by Emy Breitenwischer, B.S. in Food Science & Nutrition, Concentration in Dietetics
Papaya- a fruit many have heard of, but have never really tried. After learning about all of its health benefits, its no surprise Christopher Columbus called papaya the “fruit of the angles.” What makes this deliciously sweet orange-colored flesh fruit so incredible is that it contains powerful digestive enzymes and is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will help keep the body healthy and strong. Below I’ve included how to select and prepare papaya, along with some of the amazing benefits of this delicious fruit!
Selecting a Papaya: You can find papaya at your local grocery store as a whole fruit or pre-cut slices (with the whole, you’ll have more fruit at a cheaper price). A ripe papaya will have skin that’s about half green, half golden yellow and will be firm, but yields to gentle pressure. If your selection of papayas are all unripe, firm & fully green, buy it and then let it sit on the counter to ripen, which takes about 3-4 days. Avoid papayas that are overly soft or have blemishes.
To prepare papaya: Remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, cut off ends, cut the fruit in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon (I place a paper towel around the fruit for a better grip as it can get a little slippery) and then cut into chunks. Store in the fridge & eat within 3-5 days. I love eating papaya before or after hard to digest meals, in yogurt or oatmeal, on top of a salad or alone as a snack.
Low in Calories and Sugar
One cup of papaya chunks has 2.5grams of fiber and only 55 calories & 8.3 grams of sugar, making it an ideal snack or a tasty alternative to sweets.
Papaya contains papain, a powerful proteolytic digestive enzyme that can break down proteins into their individual amino acids. If you have low stomach acid, digestion issues (IBS, gas, constipation, bloating), or difficulty digesting meat or certain foods (gluten, dairy), try having papaya slices or juice before or after your meal to reduce any symptoms. It’s also said papaya can help with morning sickness if pregnant, so add a slice to your breakfast to soothe your stomach all day.
Papaya contains several digestive enzymes and is high in Vitamin C, which can help reduce inflammation with certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also high in Vitamin A, and beta-carotene has been shown to help reduce the risk of asthma & airway inflammation levels.
Protects Against Heart Disease
This fruit is very high in antioxidants, especially vitamin A & vitamin C (1 cup of 1” pieces containing 147% of your daily value). Vitamin C has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart attacks by protecting the arteries from free radical damage and oxidizing cholesterol, which can form plaque along the artery walls. Papaya is also high in folate, which helps convert homocysteine, a substance linked to heart attacks, into other benign amino acids to help reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event.
Help Prevent Macular Degeneration
The flavonoids lutein and zeaxanthin are phytonutrients that provide protection against both UV and high-energy blue light that can damage our eye’s retinas. Consuming these phytonutrients can greatly reduce the risk of developing age-related macular, cataracts, glaucoma and other chronic eye diseases.
Papaya is rich in antioxidants, particularly lycopene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin (a less known carotenoid), which can reduce the risk for developing cancer. The proteolytic enzymes in this fruit can also help to break down the protein layer of cancer cells that usually surrounds & protects them, leaving them more susceptible to your body’s natural immune response.
Acne protection, protect against free radicals that can lead to wrinkles & visible signs of aging, reduce menstrual pain, improve immunity, reduce burn marks, treat fungal and viral infections (intestinal worms)