A ripe papaya is a sweet and delicious fruit and a powerful natural remedy against many illnesses and conditions. It has a lovely musky undertone, a soft texture, and a beautiful orange color. As if its exotic taste were not enough, papayas are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, dietary fiber and plant compounds that are more that make it a potent natural remedy.
What Are Papayas?
Papayas are a fruit that originally comes from Central America and Mexico but are now grown around the world in tropical climates. They grow on trees that grow between 15 and 30 feet tall. Most papayas now come from Hawaii, though they are also found in the Caribbean, sunny states including California, Texas and Florida and other tropical countries. Though the papayas that are bought in produce markets are generally oval and around 7” long, there is another variety that grows as large as 10 pounds. When you slice a papaya open, you’ll find dozens of small black seeds that are surrounded by a gel-like substance. The seeds are edible and have a peppery, bitter taste.
Papayas are eaten raw, either on their own or diced into salads or main dishes or cooked into desserts. The juice is also very popular.
1. Papayas Are a Delicious Source of Antioxidants and Nutrients
Though papaya’s most obvious health benefit comes from its high levels of Vitamin C, the fruit is an excellent source of many other antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help to protect against free radicals and illness. One fresh papaya contains:
Calories – 119
Fiber – 4.9 grams (19% of RDV)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (70.0 mg)
Omega-6 Fatty Acids (16 mg)
Vitamin C – 173 mg (288% of RDV)
Vitamin A – 1531 IU (31% of RDV)
Folate – 106 mcg (26% of RDV)
Potassium – 720 mg (20% of RDV)
Vitamin E – 2.0 mg (10% of RDV)
Vitamin K – 7.2 mcg (10% of RDV)
Papayas are low in cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat a nd they’re rich in flavonoids, and carotenes. They also contain an enzyme that helps digest proteins.
2. Papaya Promotes Healthy, Younger-Looking Skin
With its high levels of the antioxidant Vitamin C, papaya gives a nutritional boost to your body’s ability to build collagen and fight against damage caused by the sun’s rays. Along with the carotenoids found in the fruit and its Vitamin E, it protects against wrinkles, dryness, and other signs of aging and helps skin cell turnover so that your skin has a healthy glow. In addition to its nutritional impact, papaya can also be used to make facial masks that can make your complexion smooth and bright.
Bottom Line: Papaya’s healing enzymes and antioxidants can help revitalize your skin and keep it clear and young looking.
3. Papaya Promotes Healthy Vision and Fights the Effects of Damaging Rays
Papayas have high levels of beta-carotene, and the unique compounds found in its flesh make that nutrient three times more available than other fruits that contain the same amount. With all those nutrients found in its flesh, eating papaya can turn around Vitamin A deficiencies and protect the eyes from the damage that comes from aging, UV rays and high-energy blue light. In addition to those benefits, papaya also contains lutein and zeanxanthin, two compounds that protect the eyes from macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. Some studies have even shown that consuming these compounds can improve both the color and clarity of your vision. This is especially important for people who spend hours in front of computer screens that can blur or dull the vision.
Bottom Line: Eating papaya can give you a powerful weapon in the fight to preserve your vision in the face of age and environmental damage.
4. Papaya’s Antioxidants Make It A Heart-Healthy Food
When cholesterol oxidizes in your blood stream, it can block the arteries. This can lead to cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Papayas are rich in both Vitamin C and Vitamin E, which have antioxidant properties that stop this from happening and prevent the formation of bad cholesterol. The fiber in papaya also lowers those same levels by keeping cholesterol from being absorbed during the digestive process. The fruit also contains folate, which controls the levels of a chemical in the blood that hurts our blood vessels and makes heart disease more deadly.
Bottom Line: The phytonutrients and antioxidants in papaya can help fight the most potent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
5. The Enzymes in Papaya Help You Digest Protein and Fight Gastrointestinal Problems
Papaya contains an enzyme called papain that is found in both its flesh and its seeds. Papain has been shown to break protein down so effectively that it has long been used as a meat tenderizer. When you eat papaya, it has the same actions within your digestive tract, breaking your food down quickly and helping to avoid gas and the growth of infections. It’s high fiber content will help to keep you regular, while the folate, Vitamin E, beta-carotenes and Vitamin C have all been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Bottom Line: Papayas help to improve gut health by quickly breaking down proteins and carrying away cancer-causing toxins.
6. Papaya Supports Your Body’s Natural Defenses Against Cancer
Many different types of cancer cells have protein layers that protect them from damage, but the same enzymes that make papaya a powerful digestive tool have been shown to break down this layer, leaving the cells weakened and unable to spread. Papayas are also rich in antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, and compounds that help to detox the body and carry carcinogens out. Some studies have also shown that papaya leaves contain cancer-killing compounds, while others have shown that combining papaya with drinking green tea can dramatically cut a man’s risk for prostate cancer.
Bottom Line: Papaya has been shown to be effective in protecting against breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and many other types of cancers.
What You Need to Know About Buying Papaya
Papayas are a fruit that is best eaten when it is at its peak ripeness, so you need to know what to look for when you’re at the market. Papayas are ripe when their skin has turned from green to a reddish orange color. If there are yellow patches you can purchase them, but they will still need another day or two, while green papayas should be passed over. Papayas that are too soft to the touch are beyond their time.
Though they are available year round, they are at their best during the summer and early fall months. Papayas can be stored in the refrigerator once they’re ripe, but before that they should be left on the counter at room temperature.
Though the easiest way to eat a papaya is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and then eat it with a spoon, you can also dice it into salads or chop it up for salsa or to be used in desserts. Papaya is also very good when it is dried.
It’s important to note that papaya can be harmful during pregnancy, and should be avoided by women who are expecting. It can also have a laxative effect if too much is eaten, so use moderation.