Chia seeds are incredibly nutritious and an amazing source of plant-based protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals which beguiles their tiny size. It is reputed to be what the ancient Aztecs went to war on (I guess they would be light to pack!). (Interestingly, in Mayan, ‘chia’ means strength).
Why eat chia?
Their high fibre and omega-3 fat content help to stabilise blood sugar levels (maybe even reversing type 2 diabetes), promote a healthy digestive system and make you feel fuller for longer, which in turn can result in weight loss. Their high omega-3 content helps protect the heart by lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol and inflammation. It has been suggested that their high ALA omega-3 levels may help protect against breast, cervical and colon cancer too. Their high anti-oxidant levels help to prevent premature skin ageing by protecting against free radical damage and inflammation. Chia seeds are also rich in calcium important for strong bones and calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A, important for healthy teeth. Pretty good reasons to me!
These tiny seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight in water and this property can be exploited in the kitchen by making seemingly decadent, yet healthy chia parfaits, to thicken sauces and smoothies and avoid soggy bottoms in baking. (They are also useful to dry out your mobile phone if you accidentally drop it down the loo/ in a puddle….not, ahem, that I have done either before!)
How do chia seeds taste? They are quite neutral flavoured, perhaps slightly nutty. They soak up whatever liquid you immerse them in and so in this way, chia seeds can be easily flavoured. In this recipe I have used orange juice (plus some spices), but this recipe would work well also with any fruit juice or milk (plant-based if required).
The funny thing about chia seeds is that when you initially mix the seeds with liquid, it looks unpromising (like you have a bowl of wet seeds), but give it 20 mins at least or overnight, the seeds magically soak up the moisture and plump up to form a creamy tapioca looking pudding (see photos). This allows layers of creamy cool chia pudding to be layered with fruit, nuts and seeds to form this parfait.
Chia parfaits are also incredibly easy to make; just soak the seeds in the liquid of choice for 20 mins+ and then eat (or layer and eat). By assembling them in tupperware pots or jam jars with lids, you also have the perfect portable breakfast or healthy mobile snack. You can also keep the unassembled chia mix or assembled chia parfaits in the fridge for a few days too.
This parfait includes anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich spices: turmeric (plus a pinch of black pepper to increase absorption of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric), cinnamon and cardamom plus optional protein powder (but you could substitute for extra oats if you prefer).
This recipe is sweet enough for me (natural sugar being present in the orange juice and fruit). If you like things sweeter, you can add some dried fruit, eg. 1 small chopped date, a few cranberries or goldenberries or ½ tsp of raw honey (if non-vegan) or vegan sweetener alternative, like brown rice syrup or maple syrup.
Preparation time: 3 mins (plus 20 mins at least soaking time; or overnight if preferred) then assembly time (time dependent on how creative you want to be!)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tsp ground turmeric or Vitalising Superpowder
- 1 large cardamom pod, seeds extracted and crushed, or a pinch of ground cardamom
- 120ml fresh orange juice
- Twist of pepper
- 70g porridge pats
- 2 tbsp protein powder (soya bean, pea or whey work well)
- To layer: a mixture of fruit, seeds, nuts, berries. I have used a large handful of fresh blueberries, pumpkin seeds, raw hazelnuts, raw walnuts sliced orange segments.
- In a medium bowl using a spoon, thoroughly mix together the chia seeds and oats with the orange juice and spices. Mix until no clumps of chia seeds remain.
- Leave in the fridge for at least 20 mins or overnight, until the chia seeds plump up and the consistency is luxuriously creamy.
- Assemble layers of chia pudding, alternating with layers of fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds to give different flavours and textures. I love to assemble in glass jars/ glasses so that I can see the pretty layers. Enjoy!
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- Green tea, apple and cinnamon chia parfait. Soak chia seeds in apple juice with ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp Matcha green tea powder. Layer with chopped or grated apple, sultanas or raisins, nuts and seeds.
- Tropical chia parfait. Soak the chia seeds in pineapple juice and 1/2 tsp of baobab superfood powder (this has a lemon flavour and is packed with vitamin C). Then layer with coconut flakes, chopped pineapple or mango, passion fruit and dried goldenberries for a tropical tangy twist.