Last Updated on October 12, 2020
The papaya is a crowd-pleasing fruit and a favorite among many people across the globe. It’s deliciously sweet with hints of muskiness in its flavor. And with its soft and buttery texture, it’s not hard to understand why it makes such a great addition to various meals and desserts.
Papayas were once considered to be a rare and exotic fruit. Today, many people can enjoy them all year no matter where they are. They can be enjoyed as is, but it’s also common to find salads or smoothie bowls with papayas as an added ingredient.
Health enthusiasts and fitness junkies evidently love them too. After all, papayas aren’t just known for being a tasty tropical treat, they’re also famous for their many health benefits.
Did you know that papaya is actually an herb? Perhaps this is why papayas possess plenty of nourishing and healing qualities. There’s more to papayas than your regular fruit. To learn more about them and the many wonders they can do for your body, read on below.
What Are Papayas?
Papayas, otherwise known as pawpaw or papaw, is an orange colored fruit that is native to Mexico and Central America. But today, most tropical countries like the Philippines and India are able to cultivate papayas in their own land.
Christopher Columbus once called the papaya as “the fruit of the angels”. True to its name, papayas are indeed heaven-sent as they make healthy eating a little more satisfying and enjoyable. It’s not every day that you can enjoy something so good yet so healthy at the same time.
Nutritional Content of Papayas
Papayas come with a lengthy list of vitamins and nutrients. They’re a great source of vitamin C, making them one of the best fruit options to combat the common cold and various immune system deficiencies. In fact, one cup of papayas alone contains 87 mg of vitamin C — that’s 97% of its recommended daily value intake.
Papayas are also rich in folate, otherwise known as vitamin B9. Like other vitamins in the B-complex group, folate helps the body in breaking down carbohydrates into energy. Vitamin B9 folate produces red blood cells and white blood cells in the bone marrow. It also helps the body in producing DNA and RNA.
Apart from folate and vitamin C, papayas are filled with magnesium and copper. Magnesium plays an integral role in our body’s biochemical regulation. Copper, on the other hand, can be found in our bodily tissues. Both magnesium and copper are needed to maintain a healthy immune system.
Other notable nutrients found in papayas include vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, pantothenic acid, and fiber.
Health Benefits of Papaya
Good for the Skin
Papayas aren’t just found in food; they’re also found in bars of soap and body lotions! This is because they’re rich in vitamin E, which helps keep the skin moisturized, radiant, and youthful.
Papayas are also rich in vitamin C and lycopene. Both nutrients work as antioxidants to protect the skin from excessive free radical activity. In a nutshell, free radicals are incomplete molecules that are constantly looking for their missing pair.
Because typical molecules always come in a pair, free radicals are forced to find their own. In the process of their search, they end up damaging our cells, which then results in early signs of aging.
Several studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of papayas on the skin. In one study, participants who have undergone a lycopene supplementation program for 10 to 12 weeks showed a decrease in skin redness due to prolonged sun exposure.
Another study involved older women consuming a supplement mixture of vitamin C, lycopene, and other antioxidants. After 14 weeks, the experiment resulted in a significant reduction in the depth of the participants’ facial wrinkles.
Earlier, we learned that free radicals cause cell damage in the body, therefore, causing the body to age faster than normal.
But truth be told, aging is perhaps the least troubling concern brought about by an excess in free radicals. Free radicals are also capable of weakening the body’s immune system, making the body more vulnerable to different types of diseases.
Luckily, scientists have found that papayas are abundant in antioxidant nutrients such as flavonoids, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B, and pantothenic acids. More importantly, papayas are full of carotenoids that are said to neutralize free radicals.
By addressing the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, papayas can then protect the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
In fact, a study shows that fermented papayas can lower the effects of oxidative stress in older adults and in people who have prediabetes, liver disease, and mild hyperthyroidism.
Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As kids, we were taught that there are three main causes of diseases: unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and harmful vices such as smoking and alcohol abuse. But did you know that chronic inflammation is one of the biggest causes of many illnesses?
Diseases such as stroke and other heart-related problems, diabetes, and even lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are all caused by chronic inflammation. And worse, it’s fueled by making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
This is where papayas come in. Thanks to the antioxidants present in papayas, they can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. The fact that a lot of people consider them easily enjoyable makes them a great healthy alternative to junk food.
Promotes a Healthy Heart
According to medical research, the vitamin C content in papayas and its antioxidant properties from lycopene are a viable solution to a healthy heart. These antioxidant nutrients protect the heart from disease by boosting good HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Most, if not all, heart-related troubles like stroke and heart attack are caused by bad cholesterol.
When there’s too much bad LDL cholesterol in the body, a buildup called plaque is formed around the walls of your blood vessels. If left untreated, this buildup will eventually turn into a blockage that prevents oxygen from getting into the heart.
When this happens, one can experience chest pains, otherwise known as angina, or more fatal conditions like a stroke or heart attack.
May Prevent Cancer
Among all different kinds of fruits and vegetables with antioxidant properties, papayas are the only ones that show promising results in preventing breast cancer. According to medical research, papaya’s lycopene content can effectively reduce the development of cancer cells in the body.
Plenty of medical experts believe that cancer is the end result of both inflammation and oxidative stress.
Earlier, we’ve learned that the antioxidant properties of papayas can effectively address these conditions. From there, it’s inferred that papayas also have anticancer properties as well. To test this, a small study was conducted involving older adults with inflammation and precancerous stomach conditions.
The results show that a fermented papaya solution can significantly reduce the effects of oxidative damage in the body.
Papayas contain an enzyme called papain which is known to promote healthy digestion. In tropical countries where papayas grow natively, the papaya is used to treat constipation as well as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
According to one study, individuals who consumed papayas for a total of 40 days showed less bloating with significant improvements in constipation.
Interestingly, the papaya fruit is not the only part that can be used as a treatment for digestive issues. One medical discovery says that its roots, leaves, and seeds were able to treat ulcers.
Although the study was conducted on animals and is yet to prove the same results in humans, it’s still an undeniable fact that papayas are great for optimal digestive health.
How to Enjoy Papayas
The papaya is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant nutrients. It would be a wise idea to incorporate this delicious fruit into one’s diet to help maintain the body’s optimal health.
But the question is, how do you pick out good papaya from the whole crate? When choosing the perfect papaya, it’s important to take note of its ripeness.
Unripe papaya or an overly ripe one will have a very different taste from the perfect papaya. Its ripeness can easily be seen through its color. It should be orange to red; having spots on its skin is completely normal as well.
The perfect papaya should also be a bit soft when you apply gentle pressure on it. These factors don’t just guarantee a better tasting fruit, but it also indicates a fruit that’s abundant in vitamins and nutrients.
Papayas are best enjoyed when served cold. You can enjoy it as is by simply washing the fruit and cutting it into wedges, just as you would with a watermelon. Today, papayas are used in various recipes.
The easiest and healthiest ways to enjoy papayas is by adding them into a simple salad. Papaya salsa is also a great way to upgrade your usual dip. And if you’re in the mood for a sweet dessert, you can blend them up with milk to create a papaya milkshake, or you can simply enjoy them with other fruits as a smoothie.