Pitaya, a popular fruit, was introduced to Belize by Taiwanese immigrant farmers.

Did you know that these indigenous plants, Pitaya (pitahaya) and Chaya (chayamansa) have anti diabetic properties? Claims abound that eating a small piece of dried Pitaya after a meal will lower blood sugar. The National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City states that Chaya will combat arthritis and diabetes.

Here is another bit of interesting information. Diabetes is also rampant among several of the native American populations in the southwest of the U.S. (over 80% of the population was diagnosed with Type II diabetes.) After years of study and millions of dollars in grants, researchers in the U.S. determined that the reason for this upsurge is the genetic makeup of the population, which can not assimilate the ĎAmericaní diet. The incidence of disease has now been reversed. Could this 25-year-old research hold some answers for Belizeans?

The two foods above, Pitaya and Chaya, are native to this area, and have been part of the indigenous diet for centuries. While we have an abundance of these plants available to us, few people know what Pitaya is and even fewer know Chaya. A nutritional analysis shows that chaya has 8 times the calcium, 4 times the protein and vitamin A, and 3 times the iron is assimilable, unlike much of the iron in spinach (oxalic acid prevents the assimilation.) The leaves are pretty bland so you can add them to soups, casseroles, spaghetti sauces, salsas and salads without affecting the taste.

Chaya is easy to grow, by placing a cutting in the ground. Pitaya is grown locally in abundance and is available in the markets from May through December. Find out more about pitaya in the diabetic diet here.

Contributed By: The Belize Ag Report