For vitamins, Do what Chetumal Radio tells Yucatec Maya to do -- just about
every day -- on Chet radio stations.

Drink Chaya tea!!

Chaya grows very bountiful on the mainland -- probably the most productive of all our
potential food crops -- and certainly the easiest to grow.

Vhili pepper is another excellent super food.

As is -- indeed -- cocoa (Raw natural chocolate)

Chaya tea -- five large chaya leaves (more if smaller) -- slashed and
boiled lightly in one liter water for 20 minutes -- cooled -- pinch of salt
-- maybe a squeeze of lemon added -- drink through the day.

Other medicinal properties -- diuretic (make you pee -- keeps the lines clean)

Lower blood sugar for diabetics

But best of all -- keeps the liver 'clean'.

Drink your Chaya tea --

**********Chaya -- the super food************

Just the text -- many fine charts and many references at the Url:


Kuti, J.O. and E.S. Torres. 1996. Potential nutritional and health benefits
of tree spinach. p. 516-520. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops.
ASHS Press, Arlington, VA.

Potential Nutritional and Health Benefits of Tree Spinach*
Joseph O. Kuti and Eliseo S. Torres


Nutritional Composition
Possible Antidiabetic Effect
Nutritional Composition
Possible Antidiabetic Effect
Table 1
Table 2
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

The tree spinach (Cnidoscolus chayamansa McVaughn, Euphorbiaceae), called
"chaya" in south Texas, is popular in Mexico and Central America and has
been introduced into the United States (mainly South Texas and Florida) for
potential uses as a leafy vegetable and/or as a medicinal plant. The plant
is an attractive shrub, 3 to 5 m tall (Breckon 1979). The leaves are broad
and may consist of 3 or more lobes with fleshy petioles (Fig. 1). The
white-colored flowers, which are usually borne on cyme-branched
inflorescences, may contain 3-forked arrangements in which the pistillate
flowers are located on the basal fork. The staminate flowers are expanded
distally from the base of the lobes. Mature seeds and fruit are rare and
unknown (McVaugh 1944).

The young shoots and tender leaves of chaya are cooked and eaten like
spinach. They comprise part of the staple diet and are the main dietary
source of leafy vegetable for the indigenous people of Yucatan peninsula of
Mexico and Kekchi people of Alta Verapaz in Guatemala (Harris and Munsell
1950; Booth et al. 1992). There are many underexploited native leafy plants
with potential as a traditional food source (NAS 1975). With current
renewal of interest in household gardens, attention is being focused on
promoting some of these plants as leafy green vegetables among populations
in the developing countries (FAO 1987). The edible parts of chaya plant,
which taste like spinach when cooked, provide important nutritional sources
for protein, vitamins (A and C), minerals (calcium, iron, phosphorus),
niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine among populations that cannot afford
expensive foods rich in these nutrients (Yang 1979). The plant may also
constitute a potentially valuable leafy green vegetable here in the United
States and elsewhere.

Chaya traditionally has been recommended for a number of ailments including
diabetes, obesity, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, acne, and eye problems
(Diaz-Bolio 1975). Chaya shoots and leaves have been taken as a laxative,
diuretic, circulation stimulant, to improve digestion, to stimulate
lactation, and to harden the fingernails (Rowe 1994). Like most food plants
such as lima beans, cassava, and many leafy vegetables, the leaves contain
hydrocyanic glycosides, a toxic compound easily destroyed by cooking. Even
though some people tend to eat raw chaya leaves, it is unwise to do so.

While the nutritional value of chaya has been demonstrated (Martin and
Ruberte 1978; Booth et al. 1992), none of the purported therapeutic values
of chaya leaves has been substantiated with scientific experimentation.
Therefore, the present study reports on nutritional composition of raw and
cooked chaya leaves and the results compared with the nutritional
composition of spinach leaves. Also a possible antidiabetic effect of the
aqueous leaf extracts or chaya tea, administered through drinking water to
streptozotocin-induced diabetic rabbits, was evaluated.


Nutritional Composition

Young leaves and shoots of C. chayamansa were collected from
greenhouse-grown plants. Raw and cooked (in microwave oven for 5 min)
samples of the leaves and shoot were analyzed for their moisture content,
crude fiber, fat, and ß-carotene using the AOAC standard methods (1984),
for the protein content (N2 content multiplied by 6.25) using modified semi
micro-kjeldahl method of Searle (1974), for mineral contents using an
atomic absorption spectrohotometer and for total carbohydrate using gas
chromatography. All samples were analyzed in triplicate. Nutritional
components and average nutritive value (ANV) of chaya leaves were compared
to spinach leaves. The ANV was calculated using the empirical formula
proposed by Grubben (1978): ANV/100g = g protein/5 + g fiber + mg Ca++/100
+ mg Fe++/2 + mg carotene + mg vit C/40

Possible Antidiabetic Effect

The experimental animals (rabbits) for this study were supplied by Dr.
Steven Lukefahr of the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences, Texas
A&M University-Kingsville. All animals were housed and maintained in
compliance with Texas A&M University-Kingsville IACUC policy on animal care
and use. The rabbits were fed with standard rabbit chow and given water ad
libitum. Diabetes was induced by a single subcuteanous injection of 60
mg/kg streptozotocin (STZ), after fasting for 18 h, according to the method
described by Bonner-Weir et al. (1981). The rabbits exhibited post-STZ
blood glucose levels that were at least double that of the pre-STZ levels
one week after diabetes had been induced.

The leaves of C. chayamansa were collected from plants grown in the
greenhouse. About 10 g of the leaves was extracted with boiling water (1000
mL) for 30 min until the volume of the water had been reduced to 90% of the
original. The tea (900 mL) was filtered and used in the subsequent
experiments. Two groups of 8 rabbits each were used. The first group of 8
rabbits were normoglycemic (non-diabetic). Four of the normoglycemic
rabbits recieved water (control) only and the remaining 4 received chaya
tea treatment only. The second group of 8 rabbits were hyperglycemic
(diabetic). Four of the diabetic rabbits received water only and the
remaining 4 received chaya tea only.

Before administering the tea or water (control), blood samples were
obtained from the ears of 18 h fasted nondiabetic and diabetic rabbits
using a capillary tube. Then the tea or water was administered orally
through drinking water bottles ad libitum. Blood sampling was repeated at
hourly intervals for 6 h after the oral administration. Blood glucose was
determined using a blood glucometer (Miles Inc., Diagnostic Division,
Elkhart, IN, U.S.). The mean blood glucose values ±SE were determined and
the significance of the difference between the means of treated and control
groups was established by Student's t-test.


Nutritional Composition

The nutritional analysis of chaya (C. chayamansa) leaves and spinach
(Spinacia oleracea L.) are presented in Table 1 for comparison. Chaya
leaves were found to contain substantially greater amounts of nutrients
than the spinach leaves. The chaya leaf is especially high in protein
(5.7%), crude fiber (1.9%), calcium (199.4 mg/100 g), potassium (217.2
mg/100 g), iron (11.4 mg/100 g), vitamin C (164.7 mg/100 g), and carotene
(0.085 mg/100 g). The levels of chaya leaf nutrients, in this study, agree
with published reports (Martin and Ruberte 1978; Munsell et al. 1949; Booth
et al. 1992) and are two to threefold greater than most edible leafy green
vegetables. In terms of the average nutritive value, chaya leaves [14.9] is
by far superior to other leafy green vegetables such as spinach [6.4],
amaranth [11.3], Chinese cabbage [7.0], and lettuce [5.4] (Grubben 1978).
While some edible leafy green vegetables are usually good sources of
mineral macronutrients (Levander 1990), chaya leaf furnishes appreciable
quantities of several of the essential mineral macronutrients necessary for
human health maintenance. For example, potassium has been shown to be an
important mineral nutrient in the control of hypertension and in the
reduction of risks of stroke (NRC 1989), calcium is important for
ossification and iron is necessary for normal hematopoiesis (Hodges et al.
1978). Brise and Hallberg (1962) reported that vegetables, such as chaya,
with high vitamin C content may enhance absorption of nonheme iron.

Analysis of raw and cooked samples of chaya leaves revealed that cooking
may increase the relative composition of carbohydrate and fat and decrease
relative composition of crude fiber and protein (Fig. 2). On the other
hand, cooked samples of chaya leaves were considerably higher in calcium,
phosphorus and iron while the potassium content was relatively lower than
in the raw samples (Fig. 3). The increase in some of the mineral nutrients
may be due to the cooking process, which allows extraction of the nutrients
from the tissues, therefore increasing the percentage of mineral elements
while decreasing moisture content (Booth et al. 1992).

Possible Antidiabetic Effect

Following the oral administration of chaya tea, the blood glucose levels of
the diabetic rabbits were gradually lowered from a high of 118 (baseline at
0.0 h) to 87 six hours after administration. The blood glucose level of 87
is similar to blood glucose levels of normoglycemic rabbits on drinking
water (Table 2). The blood glucose levels of non-diabetic control rabbits
that were given chaya tea showed a slight increase (i.e. hyperglycemia)
above the baseline 85 at 1 to 2 h after administration, but rapidly
stabilized thereafter (Table 2). The reason for this transient
hyperglycemia is unknown and needs to be investigated. The results obtained
in this study suggest that in STZ-induced diabetic rabbits, aqueous leaf
extracts of C. chayamansa may be effective for treatment of non-insulin
dependent diabete mellitus (NIDDM) symptomatology. This is a first report
on hypoglycemic effect of chaya plants. The present report is preliminary
in nature and additional studies will be needed to properly characterize
the antidiabetic potential of chaya in diabetic animals. Also further
studies will be necessary to determine the effective dosage, mechanism of
the hypoglycemic activity and the active hypoglycemic principle present in
the leaves of C. chayamansa.

The potential of C. chayamansa for human food and health has a significant
implication for the plant as a horticultural crop. Although demand for
chaya, as a medicinal plant, has recently increased among the Hispanic
population in the United States, the plant has the potential to make a
significant nuritional contribution to the vegetable diet as well, because
of its high nutrient content. The development of chaya as a new
horticultural crop would transcend the ethnic popularity and create a
worldwide market for the plant and its products, whether as a leafy green
vegetable and/or as a therapeutic herbal tea.

It is noteworthy that the chaya plant is drought resistant, which is of a
particular value in areas with short seasonal rainfall and shortage of
green vegetables (Peregrine 1983). Growth of the plant is rapid and edible
leaves and shoots could be produced within a short period (8 to 10 weeks).
Propagation by cutting is easy and the woody stem sections readily root.
Few pests and diseases are known to be of any significance in the
cultivation of chaya plants. One disadvantage is the presence of toxic
hydrocyanic glucosides in the leaves. However, cooking, which is essential,
inactivates the toxic compound. Other Cnidoscolus (chaya) species are being
examined in our laboratory at Texas A&M University-Kingsville to
genetically select species with high leaf and shoot biomass yield and lower
hydrocyanic glycoside content. Additionally, we are conducting research on
genetic improvement, propagation, field production, potential for
processing and marketing of chaya and its products in south Texas.