Papayas grow in tropical climates. Their sweet taste, vibrant colors and the wide variety of health benefits they provide make them a popular fruit.
The papaya, a previously exotic and rare fruit, is now available at most times of the year.
The potential health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, aiding digestion, improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and improving wound healing.
Papayas are a soft, fleshy fruit that can be used in many different culinary ways. Here we will explore more about its health benefits, uses, how to include more of these nutrients in your diet, and what nutritional value papayas have.
Fast facts about papaya:
- Papaya is native to Mexico. However, it also grows naturally in the Caribbean and Florida.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), India produces the most papayas – over 5 million tons in 2013.
- It can be added to salads, smoothies and other dishes.
Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C, and a single medium-sized fruit provides 224 percent of the recommended daily intake.
One medium papaya has approximately:
30 grams of carbohydrates – including 5 grams of fiber and 18 grams of sugar
2 grams of protein
Papayas are also a good source of:
- folic acid
- vitamin A
- pantothenic acid
They also have B vitamins, alpha and beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin K and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant most associated with tomatoes.
Health benefits of eating Papaya
The nutrients found in papaya are believed to have a number of health benefits. They can help protect against a number of health conditions.
Age-related macular degeneration
Papaya has a number of health benefits, including asthma prevention and even cancer-fighting properties.
Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant in papaya, filters out harmful blue light rays.
It is thought to play a protective role in eye health and may ward off macular degeneration.
However, a higher intake of all fruits has been shown to reduce the risk and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
The risk of developing asthma is lower in people who consume a lot of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, contained in foods such as papaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin and carrots.
Consuming the antioxidant beta-carotene, found in papayas, may reduce the risk of cancer. Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers.
Low intakes of vitamin K are associated with a higher risk of bone fractures. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health as it improves calcium absorption and can reduce the excretion of calcium in the urine, meaning there is more calcium in the body to strengthen and rebuild bones.
Studies have shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and people with type 2 diabetes may have better blood sugar, fat, and insulin levels. One small papaya provides about 3 grams of fiber, which is equivalent to just 17 grams of carbohydrates.
Papayas contain an enzyme called papain that aids digestion; in fact, it can be used as a meat tenderiser. Papaya also contains a high fiber and water content, both of which help prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.
The fiber, potassium and vitamin content in papaya all help prevent heart disease. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change a person can make to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Choline is a very important and versatile nutrient found in papayas that aids our bodies in sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also helps maintain the structure of cell membranes, aids in nerve impulse transmission, aids in fat absorption and reduces chronic inflammation.
Skin and Healing
When used topically, mashed papaya appears to be beneficial for promoting wound healing and preventing infection of burnet areas. Researchers believe that the proteolytic enzymes chymopapain and papain in papaya are responsible for their beneficial effects. Ointments containing the papain enzyme have also been used to treat pressure ulcers (bedsores).
Papaya is also great for hair as it contains vitamin A, a nutrient needed for sebum production, which keeps hair hydrated. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all body tissues, including skin and hair. Adequate vitamin C intake, which papaya can provide, is necessary for the building and maintenance of collagen, which structures the skin structure.
When choosing or eating papaya, look for fresh papayas with reddish-orange skins that are soft to the touch. Just cut like a melon, scoop out the seeds and enjoy. The seeds of the papaya are edible, but have a bitter, peppery taste. With the help of a spoon it is possible to scoop out the soft flesh of the fruit.
Papaya is a soft, versatile fruit. This means it can be incorporated into many recipes. Consider the following simple preparation methods:
- Make a tropical fruit salad with fresh papaya, pineapple and mango.
- Mix papaya in a glass of lemonade, iced tea or water for a fresh, fruity taste.
- Make a fresh salsa with papaya, mango, jalapeno, red peppers and chipotle pepper. Use as a topping for fish tacos.
- Add a few slices of frozen papaya to smoothies. Combine with pineapple juice, a half frozen banana and Greek yogurt for a sweet tropical treat.
People with a latex allergy may also be allergic to papaya because papayas contain enzymes chitanases. They can cause a cross-reaction between latex and the food they contain. For some, ripe papaya may have an unpleasant odor. You can minimize this smell by mixing the sliced fruit with lime juice. The seeds of the papaya, while unpleasant to some, are completely safe to consume.