Papaya: A Fruit for All Seasons and Reasons
Scientifically named Carica papaya, the luscious papayas belong to the family of Caricaceae. Native to Central America, this exotic fruit enjoyed the status of being “The Fruit of the Angels” attributed by none other than Christopher Columbus.
Papaya Nutrition Facts
Highly nutritious, papayas are a rich source of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids, B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin K, inclusive of certain other minerals in small quantities such as potassium, calcium iron, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin and magnesium. Besides, Papayas are low in calories and have minimal sodium content.
Health Benefits of Papaya
Rich vibrantly hued, (so reminiscent of the magic of sunset), with a smooth creamy soft consistency are the humble papayas. This exotic fruit, available round the year, is a powerhouse of nutritional, digestive, and medicinal properties offering innumerable benefits. Therefore, they have been widely used in herbal medicines as a cure to treat various ailments.
1. Papayas Aid Digestive Health
The digestive enzymes papain and chymopapain, present in papayas, aid in digestion by breaking down the proteins involved in foods such as pork, fish and poultry, preventing conversion of proteins into fat. With advancing age, there happens to be an ineffective digestion of proteins, due to less secretion of the digestive enzymes, which is one of the main precursors for a number of ailments affecting the human body. In such cases, papaya enzymes prove rather effective protecting against diseases.
2. Papayas Treat Constipation
Papayas are rich in dietary fibre, which prevents constipation and helps regular bowel movements.
3. Papayas Fights Infection
According to several studies, papayas are effective in killing the germs that cause fungal and worm parasitic infections, therby preventing health hazards from these viruses.
4. Papayas Alleviates Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
With the popularity of fast and processed foods, IBS has become a very common phenomenon among most people. A disorder of the intestinal tract especially of the colon, IBS symptoms may range from mild to severe depending upon the severity of the condition. The symptoms include bloating, abdomen cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, mucus in motions, which may be quite painful and embarrassing to those affected with this disorder. Although there is no effective cure for IBS, the amino acids and papain in papayas help alleviate the symptoms by accelerating digestion preventing acid reflux.
5. Papayas Cures Stomach Ulcers
Rich sources of proteolytic enzymes make papayas digest proteins effectively. Hence, they are excellent for treating stomach ulcers.
6. Papayas Reduce Motion Sickness
Papaya is rich in essential nutrients and minerals. The Vitamin C, E and the folate content in papayas produce a soothing effect on the stomach and intestines reducing the effects of motion sickness.
7. Papayas for Morning Sickness
Regular consumption of Papayas relieve signs of nausea. Hence, papayas are beneficial for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. However, during pregnancy it is extremely crucial to consult a doctor before including the fruit in the diet.
8. Papayas Anticancer Benefits
Nutritious rich foods encourage the body’s natural defences by preventing the occurrence of numerous diseases. Similarly, several important cancer-fighting compounds present in papaya reduce risk of developing various types of cancer. Lycopene, beta-carotene and another less well-known carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin, form the rich antioxidant content in papayas are beneficial in combating cancer. The Proteolytic enzyme content found in papayas have the ability to digest the fibrin protein layers of cancer cells that normally enclose and protect them besides hindering the growth of the cells. Besides, the compounds known as is othiocyanates manage to get rid of latent carcinogens from the body in addition to boosting the proteins that help restrain tumours.
9. Papayas Benefits for Cardiac Health Care
The papaya seeds contain potent antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E which prevent various ailments concerned with the heart, such as myocardial infarction, stroke and diabetes. The presence of pro- carotenoid phytonutrients help prevent oxidization of cholesterol in the body. These compounds also prevent the cholesterol from oxidising in the body, which leads to plaque build up on the wall of the arteries ultimately ending up causing a heart attack or stroke. Since papayas are rich in dietary fibre, they help reduce cholesterol in the body.
10. Papayas Anti Inflammatory Properties
Papain and chymopapain, enzymes existing in papaya benefits to prevent inflammation in different parts of the body.
11. Papayas Arthritis Treatment
The enzymes, papain and chymopapain along with other properties of papaya such as the antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, play an important role in reducing inflammation. Hence, they are beneficial for people suffering from asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
12. Papayas Menstrual Cycle Regulation
Considered as a food with lot of heat, green unripe papayas help regulate menstrual cycles, as the excess heat is said to stimulate production of estrogens in the body.
13. Papayas Macular Degeneration Protection
Papayas are an excellent source of beta-carotene content that can be converted to vitamin A. It further converts to lutein and zeaxanthin, the carotenoids or xanthophylls that are important for promoting healthy vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are intense in the macular region of the eye, thus protecting the retina from damage caused by high-energy blue light. A diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent age related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and other diseases of the eye.
14. Papayas Enhance Immunity
Studies indicate that large doses of antioxidants found in papaya play a crucial part in strengthening the immune system of a person promoting good health.
15. Papayas Enable Weight loss
Low in calories yet rich in essential nutrients papayas make an excellent food to be included in a diet for weight loss.
16. Papayas Provide Skin Care
Since papayas are rich in antioxidants, they are one of the main ingredients used in the manufacturing of cosmetics. Papayas remove the dead cells from the skin enhancing skin tone and texture. The enzymes with medicinal and curative properties heal the skin of sunburns and acts as an excellent softener to irritated skin affected with acne. (Read How to get rid of Pimples Naturally)
17. Papayas Prevent Anti ageing
Comparatively Papayas contain 48 times more vitamin C than apples. Papayas rejuvenate skin from within because they act as detoxification agents, processing the metabolism of the skin. Since they prevent attack of free radicals, they make excellent anti ageing substance, keeping the skin soft, supple and glowing.
18. Papaya Benefits for Skin
Papaya is also useful in treating certain skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, sores, wounds and ulcers
19. Papayas Offer Lung Protection
Papaya being an excellent source of vitamin A, protects the lungs from cancer and other serious lung conditions.
20. Papayas Dengue Fever Cure
According to studies, the juice obtained from the papaya leaves have curative effect on dengue fever.
21. Papayas Animal/ Insect Bites Relief
Since papayas have the ability to remove the toxins from the body, they are effective at getting rid of venom from animal/ insect bites and stings. This however may not be applicable to certain potently hazardous venoms though, which might require treatment.
23. Papayas Burns Treatment
The anti-inflammatory properties of papaya are beneficial in treating burns, accelerating the process of healing.
24. Papayas Post Surgery Care
Papain, a potent property existing in papayas is highly effective in preventing swelling, fever and adhesions that occur post surgery.
Dangers of Papaya
Although Papayas contain substances that are beneficial for health, they may prove harmful for some people under specific circumstances.
The white milky latex substance in papayas is likely to cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, easily prone to allergies.
For ages, raw green papaya consisting of a high dose of a proteolytic enzyme called papain was used in folk medicine as a natural contraceptive that caused abortion, as they had a tendency to increase the chances of uterine contractions. Therefore, it is highly recommended that pregnant women avoid consuming raw papaya.
Other Uses of Papaya
- Papain, the enzyme present in papayas is used to tenderise meat.
- Papain is also used to treat woollen products to prevent shrinkage.
- The enzyme is also used to remove stubborn stains from fine fabrics.
- Papain is also used in the manufacturing of toothpaste, beer, contact lens cleaner and cosmetics.