Chayote is a thin-skinned squash originally from Mexico. A member of the gourd family, the bumpy green fruit is commonly available in the Southwestern United States, but it remains a novelty item in much of the country.
Chayote squash (Sechium edule) is technically a fruit but is eaten like a vegetable. All parts of the gourd are edible, including the seeds, skin, and flowers. The chayote’s pale green flesh is crisp when raw and softens when cooked. Beloved for its cucumber-like mild, cool, and slightly sweet flavor, chayote is a refreshing food that packs a nutritional punch.
Folate is an essential nutrient for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Also known as vitamin B9, folate is vital for the development of the fetal brain and spinal cord. Folate may also help to prevent preterm births. Just one chayote squash offers 40% of the recommended daily intake for folate.
Improved Liver Health
Chayote may contain compounds that protect against fat buildup in the liver, which can cause fatty liver disease. Studies have found the squash can help reduce fatty acid deposits in livers and lower cholesterol levels. The food might also help improve the body’s metabolism and ability to process fats.
Researchers have found that phytochemicals in chayote can improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure levels, which supports traditional Mexican use of the fruit to treat heart disease. Chayote is also rich in antioxidants, including myricetin, which can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and protect against free radicals to reduce the risk of developing certain diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Improved Blood Sugar Control
Chayote is relatively low in carbohydrates and relatively high in fiber, a nutritional combination that can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. High levels of fiber in chayote make it so that you feel fuller after eating less. The fiber also helps to slow down your body’s absorptions of carbohydrates, which helps to regulate your blood sugar levels.
Studies have also found that chemical compounds in chayote can help to increase insulin sensitivity. This helps people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar levels.
Eating chayote can lead to significant reductions in inflammation and oxidative stress, processes that have harmful effects on body cells. In particular, studies have shown that chayote helps reduce signs of metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for cognitive decline and frailty for older adults. Antioxidants and nutrients in chayote, such as vitamin C, may also help to protect your body from cell damage and reduce visible signs of aging.
Chayote contains vitamins and minerals, including loads of vitamin C and folic acid, plus moderate amounts of vitamin K, B6, manganese, copper, and zinc. Chayote also contains small amounts of calcium and iron.
Nutrients per Serving
Each medium-sized fresh chayote contains:
- Calories: 39
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Sodium: 4 milligrams
- Cholesterol: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 9 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
A standard portion of chayote is one medium-sized squash or one cup of cubed flesh.
How to Prepare Chayote
Chayote is grown in several US states, including California and Florida. You can find the squash in many grocery stores throughout the southern US. If your local stores do not sell chayote, you may also find the fruit online.
Chayote is technically a fruit, but it’s prepared and eaten like a vegetable. You can prepare the food like you would prepare other kinds of squash.
Some ways to enjoy chayote include:
- Eating raw chayote like you would eat cucumber or celery
- Adding raw chayote cubes to vegetable or fruit salads
- Steaming or boiling chayote to enjoy it like a classic squash
- Braising, frying, or roasting chayote to make a nice addition to soups and stews
- Sauteing sliced chayote with salt and black pepper for a refreshing appetizer.
Mixing sliced chayote with diced tomatoes, chile, and beans