The papaya (Carica papaya) is a spherical or pear-shaped fruit that can be as long as 20 inches/ 50 cm. Papayas commonly found in the market usually average about 7 inches/18 cm and weigh about 1 pound/1/2 kilogram. Their ﬂesh is a rich orange color with either yellow or pink hues.
Papaya has a wonderfully soft consistency and a sweet, musky taste. Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are round, black seeds encased in a gelatin-like substance. These seeds are edible, though they are quite bitter.
The papaya originated in Central America. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it quickly became favored by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, who took papayas from Central America to many other subtropical lands, including India, the Philippines, and parts of Africa. In fact, the papaya was so beloved by the explorers that Christopher Columbus called it “the fruit of the angels.”
In the twentieth century, papayas were brought to the United States and have been cultivated in Hawaii, the major U.S. producer since the 1920s. Today, the largest commercial producers of papayas include the United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Papaya Nutritional Highlights
Papayas are an excellent source of antioxidant nutrients, such as carotene, vitamin C, and ﬂavonoids. They are also a very good source of folic acid, vitamins E and A, potassium, and dietary ﬁber. A 100 gram serving is about 1/3 of a medium papaya and provides 39 calories, 0.6 grams of protein, 0.1 grams of fat, and 9.8 grams of carbohydrate, with 1.8 grams of ﬁber and 5.9 grams of natural sugars.
Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C, and one single medium fruit provides 224 percent of recommended daily intake.
One medium papaya has approximately:
- 120 calories
- 30 grams of carbohydrate – including 5 grams of fiber and 18 grams of sugar
- 2 grams of protein
- Papayas are also a good source of:
- vitamin A
- pantothenic acid
They also have B vitamins, alpha and beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin K, and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with tomatoes.
Papaya Health Benefits
The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. Papain is more concentrated in the fruit when it is unripe.
In addition to providing protective beneﬁts against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases associated with free-radical damage, papayas are valued for their papain content. This protein-digesting enzyme is used in digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in many meat tenderizers. It is also used in a similar manner as bromelain from pineapple to treat a number of conditions, such as indigestion, chronic diarrhea, hay fever, sports injuries and other causes of trauma, and allergies.
Aids in Digestion
Papayas are commonly consumed for proper digestion. The presence of papain, a digestive super enzyme, improves digestion by breaking down proteins and also cleanses the digestive tract. This ensures a reduced conversion of protein into body fat. If the protein in our diet is not digested properly, it may cause arthritis, constipation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other related health conditions.
Papayas are also good for people who are trying to lose weight naturally. Having a bowl full of papaya as a mid-evening or mid-morning snack is good for health.
Papayas are effective for killing intestinal worms, thereby avoiding infections and complications associated with them.
A paste of fresh papaya roots can be rubbed onto the teeth and gums to get relief from toothaches. The bark of the tree, primarily the inner bark, is also an excellent remedy for tooth problems. (Somonsohn, 2002).
Researchers have discovered that papayas are effective against breast, pancreatic, and other cancers. A papaya leaf extract obtained from dried leaves produced anti-carcinogenic effects against tumor cells that were grown in the laboratory. It was observed in a study conducted by Dr. Nam Dang and his colleagues in Japan, that the effects were stronger when the cells were given larger doses of papaya leaf tea. The scientists exposed different types of cancer-affected cells to different papaya leaf extracts and found that the growth of tumors slowed down. The fruit has gained credibility and has been used in many medicines for its anticancer powers.
Papayas can be great revitalizing agents, which is why they are used in many cosmetics. Also, papayas are used in homemade face masks by many women. The papain in them kills dead cells and purifies the skin. The beneficial properties and the healing enzymes present in papaya help treat sunburn and irritated skin. A good facial massage using papaya is a fabulous remedy to remove dead cells. If you are a person who spends most of the time outdoors, then papayas can be a great help, as papayas fight free radicals that age your skin. The peels of papayas are also used to rub on the face and hands for healthy skin. Papayas are also used to treat skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, etc.
Improves Heart Health
The seeds of papayas are good for a healthy heart. Having three powerful antioxidant vitamins, namely vitamin A, C, and E, means papayas are helpful in preventing problems such as atherosclerosis and diabetic heart diseases. The presence of pro-carotenoid phytonutrients helps prevent oxidization of cholesterol in the body. When oxidation of cholesterol takes place, it sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and forms plaque that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin E and vitamin C obtained from papayas help in preventing the cholesterol from sticking to the walls, thereby keeping your heart healthy. As a good source of fiber, papayas also help reduce the LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Include papayas in your daily diet as a mid-evening snack to keep your heart young. It also helps in treating sores, wounds, and ulcers.
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Reduces Acne & Burns
The latex obtained from papayas is used to treat the areas on the skin affected by acne. The fleshy side of the papaya skin can be used as a mask to cure acne. A diet which includes papayas will help cure the condition internally, making the skin clear. Got a burn? Use papaya. When the latex from the fruit is applied on burnt area, it helps in reducing the marks caused due to the burn.
The enzymes present in papayas, especially the papain and chymopapain, reduce the inflammation in different parts of the body.
Treats Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a disease of the eye. In this condition, the ocular cells degenerate, which results in blurred vision and can cause blindness as well. This is an age-related illness and adding papayas to the diet is beneficial for reducing the risk of developing macular degeneration. An antioxidant named beta-carotene gives papaya its orange color. Just as carrots help improve the eyesight due to the presence of beta-carotene, papayas are also known to be effective in reducing the effect of macular degeneration. According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, a consumption of 3 or more servings of this fruit on a daily basis day may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
The presence of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E in papayas reduces motion sickness by producing a tonic effect in the stomach and in the intestines. Papaya juice and the ripened form of papaya also aid in digestion. The fiber obtained from the fruit helps increase bowel movements. Improved bowel movements help ease the passage of stool, thereby reducing the effects of constipation (Pinoy B. 2010).
Papaya juice can be of great help for women with irregular menses. Consumption of green, unripe papayas can normalize the irregularity in one’s periodic cycle. Papayas are considered as a ‘hot food’, meaning that they produce heat in the body. This excessive production of heat in the body stimulates the estrogen hormone. This induces periods in the females. Hence, papayas can be beneficial in handling difficult menses.
Papayas have been known to be effective against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. One of the enzymes found in papayas, called chymopapain, has a significant effect on controlling rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Papaya consumption has also been linked an improvement in the immune system of the body. Research conducted by Hiramoto, Imao, Sato, Inoue, and Mori from Japan is a proof that the antioxidants present in papaya play an important role in improving the immunity of people. Flowers and roots of the plant have been proven to be beneficial against jaundice, bronchitis, kidney colic, and other illnesses.
How to Select and Store Papaya
If you want to eat papayas within a day of purchase, choose those that have reddish orange skin and are slightly soft to the touch. Papayas that have patches of yellow color will take a few more days to ripen. Avoid papayas that are totally green or overly hard, as their ﬂesh will not develop its characteristic sweet juicy ﬂavor.
Papayas that are partially yellow should be left at room temperature, where they will ripen in a few days. If you want to speed this process, place them in a paper bag with a banana. Ripe papayas should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within one to two days to enjoy their maximum ﬂavor.
Tips for Preparing Papaya
Papayas should be sprayed with a solution of diluted additive-free soap or commercial produce wash and then scrubbed under cool running water with a vegetable brush. After washing the fruit, cut it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. If it is being consumed simply with a spoon, a little lemon or lime juice can be squeezed on top.
To cut papaya into smaller pieces for fruit salad or other recipes, peel it with a paring knife, cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and then cut it into the desired size and shape. You can also use a melon baller to scoop out the fruit of a halved papaya. If you are adding papaya to a fruit salad, you should do so just before serving, as it tends to cause the other fruits to become very soft.
Quick Serving Ideas for Papaya
- Eat papayas whole or in fruit salads, or juice them.
- Sprinkle papaya with fresh lime juice and enjoy as is.
- Slice a small papaya lengthwise and ﬁll with fruit salad.
- Mix diced papaya, fresh coriander, jalapeno peppers, and ginger to make a unique salsa that goes great with prawns, scallops, and halibut.
- Combine diced papaya, chopped cooked chicken breast, onions, and cashew nuts with soy mayonnaise to make a chicken salad with a tropical ﬂair.
- In a blender, combine papaya, strawberries, and yogurt for a cold soup treat.
- If you have a papaya that is not too soft, cut it into medium-size cubes. Place the papaya on a skewer with small onions (or other vegetables of your choice) and grill for about ten minutes. Serve as a side dish with a variety of different entrées.
How to eat papaya
When choosing or eating papaya, look for fresh papayas with reddish orange skin that are soft to the touch. Just cut like a melon, scoop out the seeds, and enjoy. The seeds of the papaya are edible but have a bitter, peppery taste. Using a spoon, it is possible to scoop out the soft flesh of the fruit. Papaya is a soft, versatile fruit. This means it can be incorporated into many recipes. Consider the following simple methods of preparation:
- Make a tropical fruit salad with fresh papaya, pineapple, and mango.
- Muddle papaya into a glass of lemonade, iced tea, or water for a burst of fresh fruity flavor.
- Make a fresh salsa with papaya, mango, jalapeno, red peppers, and chipotle pepper. Use as a topping for fish tacos.
- Add a few slices of frozen papaya to smoothies. Combine with pineapple juice, half a frozen banana, and Greek yogurt for a sweet tropical treat.
Green Papaya Fry Recipe
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Negative Effects Of Papaya
Consumption of papaya in normal amounts is recognized safe by FDA. However, there are certain side effects of consuming papaya.
Pregnant Women: Papaya is classified as being harmful during pregnancy. It is considered as a ‘hot’ fruit. Latex, present in high concentrations in raw and semi-ripe papayas, causes uterine contractions which might lead to abortions. Avoid eating raw papaya if you are pregnant.
Gastrointestinal Irritation: Consuming too many papayas can cause a powerful laxative effect in the intestines. Avoid eating large quantities of papaya, especially if it is in its raw form. Unripe or raw papaya can cause pain in the intestines or stomach and can sometimes cause esophageal perforations.
Seeds: The black seeds of the papaya contain traces of an enzyme called carpine, which is a potentially toxic substance. According to the International BioPark Foundation’s information about medicinal plants of the Peruvian Amazon, this enzyme can make the nerve centers numb, which could lead to paralysis or cardiac depression. In some cases, the narrowing of blood vessels is also seen, which is the caused due to carpine.
Papaya is not associated with any signiﬁcant safety issues.