Single-Serving Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding

banana-omega-chia puddingI am approaching this first post of the new year with a bit of trepidation, as this would normally be the obligatory resolutions and reflections post, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2013 went by so fast. Resolutions? I’m not there yet. I’m still wondering where all the time went. This has me thinking. By the time I’ve figured out my resolutions for this year, it will probably be 2015.

Time passes quickly. I learn that more and more each year. As my dad says, it’s because the older we become, each year is a smaller proportion of our lives thus far.

What I have learned is that, the older I become, the more keenly aware I am of the importance of caring for my body. I marvel at the things I seemingly got away with doing to my body while in college. All-nighters cramming for tests or writing papers, diet sodas, beer at tailgates and 2 a.m. pizza delivery were not uncommon occurrences in my college days. And judging from the number of people still in the school computer lab at 4 a.m. or by the crowds at tailgates and bars over the weekends (and sometimes during the week), I am pretty sure I was not alone.

Then again, maybe I wasn’t really “getting away” with anything. I was always getting sick in college. I would cycle on and off antibiotics probably as much as Lance Armstrong was cycling his PEDs (and probably around the same time period as well). It was mostly for sinus and upper respiratory infections, which usually developed after I had a cold or the flu. And I suffered from many of those during high school and college. I always attributed my illnesses to a crappy immune system, but it wasn’t until I started connected the stomach pains I would get after eating most meals with my frequent illness and fatigue that it occurred to me that it was all connected. Since switching to a gluten-free, plant-based diet, I have not suffered a cold or flu in probably several years, which is incredible considering how often I used to get sick.

It’s revelations like these — that gluten, dairy, sugar and meat were in part or in combination contributing to my frequent illness — that makes me even more careful than ever of what I am putting into my body. I’m by no means perfect. But the filter through which I judge what goes in has become a lot more stringent as I’ve gotten older. This is in part due to what I’ve learned thus far, and in part due to my awareness of how soon it will be before I’m no longer in my twenties — a time when many can, supposedly, take health for granted.

Recently, I’ve been even more sensitive to my nutritional needs. At one time, I assumed that a plant-based diet was the final frontier for me, and that since I’d gotten this far, I really didn’t have to think about much else in the diet department. But that was before I read The Beauty Detox Solution, which taught me about the importance of proper digestion and its impact on overall health, or Unprocessed, which had me re-thinking my once copious use of oil in cooking.

Recently, it’s Omega-3s that are on my radar, as I wonder whether I can improve my health even further by making them more available in my diet. In my research, I found that Dr. Furham has an interesting (albeit a bit misleading at first) article about Omega-3s in a vegan diet. The gist is that EPA and DHA — which are critical and essential nutrients — are mostly available through eating fish. That’s where it is misleading. Because the article then goes on to explain that these nutrients are available through fish only because fish eat the algae that contain them. So the question is, why not just supplement with the algae itself, rather than take a secondary source that is subject to problems such as rancidity and toxins? Dr. Furhman eventually makes this point, but the intro to the article could be somewhat misleading for those who don’t make it all the way through.

My take-away was two-fold: 1) Eating plat-based food sources of Omega-3s can be beneficial in providing the body with ALA, which can then theoretically be converted to DHA and EPA, and 2) supplementing with a plant-based source of EPA and DHA is preferable to taking fish oil supplements (the thought of burping up rancid fish oils, as the article points out as a side-effect, would be enough to turn me off to such supplements, alone).

This pudding is loaded with plant-based sources of Omega-3s and designed to provide adequate ALA , which Dr. Furhman explains can be converted in the body — the reason why vegan or vegetarians who regularly consume walnuts or flaxseeds may convert enough EPA and DHA without needing to supplement. Chia seeds, hemp hearts and walnuts form an Omega-3 trifecta that is somehow both light  (you won’t feel overly full and bloated after eating) yet filling at the same time.

And for those who are ahead of me and thinking “resolutions”, this pudding is an amazingly healthy breakfast, snack or dessert that will have you feeling full and craving-free. With no sugar, dairy or highly processed ingredients, it’s a great choice to get you started on a healthier path this new year.

Single-Serving Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding:

Needs at least an hour to chill in refrigerator before eating

Ingredients:

1 small banana, mashed well, plus more slices for topping (if using a larger banana, save some slices and mash the rest)

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1/2 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

5-7 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia (if using plain stevia, you may add some vanilla extract to taste)

1-2 tablespoons hemp hearts

2 tablespoons raw walnuts

Directions:

1. Using a fork, whisk together mashed banana, chia seeds, almond milk and stevia in a bowl until combined. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

2. Once chilled, top with hemp heats, banana slices and raw walnuts prior to serving.

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