What is a Papaya?
The papaya, papaw, or pawpaw is the plant Carica papaya, one of the 22 accepted species in the genus Carica of the family Caricaceae. Its origin is in the tropics of the Americas, perhaps from Central America and southern Mexico.
Their sweet taste, vibrant color, and the wide variety of health benefits they provide make them a popular fruit.
Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C, and one single medium fruit provides 224 percent of recommended daily intake.
- 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 is loaded with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, fight disease and help keep you looking young.
13 Health Benefits of Papaya.
Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which can break down the tough protein chains found in muscle meat. Because of this, people have used papaya to tenderize meat for thousands of years.
If the papaya is ripe, it can be eaten raw. However, unripe papaya should always be cooked before eating — especially during pregnancy, as the unripe fruit is high in latex, which can stimulate contractions.
Papayas are shaped similar to pears and can be up to 20 inches (51 cm) long. The skin is green when unripe and orange when ripe, while the flesh is yellow, orange, or red.
One small papaya (152 grams) contains
- Calories: 59
- Carbohydrates: 15 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 157% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 33% of the RDI
- Folate (vitamin B9): 14% of the RDI
- Potassium: 11% of the RDI
- Trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B1, B3, B5, E, and K.
Papayas also contain healthy antioxidants known as carotenoids — particularly one type called lycopene.
What’s more, your body absorbs these beneficial antioxidants better from papayas than other fruits and vegetables.
Free radicals are reactive molecules created during your body’s metabolism. They can promote oxidative stress, which can lead to disease.
Antioxidants, including the carotenoids found in papayas, can neutralize free radicals.
Studies note that fermented papaya can reduce oxidative stress in older adults and people with prediabetes, mild hypothyroidism, and liver disease.
Also, many researchers believe that excessive free radicals in the brain are an important factor in Alzheimer’s disease.
In one study, people with Alzheimer’s given a fermented papaya extract for six months experienced a 40% drop in a biomarker which indicates oxidative damage to DNA — and is also linked to aging and cancer.
The reduction in oxidative stress is attributed to papaya’s lycopene content and ability to remove excess iron, which is known to produce free radicals powerful antioxidant effects, which may reduce oxidative stress and lower your risk of several diseases.
3. Has Anticancer Properties
Research suggests that the lycopene in papaya can reduce cancer risk. It may also be beneficial for people who are being treated for cancer.
Papaya may work by reducing free radicals that contribute to cancer. Additionally, papaya may have some unique effects not shared by other fruits.
Among 14 fruits and vegetables with known antioxidant properties, the only papaya demonstrated anticancer activity in breast cancer cells.
In a small study in older adults with inflammation and precancerous stomach conditions, a fermented papaya preparation reduced oxidative damage.
However, more research is needed before recommendations can be made.
Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant found in papaya, filters out harmful blue light rays. It is thought to play a protective role in eye health, and it may ward off macular degeneration.
However, a higher intake of all fruits has been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
Adding more papaya to your diet may boost your heart health.
Studies show that fruits high in lycopene and vitamin C may help prevent heart disease.
The antioxidants in papaya may protect your heart and enhance the protective effects of “good” HDL cholesterol.
In one study, people who took a fermented papaya supplement for 14 weeks had less inflammation and a better ratio of “bad” LDL to “good” HDL than people are given a placebo.
An improved ratio is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
6. Asthma prevention
The risk of developing asthma is lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, contained in foods like papaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.
Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases, and unhealthy foods and lifestyle choices can drive the inflammatory process.
Studies show that antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like papaya help reduce inflammatory markers.
For example, one study noted that men who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids had a significant decrease in CRP, a particular inflammatory marker.
8. Bone health
Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium, meaning there is more calcium in the body to strengthen and rebuild bones.
Studies have shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and people with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.
One small papaya provides about 3 grams of fiber, which is equivalent to just 17 grams of carbohydrates.
The papain enzyme in papaya can make protein easier to digest.
People in the tropics consider papaya to be a remedy for constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In one study, people who took a papaya-based formula for 40 days had significant improvement in constipation and bloating.
The seeds, leaves, and roots have also been shown to treat ulcers in animals and humans.
In addition to keeping your body healthy, papaya can also help your skin look more toned and youthful.
Excessive free radical activity is believed to be responsible for much of the wrinkling, sagging, and other skin damage that occurs with age.
The vitamin C and lycopene in papaya protect your skin and may help reduce these signs of aging.
In one study, supplementing with lycopene for 10–12 weeks decreased skin redness after sun exposure, which is a sign of skin injury
In another, older women who consumed a mixture of lycopene, vitamin C, and other antioxidants for 14 weeks had a visible and measurable reduction in the depth of facial wrinkles
12. Hair health
Papaya is also great for hair because it contains vitamin A, a nutrient required for sebum production, which keeps hair moisturized. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.
Adequate intake of vitamin C, which papaya can provide, is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to the skin.
Papaya has a unique taste that many people love. However, ripeness is key. Unripe or overly ripe papaya can taste very different from a perfectly ripe one.
When optimally ripe, papaya should be yellow to orange-red in color, although a few green spots are fine. Like an avocado, its skin should yield to gentle pressure.
Its flavor is best when cold, so it’s a good idea that it is refrigerated whenever possible.
After washing it well, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and eat it out of the rind with a spoon, like a cantaloupe or melon.
As it’s incredibly versatile, combining it with other foods complements its flavor.
A few easy recipe ideas with one small papaya:
- Breakfast: Cut it in half and fill each half with Greek yogurt, then top with a few blueberries and chopped nuts.
- Appetizer: Cut it into strips and wrap a slice of ham or prosciutto around each strip.
- Salsa: Chop papaya, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, then add lime juice and mix well.
- Smoothie: Combine the diced fruit with coconut milk and ice in a blender, then blend until smooth.
- Salad: Chop papaya and avocado into cubes, add diced cooked chicken, and dress with olive oil and vinegar.
- Dessert: Combine the chopped fruit with 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of chia seeds, 1 cup (240 ml) of almond milk, and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well and refrigerate before eating.
Papaya is rich in valuable nutrients and has a delicious taste.
Its powerful antioxidants like lycopene may reduce your risk of many diseases — especially ones that tend to come with age, such as heart disease and cancer.
It may also defend against the visible signs of aging, helping your skin remain smooth and youthful.
This healthy and delicious fruit is really a satisfying meal any day of the year.
Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you resources, like this. In order to do this, please note that whenever you click the links in my posts and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best and God bless you!