The health benefits of papaya could easily fill an entire book. Papaya fruit, also known as pawpaw, is not only delicious but is also highly regarded for it’s digestive, medicinal and nutritional properties. The papaya fruit is apart of the Caricaceae family, is native to Central American and is now grown all over the tropics – especially here in Hawaii.
The one thing about papaya that most people need to be aware of, is that most of it is now Genetically Modified (GM) food. It’s sad but true – and we have Monsanto’s to thank for it. But being aware of where you’re papaya is coming from is essential. It’s important to have a good, local, organic source, preferably one that is not located near any mono-cropping papaya farms, as those are most likely to now be GM. Many Hawaii papayas are sold in American grocery stores, so please support organically grown papayas. Even with organically grown, it’s still no guarantee that there was no cross-pollination involved, as this is now a common problem with Monsanto’s GM corn cross pollinating with local varieties.
There are many different varieties of papaya, that all have distinct size, color and shape and unique and subtle flavor differences. Mostly, papayas have somewhat of a pear shape with orange-reddish flesh inside, with black seeds. But they’re all similar in nutritional breakdown.
Macronutrient Breakdown of Papaya
Papaya, like most fruit derives most of its calories from simple carbohydrates, with the remaining calories coming from protein and fat. The perfect caloric-nutrient ratio to match our nutritional needs – making fruit one of the most perfect foods for consumption on an optimal diet. Like most fruits and vegetables they are also high in water content and low in calories – another contributing nutritional factor that fares in our favor.
- Carbohydrates: 92%
- Protein: 5%
- Fat: 3%
Health Benefits of Papaya Fruit
Boost Immune System: Papaya is particularly high in Vitamin C, A and E all powerful immune boosting antioxidant vitamins. Papayas have a very high content of vitamin C, an essential vitamin that we must get from food, as our bodies can’t make it. Papaya is also a great source of vitamin A, required to help maintain healthy mucus membranes, clear skin and good eye sight. Due to the properties of these vitamins, this makes papaya a great fruit to help fight free radicals
High in Antioxidants, Flavanoids and Carotenes: Papaya is a rich source of these essential nutrients, especially beta-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin, as well as hundreds of others not even yet discovered. Carotenes are known to protect the body from lung and other cancers. Antioxidants help slow down the aging process by providing your body with lots of free radical scavengers.
Improves Digestion: Papayas are well known for their high enzyme content, helping the food break down quite rapidly without much extra work required from the body. This is one of the key reasons fruits are so essential to our diets, for their ease of digestibility, also due to their high water and soluble fiber content.
Reduce Inflammation: Papayas contain 2 enzymes; papain and chymopapain that have been shown to help reduce inflammation and to increase the rate of healing from burns. The antioxidants previously mentioned, namely vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene also contribute to reducing inflammation.
Promotes Normal Bowel Movements: Due to the high water content, ease of digestibility and high content of soluble fiber, this allows the proper functioning of bowel movements and helps to prevent constipation. (If you don’t have at least 1-2 BM per day, then you can consider yourself constipated) Improving the elimination time of food, in addition to papaya’s folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E, can help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Lower cholesterol: Papaya, along with all fruit contain zero cholesterol, and the high content of fiber will also help lower high cholesterol levels.
Source of B vitamins: During chronic times of stress the body’s B vitamins become depleted. Papaya contains smaller amounts of the range of B-vitamins, including B1 and B6. Papaya is a great source of folate, an essential B-vitamin, especially during pregnancy as it helps to promote and restore cellular growth.
Papaya is also a great source of minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium, phosphorus, and iron are all important to proper cellular functioning and an essential component of a healthy diet.
My favorite way to eat papaya to cut it in half, scoop the seeds and squeeze a light splash of fresh lemon or lime, and enjoy with a spoon. You can also use papaya as a base to your smoothies, like in the Papaya Super C Smoothie. I also love papaya either squared or balled on top of my salad or in my salad dressing.
What’s your favorite way to eat papaya?