Chaya Juice from Riviera Maya: Refreshing Thirst Quencher

Chaya Juice, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Ed note: Veteran RFT Correspondent and Ski Editor Yvette Cardozo went on a spa trip to bring back information about the best spas in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. She also came back with this delicious recipe for Chaya Juice, a refreshing wonderful drink popular in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Recipe Courtesy Fairmont Mayakoba Resorts, www.fairmont.com/Mayakoba

Yvette writes:

Chaya is a bush-type plant native to the Yucatan that has edible leaves much like spinach and is used widely by Maya natives in Mexico. It has a list of reported healthful properties — everything from weight loss and improving digestion to relieving coughing. In one report, the  nutritional analysis shows that chaya is high in protein, richer in iron than spinach, and a powerful source of potassium and calcium.

Reportedly chaya also contains cyanide-like compounds (not unlike almonds) that can be a problem for some people when chaya is eaten in large quantities. And there is a variety with stinging hairs, though what we had in Mexico did not have them.

Chaya can be difficult to find unless you’re in Mexico. One possible substitute is chard leaves. All that being said, chaya makes a refreshing and delicious drink, especially in the tropical heat.

1 C Spinach Leaves
1 C Chaya Leaves
1/2 C Parsley
1 C Pineapple Juice
4 C Orange Juice
1/4 C Lemon Juice

Wash all the green leaves thoroughly and put in blender with juices. Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency, then pass through a fine colander to remove pulp and fiber. Chill and serve.

Check out the Fairmont Mayakoba’s recipe for Cucumber Chili Margarita.

Also, read about Yvette Cardozo’s spa experiences in the Riviera Maya.

Share
  • Carol Lopez

    I have always heard that Chaya leaves are toxic unless boiled for at least 5 minutes (I’ve read 20 minutes in some recipes.) How can this drink be safe?

    • http://realfoodtraveler.com Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

      Hi Carol,
      Great question. Chaya juice is a common drink in Mexico and I’ve enjoyed it myself. Do keep in mind that we’re a travel site, not a health site. However, I did a little research into your question and here’s what J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM, (a doctor of Oriental Medicine and acupuncturist) has to say, “The leaves [of the Chaya] must be cooked before being eaten, as the raw leaves contain a glucoside with toxic cyanide. When cooked the cyanide is volatilized as Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) so Chaya can be safely consumed. However small amounts of the raw leaf are safe to eat, and a little Chaya juice can be used to make a fresh green drink blended with orange and pineapple juice.”

      Dr. Williams continues, “Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius), Chayamansa in Mayan, is cultivated extensively for use as a food and medicine. It is a bush with succulent stems that exudes a milky sap when cut. The leaves are the part used for food. A popular leafy vegetable in Yucatan cuisines, Chaya is used like spinach, but it’s stronger tasting.

      According to the National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico City, Chaya has the following properties:
      • Improves blood circulation
      • Helps digestion
      • Improves vision
      • Prevents varicose veins and hemorrhoids
      • Lowers cholesterol
      • Helps reduce weight
      • Prevents coughs
      • Augments calcium in the bones
      • Decongests and disinfects the lungs
      • Prevents anemia
      • Improves memory and brain function
      • Combats arthritis
      • Improves glucose metabolism and prevents diabetes

      Nutritional analysis has shown Chaya richer in iron than spinach and is a good source of potassium and calcium. Chaya leaf is high in protein (5.7%), and contains 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 are two to threefold greater than most edible leafy green vegetables, and like spinach it provides appreciable amounts of several essential mineral macronutrients necessary for human health.”

      If you’d like to read more about what Dr. Williams has to say about Chaya or other health issues, he blogs at http://renegadehealth.com/blog/2011/04/27/chaya-super-green-of-the-mayan-diet-part-1

      Good luck.– Bobbie Hasselbring, Editor Realfoodtraveler.com