salad

Chia seed pudding & the scoop on omega-3 fatty acids for vegans

I recently went on a camping trip and my dedicated adventure buddy surprised me with some chia seed pudding for our two mornings spent out on the trails. First of all, that was very nice of her. Second, it reminded me to talk about plant-based omega-3 fatty acids!

You can buy pre-made chia seed pudding at the store for about $4 a carton, but it’s much cheaper to bone up and buy a bulk bag of chia seeds (I spent about $9 on 1 lb) because a little goes a long way. I used a 1:4 ratio of chia seed to liquid, which worked out perfectly.

The fun thing about chia seed pudding is that you can put whatever you want in it. I personally like berries, kiwis, bananas, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and maybe some peanut butter if I’m feeling saucy. I was thinking it would be fun to purée up some berries and coconut oil and mix that into the pudding. The world is your oyster with this stuff.

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It definitely did not take me twenty minutes to perfectly stage this pudding.

Here’s the cool thing about chia seeds: they’re one of the best plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid (“ALA”), which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid and absolutely necessary in anyone’s diet. The body can’t synthesize ALA on it’s own, which is why it’s called an “essential” fatty acid. It is extremely important for vegans to be eating enough ALA. This acid will be converted to the longer-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and possibly to the even longer docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two non-essential omega-3 fatty acids. They’re non-essential because we can make them from another source — ALA. All cell membranes, especially the ones in our brains, are dependent on DHA/EPA.

Omnivores will get their omega-3s from fatty marine life (particularly salmon) for the most part, but plant-based folks need to make sure we’re hitting our quota of ALA. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for our bodies to convert ALA to EPA/DHA, so you may want to consider a supplement. Research shows vegans and vegetarians can be very low in ALA in the blood. But you can get these fatty acids from where the fish themselves get them — algae! Just look for algae-based EPA/DHA supplements in the stores. As a bonus, lab-grown algae should be free of mercury, and you’ll avoid that nasty fish breath.

Other sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flaxseed, algal oil, and hemp oil.

Why do we care about omega-3 fatty acids? Research suggests that the anti-inflammatory omega-3s may help to protect against cardiovascular disease, dementia, and lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Chia seeds in particular are high in fiber, magnesium, calcium, iron, and have about 5 g of protein in 1 oz.

The other polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, are also essential for the human body, but Americans don’t have a problem ingesting enough omega 6s. They’re concentrated in cottonseed, soybean, and safflower oils — and these oils are typically abundant in processed foods. They’ll oxidize pretty easily in your body, which is why omega 6 fatty acids are dubbed the “inflammatory” ones. Grain-fed meat will be high in omega-6 fatty acids.

How to Make Chia Seed Pudding:

Use a 1:4 ratio of seeds to liquid.

1. Mix 1 cup chia seed with 4 cups almond/soy/hemp/rice milk.

2. Add 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tbsp sugar or syrup if desired. Alternatively, you could use a sweetened milk.

3. Stir periodically, making sure no clumps are forming.

4. Stick it in the fridge for 1-8 hours — mine was ready to go after about an hour but had an even better consistency the next morning. Keep it in an air-proof container in the fridge.

5. Portion out as you choose and add whatever topping you like!

Mighty Vegan Salad

Long time, no post! I hope you all didn’t miss me too much. I’ve been having a fantastic summer traveling the US and enjoying all the fun Portland activities. Seriously, I can’t keep up with all the events going on in town! We do make the most of our sunny summers here.

Tonight, I’ve got something that everyone can enjoy — a Mighty Vegan Salad! I’m not posting a “recipe” for it since this is more of an intuitive nightly ritual for me. I hope this gives you a little inspiration to make a mighty salad of your own!

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Tonight, I had:

Spinach (2 cups)

Chives, chopped (2 tbsp)

A handful of raw, whole almonds

A handful of cilantro

Some fresh mango chunks

1/3 cup cooked wheat berries

1/4 cup of lemon hummus (store-bought)

1 small avocado

About 8 cherry tomatoes

Marinated and sautéed tempeh strips (olive oil, soy sauce, pepper, coriander, chipotle)

…all drizzled with a dash of balsamic and some grape seed oil.

 

 

You can see the ingredients a little better here:

 

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I was curious myself, so I calculated the nutrition information for this salad (just the protein, fiber, and vitamin/mineral content, as I’m not concerned about calories or natural fats).

You might be surprised what this lil ol’ vegan salad brings to the table!

 

  • 28 grams of plant-based protein!
  • 1237 mg of potassium! (if you are trying to decrease high blood pressure, try for more potassium and LESS sodium)
  • 8 grams of fiber!
  • 38% daily value for iron! (with plenty of vitamin C — 83% daily value — to help it to be absorbed)
  • 23 % daily value for calcium!
  • 54% daily value for magnesium!

And who says vegans are undernourished?

That’s it for tonight, folks. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Make a mighty salad for me!

 

 

“Summer is Coming” Salad Medley

Don’t be discouraged by Game of Thrones. Summer is coming, folks. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

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What’s better for a summer lunch than a hearty and protein-packed salad full of fruits, veggies, and the most underestimated nutritional powerhouse combo, rice and beans? The citrus in this dish keeps it light and fresh, and the rainbow of colors means you’re reaping the benefits of vitamins and minerals across the board. Baking the asparagus and beets beforehand means you’ll get a nice crunch in there, too.

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This is great dish to prepare ahead of time if you like to pack your lunch, or if you plan to delight your friends at a potluck. It’s also completely flexible. Don’t like kidney beans? That’s fine, you’re dead to me. I mean, *cough* throw in chickpeas or fava beans! And for the citrus addicts here, you can add some pineapple or strawberry to boost that flavor profile. Mmm, vitamin C!

Fair warning, though: your hands will look like Carrie when you’re done with the beets.

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Rice and beans are one of nature’s best combination foods, and serve as a complete protein source — that is, the two of them together provide all the essential amino acids your body needs to survive. And because it’s rice and beans, your stomach won’t be growling for afternoon munchies.

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Garnish with your choice: cilantro was a no-brainer for me. And summer…come quickly!