Superfood chayote: Why this staple in Jamaica should be a staple on your table

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, founder

Chayote is a fast-growing, sun-loving, nutritious vegetable that, left untethered, can completely take over a garden, fence or tree in your yard. In fact, that’s what happened to me. I recently found vines of chayotes sprawling across several of my trees! I totally forgot that I had bought one from Whole Foods a few years ago and planted it in my yard. I was able to pick three mature chayotes from the tree to eat -- a little taste of home.

I grew up eating chayote, or “cho-cho” as we called it. But depending on where you live, you may know chayote by the name of christophene, mirliton, susu, chuchu or even vegetable pear. My mom told me that it was good for diabetes and high blood pressure. Because she suffered from both maladies, our diet of course included heavy use of chayote in soups, beef stews and side dishes paired with fish. I even saw her boil chayote and eat it by itself.

Here in the United States, I occasionally see chayote at Whole Foods and, naturally, I always buy some. I use it in a variety of side dishes.

Not only does it taste good, taking on the flavor of the dish, but it’s also a rich source of nutrients such as:

  • Vitamin C (15.6 mg)

  • Vitamin K (8.3 mcg)

  • Vitamin B3 (1 mg)

  • Vitamin B6 (.2 mg)

  • Folate (189 mcg)

  • Fiber (3 g)

  • Zinc (1.5 mg)

  • Copper (.2 mg)

  • Manganese (.4 mg)

  • Magnesium (24.4 mg)

  • Potassium (254 mg)

So was my mom right about chayote’s health benefits? Let’s see:

Vitamin C may help you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke. It also may help lower blood pressure, and may be beneficial for diabetics (who are often vitamin C deficient).

Vitamin K is important for bone health and helping your blood clot.

Vitamin B3 is needed for a healthy digestive system, nervous system and skin. Some people even take it for lowering cholesterol.

Vitamin B6 is used for more than 100 enzyme reactions involved in metabolism, brain development during pregnancy and infancy, and immune function.

Folate, one of the B vitamins, may help with cancer prevention and mood. People who don’t have enough folate in their body may be more likely to suffer from depression. One chayote meets about half of your daily requirements for folate.

Dietary fiber is important not only for relieving constipation, but also for stabilizing blood sugar.

Zinc is a must-have for a healthy immune system, but it also is necessary for normal growth and development during pregnancy and childhood. It may help promote optimal testosterone levels in men.

Copper is important for free radical defense, producing ATP for energy in the cells, and for using iron in the body (copper enzymes carry the iron to where it is used to make red blood cells).

Manganese is important for free radical defense, energy metabolism, brain function and immune function.

Magnesium and potassium are two very important minerals that may help lower high blood pressure. Additionally, having a magnesium or potassium deficiency may increase your risk for developing diabetes.

Chayote has also been touted by weight loss experts as a low-calorie, filling snack, being a good source of fiber with high water content.

So it seems my mom was onto something!

Researchers often emphasize the benefits of getting vitamins and minerals from natural food sources whenever possible, and chayote provides an excellent way to do that.

If you want to learn more about how nutrition affects your health, including high blood pressure and diabetes, read our new book, Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient. And if you want to try Jamaican stuffed cho-cho for yourself, try this recipe and let me know how you like it!

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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