It's no secret that the jungles of Belize are home to breathtaking natural scenery, ancient Maya ruins, and rare wildlife. But did you know that they also harbor a slew of superfoods? Here's a look at the ultra-nutritious power foods of Belize.
Moringa, the Tree of Life
This miracle plant has been used for myriad purposes throughout time. Juice from the tree's pressed leaves and flowers is purported to help alleviate everything from urinary tract infections and cold symptoms to high blood pressure and HIV. The leaves can also be eaten raw, or dried and ground into a fine powder, famous for its spinach-like flavor. As Dr. Chris Bennet explains to the Belize AgReport, "moringa offers an inexpensive, high-quality protein, iron, vitamins A, C, E, and a calcium source for people of all ages in Belize."
At Itz'ana, moringa leaves appear in our Salade di Hacienda as a herb to counteract the sweeter-tasting lettuce leaves. The plant also features in teas and cookies, and several of our staff like to sprinkle moringa on toast or on their cereal in the morning. It's a true multi-use, multi-vitamin!
Read more about moringa's uses online from Memorial Sloan Kettering, a world-leading cancer research institute in New York.
Soursop, the Sweet Cancer Warrior?
Soursop, known as guanabana, paw paw, or graviola depending on where you're from, is a popular fruit throughout Central and South America, mostly for its deliciously sweet flavor. It makes a fantastic sorbet or gelato, available here in Placencia at Tutti Frutti or you can purchase it at local veggie stations and you can spot it growing on trees right in Placencia Village. But beyond its tastiness, soursop is believed to help prevent the development of cancer. Numerous studies have shown this to be true for several types of cancer, although there have been no clinical trials yet to confirm. Still, all the more reason to enjoy a scoop of gelato, or to enjoy it mixed with sweetened or condensed milk as a delicious shake.
Read more about soursop's uses online from Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Noni, the Homeopathic Medicine
At Itz'ana, our noni tree's juice will make its way into sauces for grilling meats and into cocktails, as the flavor—an indescribable blend of ale, red wine or an extra sharp cheddar cheese—is becoming ever more popular among travelers. And with good reason, too. The pungent fruit has an extensive list of purported health benefits, from stimulating the immune system, alleviating pain, and helping with depression. In Polynesia, the fruit has long been used to treat cancer—a practice now evidenced by laboratory studies, in which scientists have shown that noni juice helps increase the survival rate of mice infected with lung cancer. Here in Belize, locals use it as a medicine, crushing its healing pulp into juice and wine.
Read more about noni's uses online from Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Chaya, the Maya Spinach
Of all the superfoods in Belize, chaya is the one you'll see the most. The wild spinach makes its way into almost every meal. At breakfast, it's the main ingredient to our Green Juice—made with ginger, pineapple, honey and lime—and is a popular addition to omelettes. During the rest of the day, it's a local replacement for spinach, appearing as a side or a key ingredient in many dishes, such as our chaya and queso empanadas. The leafy green is exceptionally nutritional, higher in protein, calcium, iron and Vitamin A than any other edible greens. One thing you'll notice though: chaya is always served cooked. That's because the raw leaves contain toxic acids, which break down during the cooking process.
Try all of these nutritious foods at Belizean Flavors, a boutique here in Placencia that sells a wide range of products, including these Belize superfoods. And look out for moringa, chaya and soursop at Itz'ana's garden! Stay connected here.