Chia seeds…. I’ve shied away from them in the past. If you have too, then I urge you to give this Banana Chia Pudding a try! Unlike most chia puddings, this one is blended in order to avoid slimy seeds stuck between teeth. Growing up, pudding was most often constituted as a dessert. But with only five relatively healthy ingredients, I’m eating this pudding for breakfast… I hope you’ll join me!
Chia seeds are packed with protein, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike most plant-based foods, chia seeds are considered a complete protein because they contain all nine essential amino acids. Needless to say, this pudding will get you moving in the morning!
I’m most eager to give chia seeds a chance because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds, along with other plant sources, such as walnuts, flax and hemp seeds, canola oil, and full fat soy foods, contain the omega-3 called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). The other two forms are called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both are found in animal sources, such as fatty fish and fish oils.
Now, why do we care about omega-3 fatty acids? Omega-3s aid cell membrane formation and provide energy. Additionally, ALA is considered an essential nutrient, meaning we must obtain it from our diet because we cannot make it ourselves. Whereas EPA and DHA are not essential nutrients because we can make them from ALA. Unfortunately, the amount of EPA and DHA synthesized from ALA is unknown. Therefore, a big question is… do we make optimal amounts of EPA and DHA for good health?
We know EPA and DHA are correlated to heart health, fetal growth and development, decreased cognitive decline, lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and lower risk of age-related macular degeneration. Currently, there is no recommend dietary allowance for omega-3s because research is insufficient. However, the National Academy of Medicine established an adequate intake level, which is a value assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy. It is recommended males 14-51+ years old consume 1.6 g/day of ALA, whereas females 14-51+ years old consume 1.1 g/day of ALA. This number increases depending on pregnancy or lactation state.
Now, I’m sure you’ve seen omega-3s advertised on food packaging before. But you may not have realized exactly what they are. The important take away is to incorporate more plant-based sources of ALA in your diet. If you do not consume animal sources of EPA/DHA, or found at risk for any of the listed health aliments, you might consider an algae obtained supplement.
Sources: Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/. Accessed January 21, 2019.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/. Published June 4, 2018. Accessed January 21, 2019.
BANANA CHIA PUDDING (VEGAN/GF)
Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Refrigerate: 2-12 hours
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 ripe medium bananas
½ cup white chia seeds
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender. Mix until the puree is super smooth.
Store in fridge for 4-12 hours before serving with fresh fruit! Keep in fridge for 4-5 days.
Note: recipe adapted from The Simple Veganista’s Vanilla Chia Pudding.