The Little-Known Squash That Can Help Lower High Cholesterol – Health Digest

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Summer is that time when you go into a grocery store and see lots of fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle that you’ve not seen in ages. It is also the time when you realize that you don’t know about all the green goodness that’s out there.

Enter the chayote (scientific name: Sechium edule), which at a glance looks a mix between a guava and a pear. Put more succinctly, it’s shaped liked a pear but has the hue of a bright green guava. If you’ve seen this product at the store recently and wondered what it was, chayote is actually a type of squash that is native to Mesoamerica. It has been a part of the landscapes of Mexico, Central America, and South America for a long time. Some varieties contain ridges and even thorns along the skin while others are of a smoother texture. The fruit has the mild taste of zucchini, which makes it a perfect addition to either sweet or savory dishes. It’s also got a noticeable crunch, so it goes well in salads, stir-fries, and even soups. 

The benefits of chayote are many. This fruit, which is primarily cooked like a vegetable, is a good source of fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals. It’s rich in folate, vitamin C, manganese, copper, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. If you have high cholesterol, you may want to add this fruit to your diet, as it can lower your levels.

The connection between chayote and cholesterol

The antioxidant density in chayote is one of the reasons people love consuming the fruit. And it’s one of these antioxidants – myricetin — that’s responsible for lowering your cholesterol levels. 

According to a 2023 study done on mice and published in the International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Analysis, the flavonoids found in chayote can reduce total cholesterol by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. Interestingly, this study also points toward the theory that your gut could be the secret to curing high cholesterol. 

On to more benefits, a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that water-soluble indigestible dietary fiber in fruits like chayote can be useful in helping slow down the digestive process and promoting the loss of bile acids in your poop, leading to a decrease in cholesterol. This is also where knowing what your cholesterol levels mean comes into play. Broadly speaking, you want your total cholesterol level to be under 200 mg/dL (milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood), your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (or “bad” cholesterol) to be lower than 100 mg/dL, and your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol to be 60 mg/dL or higher, per Cleveland Clinic. Soluble dietary fiber (found in chayote and other fruits and vegetables) has been linked to lowering LDL levels. 

How to consume chayote to lower your cholesterol

As we mentioned before, chayote is a pretty versatile ingredient that can be added to soups, stir-fries, and salads. It can be consumed raw, cooked, baked, roasted, stuffed, mashed, and pickled. You can even add the fruit to smoothies. The skin and seeds can be eaten too, making it a fruit that’s easy to prep, but if you were to do a quick Google search, most recipes call for removing the seeds. Similarly, some people prefer peeling the skin off the chayote, while others consume it with the skin.  

When choosing the fruit, look for one that’s firm and of a bright shade of green. If you can’t find them at local grocery stores, farmer’s markets are a good place to look for them. Since it’s a relatively low-carb fruit and with a high fiber content, it makes a good replacement for starchy vegetables that accompany any dish. The fiber in the fruit will not only help with cholesterol levels but will also keep you feeling full for longer and promote better gut health. However, while considered safe for most people, it is possible to be allergic to the fruit. 

If high cholesterol isn’t a concern in your life, there are plenty of other reasons to add this little-known fruit to your diet. Chayote’s antioxidant properties have been linked with combating cellular damage, fighting inflammation, and reducing the signs of aging. At the very least, you’re exploring the benefits of a summer fruit you otherwise didn’t know existed. 

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