We’ve come a long way from the infamous holiday exchange gift of the chia pet in the 80’s and 90’s to the realization and appreciation of this nutrient dense tiny chia seed! As the food revolution continues to grow, more and more of us are seeking out nutritious food that nourishes the body and soul. Chia seeds were originally grown in Mexico dating back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds, unlike flaxseeds that must be ground to be absorbed.
I discovered the huge benefit of these seeds when I was seeking to eliminate refined carbs from my diet and start my day with healthy fats. We now know (well maybe not all of us yet) that healthy fats are vital for our health! The brain is composed of 60% fat. We NEED fat to nourish our brains, not to mention the many other important functions of fats such as a major component of cell membranes, a necessity for absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A,D,E, and K, a precursor to steroid hormones and prostaglandins as well as necessary for nerve insulation and transmission, a concentrated source of energy, body temperature regulation and lets not forget the taste and satiety that it provides! What we need to know is to AVOID the bad fats (vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils like margarine and fake butters, saturated fat from factory-farmed animals) and EAT the healthy fats like olive oil, coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds, saturated fat from organic grass-fed and finished animals. The “low-fat craze” was another lie driven by lobbyists whose agenda was making more money for their companies. It was based on faulty studies that were skewed to show results that they wanted, and not the truth. This has been so detrimental to our health as a culture! By changing the way we ate to “low-fat” we were actually consuming more refined carbs and sugars. You see where this is going. We are now in the midst of an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and Alzheimers (also known as type 3 diabetes). This constant load of refined carbs has led our bodies to depend on the constant rollercoaster of our insulin and blood sugar, leading to insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes. Our bodies have forgotten how to metabolize fat for energy! And the truth is, our bodies burn fat much more efficiently for energy than they do from carbohydrates. Carbs are a “quick energy” but as soon as your blood sugar begins dropping 2 hours after consumption, we get hungry and want more. So for our health, we must get our bodies back to metabolizing fat and being “flexible metabolizers”. This way when carbs are not available, our bodies can switch over to fat. And yes this means the fat stores on and in our bodies. So by consuming more healthy fat and less or minimal refined carbs (this does not include unrefined carbs such as vegetables and fruits; it refers to processed foods, refined grains, and sugar), your body becomes an efficient fat-burning machine.
So I wanted to experiment with this to work on lowering my blood sugar. This Chia Pudding was the perfect solution for me in the mornings! This with a hard-boiled egg sustained my energy for hours and hours. I stopped getting hungry so quickly and my energy was so stable throughout the day! I also started to incorporate intermittent fasting into my routine, which is a whole other topic, but which also helped me get off the “insulin rollercoaster”.
I encourage you to be aware of your intake of refined carbs and avoid them as your first meal of the day. Starting with a healthy fat and protein prevents the insulin rollercoaster from taking off and haunting you all day long. I would be happy to help you create a customized plan. A couple of great reads about this are Fat for Fuel by Dr. Joseph Mercola and Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman.
I have adapted this recipe to my liking and have added additional healthy ingredients. It is a great grab-n-go breakfast, snack or dessert. You can “dress it up” with fruit and nuts and flavor it with spices. Feel free to adjust amounts according to your likings. Enjoy!
Vanilla Chia Pudding
Calories per serving: 272, Protein 7.1 gm(10%), Carb 21.0 gm(29%), Fat 19.1 gm(59%).
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 vanilla bean
1 cup raw cashews or slivered almonds, soaked 2-6 hours in 2 cups filtered water
3 cups filtered water, divided
1 cup coconut milk (full-fat)
5 Medjool dates, pitted
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Blueberries, to put on top
optional nuts to put on top
Place chia seeds in a medium bowl. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds with tip of a small knife, & add these seeds to an upright blender.
Place vanilla pod in bowl with chia seeds: set aside.
Drain & rinse cashews, add to blender with 2 cups filtered water, 1 cup coconut milk, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut oil, & vanilla extract.
Blend on highest speed until completely smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Pour into bowl with chia seeds along with remaining 1 cup water, and whisk thoroughly.
Let mixture sit for 10 minutes, whisking a couple of times to prevent chia seeds from clumping.
Place in the fridge for 1.5 – 2 hours or until completely chilled.
Remove and compost vanilla pod before serving. Divide into jars and serve chilled topped with berries.
You may store the pudding in the jars in fridge for up to 5 days.
As you can see, there are many health benefits with this recipe. The healthy fats come from the chia seeds, cashews, coconut milk, and coconut oil. Dates are used to sweeten as well as cinnamon and vanilla. I must also add that you can replace the cashews with slivered almonds. This is an option if you are watching your lectin intake. It is suggested that we should rotate our foods in order to avoid developing a sensitivity. Eating too much of one food can lead to sensitivities. The recommendation is to not eat the same food more often than every 4 days. Many people do not realize this and get in the habit of eating the same foods over and over. Well I did not abide by this either in regards to the chia pudding. This pudding was so delicious that I ate it every day for 3 months. I noticed that I developed a stiffness in my knuckle joints and happened to be reading The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry M.D. at the same time. I recommend this book if you want to learn about lectins.
Lectins are a type of protein found in many foods. In small amounts, they can have health benefits but in large amounts, they can be damaging to the body. They are sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrients” because they prevent your body from absorbing nutrients. Our bodies are unable to digest them so they travel through our gut and in large amounts can damage our gut lining, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, and leaky gut. Foods with the highest concentration of lectins are legumes, grains, nightshade vegetables. Fortunately by cooking, soaking, sprouting, or fermenting, we can reduce the lectin content in these foods so they are safe on our bodies.
The reason I mention this about lectins is because cashews are actually a legume, not a nut. And cashews in particular can be irritating to the joints. So according to Dr. Gundry, anyone with arthritis should avoid eating too many cashews. Upon reading this and not knowing where this stiffness in my joints came from, I stopped eating the chia pudding to see what would happen. Within a few days, my fingers felt normal again. So I tried making the Chia Pudding with almonds and it tasted just as delicious, without the effects from the lectins. Chia seeds also contain lectins but a much smaller amount. So be in touch with your body. Don’t eat too much of the same food. And enjoy experimenting with these nutrient-dense foods that not only taste good but also nourish our bodies!!
I also discovered an alternative if you’d like to avoid nuts altogether with your chia pudding. This recipe uses hemp milk instead. There are many variations you can try and it does not take as long to thicken.
Nut-free Chia Pudding
Calories per serving for basic recipe: 376, protein 9 gm. (18%), fat 14 gm. (22%), carbohydrates 49 gm. (17%), fiber 14 gm. (57%).
3 cups filtered water
8 Medjool dates, pitted
3 tablespoons hemp hearts (seeds)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons chia seeeds
1 tablespoon chopped ripe banana
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoons maple syrup
Mexican Cacao delight:
1 tablespoon cacao (raw, unsweetened; not cocoa)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Again feel free to adjust the amounts to your liking!
Each Add-in Option refers to one jar of the chia pudding so if you’d like you can make an assortment!
To prepare the milk, combine the water, dates, hemp hearts and vanilla in a blender and blend until smooth. This milk does not need straining.
In 4 glass jars, or small bowls, place 3 tablespoons of chia seeds for each serving. Add 3/4 cup of the blended milk and use a whisk to stir it together, until the seeds start to thicken it up, usually just a few minutes. You can adjust the amount of milk depending on the consistency you prefer. Repeat for all 4 jars/small bowls.
Place the jars/bowls in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or better yet overnight, so the pudding can thicken. You can enjoy the pudding in it’s original state or use the suggested Add-ins to change it up. And feel free to experiment and make up your own Add-ins!
Hyman, M., (2016). Eat Fat, Get Thin. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Mercola, J., (2014). New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth. Retrieved on 6/04/17 from http://articles.mercola.com.
Murray, M., & Pizzorno, J., (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
Sanfilippo, D., Practical Paleo Guide to Fats and Oils. Retrieved on 6/04/17 from http://www.balancedbites.com.
Zelman, K., (n.d.). The Truth About Chia. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-chia#1.