Meatless Mondays – Chaya: Food or Medicine?

Chaya Plant

Chaya is a fast growing, green spinach that is indigenous to the Yucatan Peninsula.  It is used by the Mayans as a medicine to heal improve the blood circulation, help digestion, improve vision, dis-inflame veins and hemorrhoids, help lower cholesterol, help reduce weight, prevent coughs, increases calcium in the bones, de-congest and disinfect the lungs, prevent anemia by replacing iron in the blood, improve memory and brain functions and combat arthritis and diabetes.The list is amazing and worth a try when you are visiting the area

To say more praises about this miracle food, chaya is also richer in iron than the spinach and it’s a powerful calcium and potassium source.

Chaya is now known as the poor mans food as it grows wild and locally. Once you can identify its leaf, you will see it growing in many locations around the pueblos, in people back yards and on business’ properties. Many Mexicans who are not from the area, are not aware of the existence of this power food.  It does not grow in other regions, like prickly pears, or agave plants and is truly the magic food and plant of this area.

Chaya can be used to wrap food and cook it, like the idea of a crepe.  Vegetables, cheese and other fillings can be rolled into the chaya leaf and either baked or pan fried to soften its texture.  It is used as a vegetable filling and it is used as a compliment to stews and soups.

One favorite use of Chaya is in a blended fruit juice, and if you go to local smoothie makers, you will find chaya on each menu.

Recipe for Chaya Maya Fruit Smoothie

1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice

1/4 cup fresh Orange Juice

8 or 9 leaves of chaya

Crushed ice

honey or sugar if desired

Put all ingredients in a blender and sweeten with honey or sugar to taste. Blend for over a minute with ice.

The juice will be green in color and be a bit frothy.  It is a great start to your day.

Submitted by Nicola Inwood. Nicola is the Executive Chairperson of Taste of Playa 2010.  She writes for numerous blogs, one being and is the owner of various businesses in the Riviera Maya.

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet. Reducing meat consumption by 15% (the equivalent of one day a week) lessens the risk of chronic preventable illness and has a strong positive impact on the environment.


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