The papaya, also known as pawpaw, is a very healthy tropical fruit that is very refreshing and nutritious. It has strong antioxidant properties that make it an ideal fruit for preventing various illnesses.
Papayas contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins and it is more concentrated in the fruit when unripe.
NB: Papain is used to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.
Papayas are deliciously sweet and very refreshing on hot and sunny days. One medium sized papaya has about 120 calories.
Health Benefits of Papayas
Papayas are very excellent sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A. 1 medium sized papaya contains 168mg of vitamin C and 131mcg of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). They are also rich in folate, fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, carbohydrates, copper, sodium, vitamins E & K, protein and pantothenic acid.
These nutrients are very beneficial to the body and help in:
1. Reducing the risk of heart diseases. Vitamins A, C, fiber and potassium help in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol, lowering high cholesterol levels in the body and therefore reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
2. Providing protection against cancer. Consumption of papayas can reduce the risk of colon and prostate cancers.
3. Reducing inflammation. Papayas contain antioxidants and protein-digesting enzymes like papain as well as vitamin A which help in reducing inflammation and healing burns.
4. Skin improvement. Papayas contain vitamin A which helps in the growth of all body cells/tissues including the skin and hair. It is also required for sebum production. Vitamin C is needed for collagen production, which is a very important protein in holding the structure of our bodies.
5. Improving brain health. Vitamin C helps in the production of neurotransmitters which are necessary for transmitting information in the brain. It also helps in the production of serotonin, a hormone required in various body systems including the immune, digestive, nervous and endocrine systems.
6. Improving digestion. Papayas contain the digestive papain, which helps in breaking down food in the stomach. This enzyme is commercially used in making meat tenderizers. The fiber and high water content in papaya help food move in the digestive track thereby preventing constipation.
To increase your consumption of papayas, use them to make papaya juice, incorporate them into your fruit salads or just enjoy a fresh half papaya as a mid-day snack.
Ripe papayas are slightly soft to the touch while the green unripe ones are hard and can be used for cooking after peeling off the bitter outer skin.