Papaya is a luscious tropical fruit with a sweet taste and soft texture. Grown in Hawaii, the Caribbean, and South America, papaya is a tasty treat with many health benefits promising to make the body stronger and healthier.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest rates papaya as one of its top five fantastic fruits alongside grapefruit, watermelon, guava, and kiwi. Papaya is also ranked higher than common healthy fruits like oranges, apples, and bananas. CSPI scores each fruit by adding up its percent of the daily value for six key nutrients: folate, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, and fiber plus carotenoids.
When comparing papaya to apples and oranges, papaya continues to rank higher in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Along with the high level of nutrients, they are low in fat.
Papaya is a rich source of proteolytic enzymes like papain, caricain, chymopapain, and glycyl endopeptidase that help aid the digestion process. These proteolytic enzymes break down proteins into amino acids. Undigested proteins may lead to gastrointestinal problems and flatulence that can cause bacteria to grow in the colon.
These proteolytic enzymes are so powerful in breaking down proteins they are often used as a meat tenderizer.
Nutrient-rich foods have antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin that may help reduce the risk of cancer.
A study from the University of Florida suggests an extract made from dried papaya leaves can have an effect against cancer cells. In the study scientists documented papaya leaf extract boosts the production of Th1-type cytokines. These cytokines, along with papaya’s anti-tumor effect on different cancers, suggest therapeutic strategies that help the immune system fight cancer cells.
Reduces heart disease
Along with papaya’s strong antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene, this superfruit contains high levels of vitamin C and E. These vitamins combined with the antioxidants reduce the oxidation of cholesterol in the arteries. The fiber found in papaya can lower LDL levels in the blood by reducing its absorption during digestion. Cholesterol oxidation leads to plaque buildup in the arteries that can result in a heart attack.
Increasing the intake of vitamins and antioxidants and found in papaya improves blood flow leading to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. They are also a great source of folate helping to control homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine damage blood vessels and can lead to cardiovascular disease. Introducing papaya into your diet will protect against heart disease and stroke.
Papayas contains beta-carotene that converts into vitamin A during digestion. This vitamin is beneficial for people who suffer from vision loss.
Two special compounds, lutein, and zeaxanthin are also present in papaya. The macular region of the eyes contains these concentrated phytonutrients where they protect against UV light.
Research has shown that intaking these phytonutrients may greatly reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. This is the leading cause of blindness in older adults. Obtaining high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin helps protect against diseases like glaucoma and cataracts. They also help improve color perception and visual activity.
Protects the skin
Papaya contains high levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene that may help protect the skin against damage causing elements. These elements lead to wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Papayas are also high in papain which breaks down dead skin cells and promotes skin renewal when applied topically. Papaya body and face treatments are a great way to improve the skin’s elasticity and appearance.
Papaya contains a rich source of nutrients, vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants that hold powerful health benefits for the entire body. From improving digestion issues, protecting your heart and eyes, and potentially decreasing the risk of cancer, introducing papaya to your daily diet will help keep the doctor away.
Author: Eric Weinert has been in the tropical fruit business in Hawaii for over 40 years. Weinert started Hawaii Papaya Direct with his wife and sister to bring the fresh taste of Hawaii to the mainland. Weinert is also the President of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association.