Cnidoscolus aconitifolius also known as Chaya, aka ‘Mayan Tree Spinach’ or ‘Mexican Tree Spinach’ is native to Central America, and is supposed to have originated on the Yucatan peninsula, but also now grown and cultivated here in South Africa. Regionally it is known as just “chaya”, which is derived from the Mayan word for the plant which is “chaay”. Ancient Mayan’s used chaya as a dietary staple for centuries because of its amazing nutritional qualities which gave people the strength they needed for their often harsh work and physically demanding lives.
It is very rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds. So far, scientists have only investigated a fraction of the many reputed benefits.
Here are some of the benefits of Chaya that are supported by scientific research:
Nutritional value of Chaya
Chaya is one of the richest sources of nutrients among all the leafy greens with high levels of vitamins and minerals. 100g of Chaya contains:
- Protein 12-15% of daily value
- Calcium 20-33% of daily value
- Iron 42-52% of daily value
- Vitamin A 27% of daily value
- Vitamin C 275-342% of daily value (1)
Chaya has exceptional Nutritional Values. It contains most essential Amino Acids, is rich in Vitamins like Vitamin A,B and C. Contains important minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron and also includes important Phytochemicals.
Chaya is rich in protein and often serves as a meat substitute, and it is rich in natural antioxidants, with free radical scavenging properties.
Chaya has the potential to make a significant nutritional contribution to the vegetable diet as well, because of its high nutrient content.
Antioxidants & Anti-Inflammatory Properties
High levels of free radicals may cause oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Several antioxidant plant compounds have been found in research performed on Chaya.
In addition to vitamin C and beta-carotene, Chaya has a significant protein content and is rich in flavonoids, tannins, and saponins. These characteristics grant it hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (2)
Blood Sugar level Reduction
Diabetes is a major public health problem that is approaching epidemic proportions globally. Worldwide, the prevalence of chronic, noncommunicable diseases is increasing at an alarming rate. About 18 million people die every year from cardiovascular disease, for which diabetes and hypertension are major predisposing factors.
Various research has found that Chaya has a Glucose lowering effect. Studies and research also concluded that Chaya has an insulinogenic property that possibly stimulated dormant beta-cells to secrete insulin.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
Research results suggests that the biologically active phytoconstituents such as flavonoids, glycosides, alkaloids present in the ethanol extract of Chaya may be responsible for the significant hypolipidemic activity and the results justify the use of Chaya as a significant Hypolipidemic agent. (4)
Gout and other Acid based problems
The buildup of uric acid in your blood from the breakdown of purines causes gout.
Certain conditions, such as blood and metabolism disorders or dehydration, make your body produce too much uric acid. A kidney or thyroid problem, or an inherited disorder, can make it harder for your body to remove excess uric acid.
Chaya can participate in regulation of acid-base balance and blood pressure, excretion of the non-protein nitrogenous compounds, such as urea and uric acid, elimination of endogenous toxic waste agents.
Everybody is in some way or another affected by the lack of energy, whether it is physical or mental.
Most of the time, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines.
In some cases, however, fatigue is a symptom of an underlying medical problem that requires medical treatment. When fatigue is not relieved by enough sleep, good nutrition, or a low-stress environment, it should be evaluated by your doctor.
Chaya “Cnidoscolus Aconitifolius” contains many vitamins, minerals and is also a good source of protein. Its content of amino acids which is the building blocks for protein will help fight fatigue in the body and improve your energy levels.
Chaya leaves has a hypoglycemic effect, helping the cells in your pancreas to produce insulin to get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells, thus assisting the body to break up carbs and turn them into sugar which is fuel for your body. (5)
Chaya “Tree Spinach” has been used traditionally for years.
To date, studies show that Chaya may lead to reductions in blood sugar and cholesterol. It may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Chaya leaves are also highly nutritious and should be beneficial for people who are lacking in essential nutrients.