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Carb Solutions: Chia Breakfast

By Dennis Linden

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then, there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions, annually, in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based off how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
    • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
    I inadvertently bumped into a sugared version of this recipe while searching the ‘net for a low-carb savory dish featuring winter citrus for this month. The category is one of the few domestic fresh fruit crops available at this time of the year and offers an array of flavors from tart to extra sweet. Instead, I was drawn to this quick, nutritious breakfast-in-a-bowl that has since become a regular on my own morning menu.

    For the carb-counter who deals daily with an a.m. rush hour even before dashing out the door, always too “late” to focus on counting anything except minutes to launch, the quick initial prep and reheat-ability of this nutrient-packed breakfast is for you! For those who take a little more time to warm up to a new day, the comfort food texture of a pudding laced in tangerine is just a nice slow start than can be savored. There is just something about a tangerine that can brighten even the grouchiest of morning moods!

    Considering its quick preparation time, the dividends received in essential nutrients from this dish to fuel the rest of one’s day are ten-fold. Let’s start with the powerful chia seeds, an ancient superfood. These seeds were a staple of Aztec and Mayan diets because of their obvious nutritional value, even the science to measure those nutrients had not been discovered yet. The word "chia" means strength in the Mayan language and the seeds were known as runner's fuel. This concentrated protein source is also rich in fiber, helping keep the body full and energized for hours. When consumed each seed forms a fibrous gel of carbohydrates that the metabolism breaks down into sugar at a very slow rate. This provides the body with an extended energy source that does not spike blood sugar. Further, we now know that chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease.

    Tangerines are an excellent source of vitamins A and C as well as iron, potassium, folate, fiber and flavonoids. The antioxidant, fiber and gluten-free properties of a tangerine make the fruit easy to digest. The flavonoids and antioxidant compounds in tangerines contribute to a healthy heart by naturally speeding up circulation, which helps keep the arteries clean and clear of harmful plaque. And the “smile factor” already mentioned is based on science. That is, tangerines help deter negative feelings of stress and anxiety by producing neurotransmitters in the metabolism that calm the nerves and contribute to a continuous good mood!

    This dish is really perfect for that rush hour morning meal since the chia pudding will keep for several days in the ‘frig, so make a large batch that will last all week. As for the poaching liquid, the process only has to be done once. That is, once the initial two-stage process of first boil-simmering the liquid before adding the fruit for another simmer has been done, just retain and refrigerate the liquid as it will also keep for a week. The next serving will only entail adding more tangerine segments to the liquid for a quick stovetop or microwave reheat. Then, it’s out the door fully fortified to face the day in spite of the daily rush act. Still, it’s a good bet that even the most harried of commuters will be slowed to a calm, if only for just a few seconds, by those tangerine-colored neurotransmitters. Have a chia of a day!

    Chia Pudding with Poached Tangerines

    Chia Pudding with Poached Tangerines

    Ingredients

    Pudding:

    3 cups almond milk
    1 cup Greek yogurt
    3 tablespoons Melissa’s Blue Weber Agave Syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 package Melissa’s Chia Seeds (more = thicker)

    Poached Tangerines:

    3 Murcott Tangerines
    , peeled and segments separated (or any favorite tangerine variety)
    1 ½ cups water
    ½ cup fresh orange or tangerine juice
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3 tablespoons Melissa’s Blue Weber Agave Syrup

    Preparation


    For the Pudding

    For the Pudding:
    Place all of the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. The chia seeds will expand slightly, firming into a pudding texture.

    Poaching

    Poaching:
    Using a small sauce pot, bring to boil; water, juice, vanilla and agave. Then, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the tangerine segments and simmer for another 10 minutes.

    When poaching is finished, serve immediately.

    When poaching is finished, serve immediately. Serve the chia pudding in a shallow bowl, then spoon the poached segments over the pudding and drizzle a little of the poaching liquid over all.
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