Colleen and I have had a wonderful time recently inventing fun and healthful dressings, spreads, and dips using chia seed as a natural thickener. Why bother to learn how to make healthful whole-food dressings? Commercial salad dressings, while convenient, are loaded with oil, sugar, and salt -- three of today’s big killers. Observe the label of your favorite salad dressings and you will likely find that you are consuming 120+ calories per tablespoon of use. Worse, they are loaded with omega-6 fatty acids.
According to the USDA, if you are an average American, then a full 30% of your calories or 600+ calories per day are consumed from oil alone. Now Harvard claims that you can enjoy these vegetables oils without any ill side effects, yet research demonstrates such claims are both irresponsible and dangerous and that consuming more than about 80 calories per day from supposedly healthful vegetables oils leads directly to the build up of plaque in the arteries. Some researchers claim that the consumption of vegetable oils is the number one cause of heart disease and affects 80% of today’s population.
For myriad reasons we need omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to be included in our diet. Unfortunately, extracting these fats from vegetables into concentrated oils is not how nature intended that we consume these essential fats. To be sure we need them in our diet, but not in the concentrations and ratios that exist in oils. Research demonstrates that these fats ought to be consumed most preferably in ratios of one to one and that ratios of omega-6 to omega-3s that exceed 4:1 cause the very inflammation in the arteries that lead to strokes and deadly heart disease, today’s number one killer of Americans.
Vegetables oils are excessively high in omega-6 fatty acids. Consuming just 100 calories a day of vegetable oil in a day will throw off the ratio discussed above to a dangerous level. In fact, the average American today consumes 20+ parts omega-6 fatty acids to every one part of omega-3 fatty acid. This poor ratio causes gross inflammation and subsequent lesions in the arteries. Fifty-one percent of our calories today come from refined and processed foods, nearly all of which contain vegetable oils. Colleen and I avoid all processed and refined foods and oils and enjoy whole foods from God’s garden, just as nature intended. Whole foods contain the perfect ratios of these essential fats. So how do we flavor a healthful salad?
Colleen and I created enjoyable ways to dress our salads, top our breads, and enjoy our food without adding these common oils that are so blatantly high in omega-6 fats. When it comes to making yummy dressings, dips, and spreads
we like to blend a few healthful whole foods together to create the flavors we enjoy over our toast or over our salads, or even as desserts. There is no reason to sacrifice one’s health or enjoyment and it takes just minutes to do these things.
Don’t believe me? Let me share how it works in our family. Saturday morning the kids wanted Colleen’s famous whole-wheat pancakes. I pulled out the batter, which we make in volume just once a week. When the children want pancakes, we just fire up the grill and pull the batter out of the refrigerator. Voila, pancakes in seconds. Now our children are like all other people, who like something yummy on their pancakes. Well, I looked in the refrigerator to see that we were all out of our homemade strawberry jam. No problem, chia seeds to the rescue!
I grabbed a container of our homemade yogurt and scooped a cup and a half into our blender. Next I tossed in 9 large strawberries, and last I added one tablespoon of pure maple syrup. This took all of 60 seconds or less to perform. I turned on the blender and created an instant topping for the pancakes, but oh wait, it was much to runny or viscous. Well, from experimenting with chia seed I’ve learned that it is an extraordinary thickener, plus it has exceptional nutritional properties (click at bottom of article to learn specifically about chia seed properties and benefits).
Through trial and error Colleen and I have discovered that if the foods we blend for a dressing, spread, or dip are viscous, we add just two tablespoons of chia seed per cup of dressing and depending upon the natural thickness of any blend of whole foods we may use as little as one-half tablespoon to create just the right thickness. Two tablespoons represents a daily serving of chia seed and adds only 61 calories to the cup of dressing. Here is the little secret to why chia seed is such a wonderful thickener. It absorbs nine times its volume in fluid. Therefore, you can create any whole-food blend to create the flavor you desire and then just add chia seed to thicken it. We’ve created more than 20 wonderful whole-food dressings that can be thickened in this manner in lieu of using ultra gel, corn starch, and so forth.
After blending my strawberries, yogurt, and sweetener together, I poured the three and a half cups blender contents into a container, so that it can be easily stored in the refrigerator. And since the blend was fairly viscous and I wanted a thicker topping for the pancakes, I added seven tablespoons of whole chia seed and stirred them into the mix with a spoon. In just ten minutes the chia seed turned the runny blend into a beautiful, thick spread that could be used to top the pancakes. I could have used only four or five tablespoons of chia seed to turn the blender contents into a wonderful dressing for a salad.
Now for the rest of the story. Sometimes when we pull the pancake batter out of the refrigerator it is a little too stiff to make good pancakes. Colleen adds just a bit of water, stirs it in swiftly with a spoon and the batter is ready to go. Unfortunately, Colleen was busy so I added the extra fluid and since I’m me and not her I added too much water and made pancake batter too runny. By this time the natives were howling for their pancakes and in one sweet moment I visualized a new breakfast “hit.”
I proceeded to make whole-wheat pancrepes with my runny batter and told the children we were having a half french half American breakfast. Okay, I named them pancrepes because they were not runny enough to make crepes and they were too runny to make pancakes -- hence pancrepes. As they cooked I could tell they were thin enough to roll up, and thick enough to make a nice roll. After cooking them I allowed them to cool for a few minutes and then spread on the delightful strawberry yogurt topping, then rolled up each pancrepe and set them out on the children’s plates.
Our youngest eyed them suspiciously, but then Johnny picked one up and sunk his teeth into it. His enthusiastic response was contagious and soon each of the children were inhaling delightful and spectacularly flavored, strawberry pancrepes.
Chia seeds not only thicken whole-food blends in a delightful manner, but they are shelf-stable seeds that easily store for two years at room temperature, without going rancid. In cool, dark, and dry rooms they can store favorably much longer. They help to establish a perfect 1:1 ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and are loaded with protein, calcium, magnesium, and so forth. Take a look at the following information about the chia seed and then begin to enjoy it as a part of your diet:
To view some fun chia hummus blends, click here