluble fiber (which our bodies cannot decompose further). Fiber aids in digestion and also slows it down, which reduces blood sugar spikes, thus making chia seeds a great food for diabetics.

High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most foods have much more Omega-6 than Omega-3, but Chia seeds have 3.5 times as much Omega-3 as Omega-6. Even people who regularly eat fish and eggs are Omega-3 deficient. Fish, eggs, milk, and meats all lack many valuable nutrients that they used to have including Omega-3. (This is due to the recent shift to feeding livestock grain rather than grass for the sake of convenience, speed and costs.) Note: The Omega-3s in Chia seeds are mostly ALA, which your body needs to convert into EPA and DHA, so if you consume Chia seeds for Omega-3 content, it is recommended to take a tablespoon of coconut oil with the Chia seeds.   This will help your body to more efficiently convert the ALA into EPA and DHA.

In addition to these benefits, chia seeds are also very high in antioxidants, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, B2, and B3.


How to incorporate Chia Seeds into your diet:

My favorite way to eat chia seeds is to have chia seed pudding for breakfast. (Because of their high fiber content, chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 40 times their weight in liquid and form a gel-type texture when put in liquids.) Chia seed pudding is extremely convenient for me, because I make it the night before and it’s ready for me in the morning when I wake up! See the recipe below.

For my chia seed pudding, I use ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups of some sort of milk. I usually use soymilk, but sometimes use almond milk, coconut milk, or some combination of the three. Pictured here, I combine them in a bowl because I am making this on a Friday night, but I often make it in in Tupperware, because I can just cap it (instead of wrapping with saran wrap) and then bring it with me to my morning classes.


This variation is made with coconut milk, hence the chunks of coconut meat.
This variation is made with coconut milk, hence the chunks of coconut meat.


Tip: Make sure you put the milk in the bowl first, and then add the chia seeds and mix immediately(!) so that they don’t clump. I have let them sit before mixing before, and de-clumping is an annoying and somewhat time-consuming process.

The simple steps:

  1. Combine ¼ cup chia seeds with 1 ½ cups milk and (optional) sweetener.
  2. Mix well
  3. Mix one more time before going to bed (at least 10-15 minutes later)
  4. Wrap or cover and keep in the fridge overnight
  5. Wake up to a nutritious and yummy breakfast!
Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding


Here are some chia seed pudding variations that I enjoy:

Vanilla (cinnamon) chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 ½ cup soymilk
  2. ¼ cup chia seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. (cinnamon)
  5. 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

Chocolate hazelnut chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 ½ cup soymilk
  2. ¼ cup chia seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon Nutella
  4. 1 tablespoon cacao powder

Coconut chia seed pudding:

  1. 1 cup coconut milk
  2. ½ cup soymilk
  3. ¼ cup chia seeds
  4. 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

I also sometimes top my pudding with fruits and nuts in the morning before consuming (strawberry and sliced almonds on vanilla pudding and mango slices on coconut are two of my favorites!)

Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Mango
Coconut Chia Seed Pudding with Mango


Chia seeds can also be easily incorporated into your diet in other ways! You can sprinkle them on top of oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt, add them to your smoothie or pre-workout drink, or bake them into anything! I also often add them to salads.

I hope that after reading this article, you can start incorporating chia seeds into your diet. Please comment and let me know about your chia-seed adventures and maybe some new variations on chia seed pudding that you discover!


Superfood Sunday: The Magic of Maca

Maca root, a tuber similar in size and shape to a beet, hails from the high plateaus in the Andes of South America.  This relative of the radish has been cultivated in Peru for at least three millennia, where ancient Incan warriors ate it for energy boosts before battle.  Also known as Peruvian Ginseng, Lepidium meyenii has been used for food for both humans and livestock, and traditional Andean preparations include steeping the root in tea or eating maca whole, like a baked potato.

maca powder

Of course, Maca increases more than just energy level.  It also enhances libido.  A rumored aphrodisiac, maca has been shown to improve fertility.  Other effects include easing anxiety and depression – perhaps as a direct result of the increased energy and libido.  However, maca comes with a caveat, like most superfoods.  It turns out, your body can actually build up a resistance to maca.  Therefore, if you decide to consume it regularly, you should take a week off for every three or four weeks that you eat it.

I found a bag of maca powder online and gave it a try in my morning oatmeal.  The best way to describe its taste is malty, like eating the ground innards of a Whopper candy.  While I cannot be sure if my energy that day was from the teaspoon of powder in my breakfast or the good old placebo effect, I managed to forgo my morning tea without too much caffeine withdrawal.

If you find yourself with a bag of this pale, slightly sweet powder and are wondering what to do with it, maca would be an interesting flavoring addition for banana soft-serve or a vegan milkshake of ice, plant-based milk, and dates, and cacao.  In a fitting end to a highly experimental culinary summer, I decided to toss a tablespoon of everything I have tried this summer into a blender and watch what happened.  Honestly, I cannot recommend this course of action to anyone.

The mixture of chia, goji, hemp, wheatgrass, spirulina, and maca blended up into a superfood cocktail that looks like a dangerous brew.  It tasted heavily of spirulina and wheatgrass, and I couldn’t tempt any of my taste testers into taking more than one dubious sip.  Overall, it was a highly gag-inducing blend and an oddly perfect end to my summer foray into the world of superfoods.

superfood smoothie
My superfood macarita. Bottoms up!

Superfood Sunday: A Little Kelp from my Friends

Ok, so spirulina isn’t exactly kelp. It’s technically Arthrospira platensis, a blue-green freshwater algae, but “a little cyanobacteria from my friends” didn’t have the same ring.

Up until the late 16th century, Spirulina was believed to have been harvested from Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs, who called it techuitlatl. Across the Atlantic, the Kanembu population along the shores of Lake Chad collected algae and dried it in the sun before mixing it into sauces, millet, beans, fish, or meat. European phycologists and botanists noticed its usage during expeditions in the middle of the 20th century, and in the 1970s, it gained popularity among researchers as a possible inexpensive protein source.

Spirulina PowderThis blue-green algae, which arrived on my doorstep in a cheery orange package a few weeks ago, joins the cadre of superfoods with exhaustive beneficial qualities, if its proponents are to be believed. It is a source of B vitamins, iron, and dietary protein, making it popular in both its powder and pill forms. Some experiments have shown that spirulina increases the body’s production of cytokines, which fight infections and colds.

Other studies show that it worked as an antihistamine in rats and that it killed cancerous cells in chickens. However, experts are cautious about downing algae like Jacques from Finding Nemo.

Image courtesy of Disney and Pixar

Other doctors have noted that the benefits of spirulina are negligible at best, and that one would do better to eat a piece of fruit instead. Most of the warnings, however, center around the lack of regulation.

Spirulina isn’t currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and because it grows on the top of water, it is highly susceptible to contamination. Sincerely hoping I wasn’t poisoning myself for the sake of a blog post, I spooned out some of my spirulina powder for a taste.

It has a similar odor to the wheatgrass I sampled before – and haven’t touched since – so I was a little wary. My powder was very finely ground and highly pigmented, like someone had crumbled up a blue-green chalk pastel. This did not help my poisoning suspicions. Despite their similar odors, however, spirulina and wheatgrass don’t share much in the way of taste. Mixed with a little bit of water, spirulina takes on a distinct seaweed flavor, unsurprising given its origins. Although I am a fan of all types of seaweed, especially when it’s wrapped around sushi, my fellow food adventurers were not so enthused. When I decided to mix up a salad dressing, I thoroughly enjoyed its tangy, briny taste, but my mother and sister were not so enthused.

I have included the recipe anyway, in case you get your hands on a big bag of algae!

Spirulina dressing
I promise it gets more visually appealing when you whisk it!

2 tbsp. hummus
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. water
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. spirulina powder
1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
a few drops of liquid sweetener, if desired.

Whisk ingredients together and pour over a grain salad (perhaps one with hemp seeds).

Superfood “Sundae”: Getting Your Greens

Smoothies and juices aren’t really my thing, so I haven’t had the opportunity to try wheatgrass, the base of those hard-core “wheatgrass shots” from Jamba Juice that I had heard about. However, I was in an exploratory mood when I ventured into the homeopathic aisle of my local Whole Foods. Perched next to bottles of vitamins promising everything from ache-relief to extra zzzzs were little packs of wheatgrass, the perfect size for sampling.

Wheatgrass is, believe it or not, a kind of young grass that sprouts from common wheat. It was used in the ancient Mesoamerican and Egyptian civilizations, touting Nebuchadnezzar as a proponent. In more recent history, scientists like Dr. Anne Wigmore and Dr. Charles Schnabel, the “father of wheatgrass,” began using it for its health benefits.

From plant powder...

Now available in many forms, you can find it in tablets, capsules, extracts, or ground and ready to be added to smoothies. For the DIY-ers who want to avoid any possible contamination, there are wheatgrass seeds and kits to grow it at home.

Any way you eat it, though, wheatgrass promises a concentration of nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins, and chlorophyll. Folic acid, beta carotene, dietary fiber, phytonutrients, you name it. Supposedly, the sprouted grass helps remove toxins and metals like lead, mercury, and aluminum from the body. Some promote it to treat colds, coughs, fevers, and inflammation; however, there have been very few scientific studies that prove that wheatgrass can cure or prevent ailments.

... to plant power!

It can, however, make you feel like you’re doing something incredibly healthy whenever you tell people you’re drinking wheatgrass juice. And trust me, if you drink this stuff in public, people very well might ask. I poured a packet of the green powder into a tall glass of water, to focus on the taste with no distractions. Wheatgrass emits a very distinct aroma of green; there’s no other word I can think of to describe it. My powder dissolved into the water quickly, turning it a murky hunter green that made me a little nervous to take a sip. Tastewise, I would liken wheatgrass juice to a very watery broccoli smoothie. It’s hardly my favorite superfood so far, but I did feel thoroughly wholesome as I sipped away on my greens.

For those less interested in drinking lawn clippings, try out this simple recipe for green banana soft serve, based on the abundant recipes circulating in the blogosphere, for a frosty way to get your greens:

Mint Chocolate Superfood “Sundae”
1 large, ripe banana
1/4 tsp peppermint extract, or fresh mint to taste
4 tsp. wheatgrass powder
1 tbsp. dark chocolate chips
Plant-based milk, as needed
Dark chocolate for garnish

Roughly chop banana and freeze for several hours. Once thoroughly frozen, place in food processor and process until very smooth. Blend in mint, chocolate chips and wheatgrass, adding milk as needed. Serve garnished with dark chocolate shavings.

Superfood Sunday: Hi there, Hemp!

Toasted Hemp Seeds

I promise, there is nothing illegal going on in my kitchen.  Those little seeds were straight from Whole Foods, not grown in the United States.  Hemp seed comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, the same plant whose fibrous stems are used to make rope and whose leaves are also known as marijuana.  Regardless of the dubious effects of its leaves, when it comes to its seeds, hemp offers up an impressive resume.

The seeds have a high protein content and contain all nine of the essential amino acids human bodies can’t produce on their own, making them popular among vegetarians and vegans.  Easily digestible because of the lack of phytic acid, hemp is rich in polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, with a 3:1 ratio of Omega-6s and Omega-3s.  Studies have shown that a lower ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 helps to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

I tried the toasted hemp seeds I found at Whole Foods and found a mildly nutty little seed that added an impressive crunch to my salads.  Although I enjoyed the sideways glances from my parents when I informed them that I was making a hemp salad, I didn’t enjoy them enough to add them to my regular grocery rotation.

And now the question I really wanted answered: what is the difference between the hemp in my yoga guru’s granola and the marijuana that’s so controversial?

Apparently, although they come from the same Cannabis sativa plant, there are different varieties of Cannabis plants.  THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive component of the Cannabis; while marijuana comes from the tops and leaves of high-THC varieties, “Industrial” hemp comes from low-THC strains of the plant.  Commercial hemp seeds contain negligible amounts of THC, so no; the following recipe will not lead to any kind of high except the natural exhilaration of a healthy meal.

Shelled hemp seeds are an interesting way to add fiber, chlorophyll, vitamins, and protein to smoothies, yogurt, veggie burgers, or salads.  If you’re feeling particularly DIY-esque, you could make your own hemp milk from one of the recipes that abound online.  As for me, I tossed my toasted hemp seeds into a simple bean and quinoa salad, excellent over greens.

Simple Hemp Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 scallion, finely chopped

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, grated

¼ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp ground cumin

juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons hemp seeds, toasted or hulled

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and top with hemp seeds.  Serve on a bed of spring mix lettuce.





Superfood Sunday: Going Goji

I’ll admit it openly: chia seeds are now in my grocery rotation.  After my last happy surprise, I decided to focus this Superfood Sunday on a product I’ve been interested in for a while.

dried goji berries

The goji berry, also known as Lycium barbarum and wolfberry, comes from an Asian shrub found in China, Mongolia, and Tibet.  Like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, they’re members of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family.  They have been used for centuries in Asia for medicinal purposes, and herbalists claim they can do anything from protecting the liver to balancing hormones.  The goji berry is packed with antioxidants like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, which protect the eye by absorbing blue light and can decrease the risk of developing macular degeneration with age.

Left to right: goji, craisin, raisin

Violently red, they’re usually available in dried form, like the ones I found at Whole Foods.  In traditional Chinese medicine, they’re eaten raw, brewed into tea, or added into soups.  Recent years have introduced goji juice as well as other treats like goji trail mixes.  Although I was tempted by the bag of chocolate covered goji, I persevered in my pursuit of their purest available form.  Goji berries have a taste similar to dried cherries or cranberries, with a combination of sweetness and a tart finish.  Tarter than a raisin, and much less plump, they’re easy to sprinkle into salads, cereal, or baked goods.  If you find yourself with a bag of these berries, try out this recipe:

Banana Goji Muffins

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
  • 2 Tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • round 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 tablespoons (or more!) dried goji berries
  • rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mash the bananas well, working out all the lumps.
Mix together all of the ingredients, adding baking soda last.  Line muffin pans with liners. Then, fill each muffin with batter to the rim. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin tin. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and enjoy, perhaps with some goji juice!


Superfood Sunday: Ch-ch-ch-Chia Seeds

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.

Raw chia seeds

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.

Chia 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.


  1. Whisk together milk, vanilla, and cocoa powder and add sweetener to taste.  Keep whisking until cocoa is completely incorporated.
  2. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the chia seeds, keeping in mind that the chia will expand and add volume.
  3. 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.
  4. Let stand until the pudding has thickened to the desired texture, at least one hour.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.