In the past couple of months, we’ve shared worrisome information about unhealthy lead levels in dark chocolate and in baby food. Although it’s not written in stone, it is reasonable to limit consumption of dark chocolate to no more than 1 ounce (or less) on a daily basis for an adult, and citing the advice of Melissa Melough, an assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware, for those “who are pregnant or breastfeeding to only once or twice a week.” Professor Melough also noted “the same goes for children.”
Coincidentally, this chocolate lover saved a copy of the April 2022 issue of the Nutrition Action newsletter published by the Center For Science In the Public Interest with the cover story, The Planet-Lover’s Plate, 5 things to know about diet & climate, for the self-indulgent reason that it included, what appeared to be a very easy recipe for Chocolate Chia Pudding, which was also the “DISH of the month” in the April newsletter.
This recipe for Chocolate Chia Pudding was associated with the Food Find column in the newsletter, nostalgically called “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” Chia seeds were somewhat familiar, but never included in this health-conscious eater’s diet. And this recipe for a chocolate pudding using chia seeds was a motivation to consider the health benefits of chia seeds.
The Food Find column explained that “the tiny but mighty seeds . . . offer an impressive bundle of nutrients.” The pudding recipe for 4 cups of pudding called for 1/2 cup chia seeds (which equates to 8 tablespoons of chia seeds). According to the Food Find column, a standard serving of chia seeds (about 3 tablespoons) “is rich in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, and is loaded with zinc, iron, and magnesium…all for only 150-or-so calories.” Further, a serving of chia seeds “delivers a whopping 10 grams” of fiber.
A “Fresh Food Fast” article on healthline.com, 7 Enticing Health Benefits of Chia Seeds, elaborates further: “Chia seeds contain antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids . . .nutrients that play a role in supporting multiple body functions and systems.” This informative article also notes that chia seeds were “a staple in the ancient Aztec and Maya diets” and the tiny black or white seeds “from the plant Salvia Hispanica” are believed to be “native to Central America.”
Interestingly, the website of the Mayo Clinic Health System in a “Speaking Of Health” column entitled “Chia seeds pack nutritional punch” also included a recipe for “Overnight Chia Seed Chocolate Pudding.” Slightly different from the recipe in the Nutrition Action newsletter, this similar recipe specified almond milk instead of just “milk” and also included ground cinnamon. Unlike the recipe in the Nutrition Action newsletter, it did not include the 1/8 tsp of salt. The serving size was also somewhat smaller and used only 1/3 cup of chia seeds instead of 1/2 cup of chia seeds.
What sealed the deal for this home cook to prepare four cups of chocolate chia pudding was the appeal of a chocolate dish that specified using only 1/4 cup of cocoa powder or 4 tablespoons which meant that 1 cup of pudding consisted of a very modest 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder or a mere 1/2 ounce of cocoa powder since there are two tablespoons in an ounce.
Chocolate Chia Pudding (makes 4 cups)
As is this home cook’s practice, I chose to use organic ingredients, and my home-town Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, with its 1,000 bins of bulk foods had available organic chia seeds. In the home pantry was Organic Raw Cacao Powder from Bonao Cacao purchased earlier at the food co-op. Always satisfying to know where my food comes from, this powder is according to the website for Bonao Cacao:
“A farm direct product, made from Criollo cacao grown and harvested on the Hernandez farm in the Dominican Republic. The Criollo cacao is the rarest of cacaos and prized for its rich long lasting notes. It is, of course, also rich in antioxidants (40 time that in blueberries), iron magnesium and calcium [emphasis added].”
Further, I chose to use a “Family Farmstead Goat Milk” bottled at the Oak Knoll Dairy in Hardwick, Vermont. The Q and A on the website for this farmstead in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom provides many excellent reasons to choose to use their goat milk.
Particularly, (i) goat’s milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk because the fat globules in goat’s milk are smaller, which makes them more easily broken up and absorbed by your body, (ii) goat’s milk helps digestion with more prebiotics called oligosaccharides than cow’s milk with many of the same prebiotics in goat’s milk found in human breast milk that inhibit harmful bacteria and promote beneficial gut bacteria, and (iii) goat’s milk has less lactose than cow’s milk which leads to a less bloating feeling for many people. Further, unlike milks made from plants, it doesn’t contain “stabilizers” like lecithin and gellan gum, etc.
The Very Easy Preparation
Whisk together 1/2 cup chia seeds, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 tbsp maple syrup and 2 cups milk.
Let sit 15 minutes.
Spoon into 4 cups.
Chill until set. (I chilled overnight for a delicious and healthy treat in the AM!)
(Frank W. Barrie, 3/2/23)