Having been feeling under the weather recently, my appetite was also nothing to write home about. Finally, after a week of unexciting mornings, I woke up today feeling like a proper start to the day – both filling and nutritious. Having opened my kitchen cupboard filled with lots of little treasures, my eyes wandered to a pot of little shiny black seeds and the decision was made – today will start with a cup of chia pudding.
Chia seed not only has a long history – Aztecs, Mayans and Incans all used chia as a staple of their diet and as an energy food – but is also a seed with athletic history. Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language and was known to sustain runners and warriors while running long distances or during battle.
Bursting with nutrition, chia is the richest plant-based source of fiber, protein and omega 3 – all in one tiny seed. And, unlike flaxseeds which need to be ground, chia be absorbed by the body as seeds.
Chia seeds not only contain 20% protein, they also provide 8 amino acids, making them a complete protein. But it is the fibre composition of this little seed that makes it an even more unusual creature in the world of seeds. Chia seeds contain 20% soluble fibre and 80% insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is responsible for chia seed’s hydrophilic properties – the seed can absorb more than 12 times its weigh in water – mean that chia seeds readily dissolve into the water, creating a gel-like substance. This is not only great for hydration, helping retain moisture and efficiently regulate body’s absorption of nutrients and fluids, but researchers also believe that this gel-forming phenomenon creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes in the stomach, thus slowing down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, helping stabilise blood sugar levels and maintain a constant steady energy supply. The combination of soluble and insoluble fibre may also help combat bloating and ease digestive discomfort.
There is a lot more magic hidden in the little chia seed, including high antioxidants levels – which are vital for cell protection and toxin elimination, high vitamin C content – seven times more than that in oranges, its iron content – which is higher than that of spinach, phosphorus levels, potassium content and so on.
With their hydration-boosting and anti-inflammatory potential (thanks to omega 3), chia is much loved. And while in its natural form it has no taste or smell, it is not only a great addition to dishes, but also a fantastic base for both sweet and savoury creations as the soluble fibre really helps emphasize the flavours added to chia seed-based dishes.
While I often eat chia sprinkled on my morning bowl of steel cut oats or into a smoothie, chia “pudding” also makes for a great quick start to the day.
A large handful of black or white chia seeds
Three-four times the amount of almond milk (you can substitute for other non-dairy milks)
A large handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
Quarter teaspoon of cinnamon
Quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom
A touch of vanilla / vanilla extract
One grated apple
Maple syrup to taste
Pumpkin seeds or walnut pieces
Stir all the ingredients apart from chia seeds together to dissolve the spices. Then add chia seeds and stir well. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before giving the contents another good mix. At this point you should leave it to stand for 20-30mins (or overnight if making it the night before*) to let chia seeds work their magic and absorb the flavoursome liquid while you finish getting ready to start your day. Give it a final stir before topping with seeds / nuts of your choice and enjoying this cup of beautifully flavoured breakfast.
The combination of complete protein, vitamins, minerals and blood-sugar balancing gel all work together to make sure you have steady, never jittery energy and a great start to your day – rain or shine.
* if you make it the night before, you may want to add some more almond milk (or milk of your choice) in the morning if the consistency is too thick.