Growing up, I desperately wanted a Chia Pet. I mean really, who didn't? You spread the goopy, gloppy mixture on the top of the Chia planter and in days, you had a pet with a full coat of green hair! Awesome. And the jingle. Ch ch ch chia! It just stayed in your head. Fun fact, the jingle was created by an ad exec pretending to stutter the word Chia. One person's insensitivity is advertising gold apparently. Nowadays there is the original Chia pet plus a whole host of other designs. Chia dogs, chia cats, chia Obama. Anything your heart desires.
But this actually isn't a post about Chia pets. It's a post about Chia seeds. Apparently those little seeds do a whole lot more then simply make for a fun planter. Chia is a flowering species of the mint family. But rather then smelling nice and adding some flavoring to meals, chia seeds are on a whole other wavelength. They word itself is Mayan for "strength" and that is an apt description of these tiny seeds. They are a powerhouse of nutrition. Chia seeds are one of the richest and most potent forms of omega 3s. Many in the health and nutritional community believe that Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to fight cancer, and to stave off heart disease. Others believe they fight inflammation. There is also talk that omega 3s help with respect to autism, ADHD and other spectrum disorders. (As I am not a medical profession, I just want to stress that what I have written is based on my own research into these marvelous seeds. For further info, you should of course, consult your own medical professionals).
In case fighting cancer and heart disease aren't on your list, chia seeds also are high in protein, contain all essential amino acids and are rich in vitamins A & C, calcium, folate, and iron. They are also a great form of antioxidants and an excellent source of fiber. Want to eat less but feel full? Throw some chia seeds into your meal. They bulk up so displace calories and fat. Want a little more regularity in your life? When ingested, chia seeds become like a giant sweeper, working through your digestive tract to dislodge and move out old waste in your intestines.
What? These seeds give energy, level sugar levels, and bolsters endurance? I can eat less, feel fuller, and be more regular? I can hear you wondering, how can I incorporate these awesome seeds into my life? You can sprinkle them into yogurt (I like to tell my daughter they are sprinkles) put them into smoothies, or even grind them up and put them into muffins or breads. Throw them on salad if you want. The food world is pretty open when it comes to chia seeds. They are mild in flavor and gluten free. Personally, when I add chia seeds into my smoothies, they become a bit too thick (remember the swelling and bulking). For me, its a textural thing but if you like your smoothies thick, go for it. I decided to do what I do best. Dessert
Chia seed pudding comes in many different forms. Since I'm a big fan of cacao and love its health benefits, I decided to make a Cacao, Coconut, Chia seed pudding. I kid you not, the entire thing took me all of 5 minutes to make (plus a little time chilling in the fridge.) It was devoured in less time then that.
Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup milk (we use unsweetened almond milk, if you decide to use a flavored milk or one with sweetner you might want to reduce other sweeteners in the pudding)
1/2 cup (packed) pitted dates, plus another 1-3 dates to taste
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp cacao powder (if you want to work with just plain cocoa powder, up the amount to 1 1/2 tbsp)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 – 3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
Optional: 2 tbsp mini chocolate chips (if you want to keep this completely sugar free you can leave these out but they do add a nice little crunch texturally)
In a blender, add milk, dates, chia seeds, cocoa, salt, and vanilla. Blend (starting on low speed and then working up to high speed) for a minute or more (depending on blender), until the seeds are fully pulverized. Taste, and if you’d like it sweeter, add another few dates or another tablespoon of maple syrup (or coconut sugar). If you’d like a thinner pudding, add another drop of milk and blend again (it will thicken a little more as it chills). Transfer mixture to a large bowl/dish, stir in coconut and chocolate chips, and refrigerate until chilled, about 1/2 hour or more (it will thicken more with chilling, but really can be eaten straight away – especially if using the dates as they also thicken the mixture). Serve, sprinkling with more coconut, and topping with fresh berries or other fruit if desired. Serves 3.