As I was reviewing my goals for 2015 the other day, it struck me that there’s one, big gaping hole: Nutrition!
Between all the talk about training, racing, facing fears and choosing new challenges, I neglected to address the fact that fuel is a critical factor in overall health, performance and being able to push yourself.
And nothing against people — I’m looking at you, Chad Johnson — who claim to flourish with fast food, but I have a feeling that a diet chock-full of Big Macs would only land me in Big Trouble.
So as part of my “train smarter” goal, I’ve been reading this book and doing a lot of thinking about food as fuel. Not only trying to weed out a lot of processed junk (you’d be surprised how tough this can be!), but also attempting to consume more nutrient-dense foods — i.e. those that deliver the biggest “biggest bang for the buck,” meaning lots of nutrients for relatively few calories.
That’s where chia comes in. No, I don’t believe it’s a nutritional silver bullet, but it is purported to have twice as much protein as most grains and five times more calcium than milk. Factor in some good amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble fiber, potassium and antioxidants, and I figured it’s a good addition to my healthy-eating regimen.
So what do you do with it? Well, here are four simple ways I’m slipping this little seed into my diet:
1. Chia-Specific Recipes: You may have seen my recent recipe for overnight oats, which has since become a family favorite for the tapioca-pudding-like texture, but there are countless ways in which chia can be used in recipes; check out these over at BuzzFeed.
2. Sneaky Substitutions: Simply swap in chia seeds for eggs or oil in recipes by mixing a tablespoon of chia seeds with one-quarter cup of water; use as a thickener for soups, sauces and puddings; or add chia seeds to an herb, seed or granola mix to bump up the nutrient factor.
3. 10,000-Year-Old Red Bull: In his book, Born to Run, Christopher McDougall studies a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and reveals their secrets — one of which is a drink called Chia Fresca (or iskiate), which features chia.
4. On-the-Go Snacks: Nope, it’s not just in the bulk food section of health food stores; chia’s now mainstream and in a number of products — just make sure it’s nothing super-processed or sugar-laden.
My new favorite mid-run snack are these Mamma Chia Squeezes (low in sugar, and all-natural chia + fruit + veggies), and instead of juice, I’ll grab one of their Vitality Beverages, which has added benefits of omega-3s, antioxidants, dietary fibers, as well as complete protein, calcium and magnesium.