Papaya (Carica Papaya), also known as pawpaw or papaw, is one of the most widely consumed tropical fruits in the world. Botanically, the plant belongs to family Caricaceae, in the genus Carica.
The papaya tree is native to the Central America and Southern Mexico, but it is now grown in all tropical and subtropical regions.
There are two main types of papayas; Hawaiian and Mexican papayas. The Hawaiian papayas have a green-yellow skin and are much smaller than the Mexican types, weighing about one pound. The flesh is bright orange or pinkish, depending on variety, with small black seeds clustered in the center. The flavor is sweet and juicy. Hawaiian papayas are the papayas commonly found in supermarkets. Mexican papayas are much larger the the Hawaiian types and may grow up to 10 pounds. The flesh may be yellow, orange or pink. The flavor is less intense than the Hawaiian variety but it still delicious and enjoyable.
Papaya fruit is delicious when consumed fresh, but it can also be used in salads, sauces, dressings, juices, and smoothies.
Like other types of fruits, papaya is loaded with various nutrients and antioxidants that are beneficial for your hair, skin, and overall health.
Papaya is a good source of vitamin A, C, E, and K, folate, potassium, as well as flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and crytoxanthin – all these antioxidants help fight free radical damage and may help decrease the effects of aging.
Other than that, papaya also contains a special digestive enzyme called papain, which accelerates the digestion or breakdown of protein into amino acids. This enzyme is also used to tenderize meat.
Papaya Nutrition Facts
Nutrition facts for raw papaya (100g)
Health Benefits of Papaya
1. Prevent Cancer
Papayas contain anti-cancer properties which have been shown to reduce the growth of tumors. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department showed that the beta carotene in papayas provided protection against prostate cancer and colon cancer.
2. Prevent Heart Disease
The presence of potassium in papaya helps in maintaining a normal heart rate and blood pressure. The antioxidants in papaya may also protect your heart by preventing accumulation of cholesterol in the blood arteries.
3. Boost Immunity
Papaya is one of the best sources of vitamin C. A papaya contains over 200% of your daily requirement. The high levels of vitamin C in papaya can give the body’s immune system a boost while also stimulating the activity of other antioxidants.
4. Relieve Arthritis Pain
Papaya has anti-inflammatory enzymes along with vitamin C helps in relieving various forms of arthritis. A study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that people who do not eat sufficient amount of vitamin C were three times more likely to have arthritis than those who eat high amount of foods high in vitamin C.
5. Promote Weight Loss
Papaya is low in calories and therefore making it an ideal food for those who wanting to lose weight. A serving of 140 grams of the fruit contains only 60 calories, with no cholesterol, 15.7 grams carbohydrates and 2.5 grams dietary fiber. So, this fruit can help you combat your cravings and feel fuller longer. Papaya is a good addition to any healthy snack, such as yogurt or salad, though a bowl full of ripe papaya makes a diet-friendly snack as well.
6. Improve Digestion
Papaya has an enzyme called papain which has been shown to aid digestion by breaking down proteins and improving nutrient absorption.
Papaya is also effective in treating constipation due to its high fiber content. In fact, papain has been extracted to make dietary supplements for constipation. Thus, the unripe papaya is considered to have more healing powers for constipation than the ripe one.
7. Improve Eyesight
Papayas are rich in vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which are important nutrients for eye health. Both lutein and zeaxanthin also helps prevents eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataract.
A study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that eating at least three servings of fruits, including papayas, per day can significantly lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
8. Skin Care
Papaya has several healthy components that are great for your skin. The high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C in papayas can help keep the skin healthy and wrinkle-free.
Papaya is also used in homemade face masks by many women. When ripe papaya is used as a face mask, it helps open clogged skin pores, which helps treat acne and prevent skin infections. The peels of papayas can also be used to rub on the face for healthy skin.
9. Nourish Hair
Papaya is also very beneficial for your hair. Being rich in several important vitamins and minerals, papaya can boost hair growth and strength. It can also help increase your hair volume by nourishing the hair shaft. Papaya is also used to control dandruff.
10. Fight Infections
Papaya fruit and seeds are useful to treat bacterial and viral infections in the digestive tract. Papaya seed juice was also found to kill parasites. This is because the seeds contain a powerful substance called carpaine that targets and kills parasites, while the fruit metabolizes proteins throughout the intestinal tract to make it very unsuitable for parasitic growth. Extract from the seed is also able to fight E.coli infection, or staph infections.
When choosing a papaya, look for one that is mostly yellow and a little green to fully ripen at home. Papaya is fully ripe when it is bright yellow. Also, choose papayas that are firm, have smooth skin, and heavy for their size.