Meet Chaya, A Versatile Mayan Superfood You’ve Probably Never Heard Of


By Silvia Mordini with Jacob Young

Recently, on a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, I was introduced to a new – new to me that is — superfood that, wouldn’t you know it, the Mayans have been eating for thousands of years.  The discovery? Chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa), or as it is translated in English, Tree Spinach.  Though that reference is more like calling iceberg lettuce, kale.

According to a USDA report put out by Purdue University, Chaya provides more than twice the amount of protein, vitamins A and C, and minerals (calcium, iron, phosphorus), niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine as spinach.  It can be blended into soups, smoothies, sauces, pestos, or eaten steamed just like most leafy vegetables.  My favorite application was a local specialty known as the Chaya Margarita. Now that’s a superfood cocktail!



Over the centuries, Chaya has been recommended for many ailments including diabetes, obesity, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, acne, and eye issues. Studies conducted at the Texas A&M University have shown that it makes a dramatic improvement on those suffering from diabetes. The plant is so well known in this region of the world for its superfood properties that while traveling around Merida, locals told us that Chaya would improve our circulation, help our digestion, and harden our fingernails

Although it is rare to find in the U.S., some online browsing will quickly lead you to a variety of Chaya products including the actual plant. Check out Neem Tree Farms, (or join Alchemy Tours on retreat to the Yucatan in 2015 and eat it in its natural habitat).  Chaya thrives in a sunlit window, and especially enjoys the warm afternoon sun. It is drought resistant and is ready to eat within a short period of 8 to 10 weeks.

One important note: Like many leafy vegetables (including spinach to a lesser extent), Chaya leaves contain a toxic compound known as hydrocyanic glycoside. Cooking it for five minutes in boiling water, or steaming is recommended. While some eat the leaves raw, it is not recommended to do so.

Overall, Chaya can be a wonderful addition to your overall well-being, and an easy way to pack in the nutrients to stay healthy and vibrant.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!


silvia mordini 150x150 To Travel is to Live: 24 Quotes that Will Inspire You to Wander the GlobeABOUT THE WRITER

Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia.  Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential.  Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted!  Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training. Join her on Twitter to keep inspiring greater happiness by answering the question #YRUHappy. Connect with Silvia on Twitter and Facebook and learn more about her story at or

Photo by Migle

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