Papaya, scientifically known as Carica papaya is one of the common worldwide fruits with incredible health benefits. Soon, we will look at the health benefits of papayas.
However, it is important to state that although this fruit is also called pawpaw in some regions like Nigeria, it is different from the other fruit type known by the same name (pawpaw) which is common in the eastern United States and southern Canada.
This juicy fruit, papaya is usually orange in colour when ripe, and white when unripe. It has a green covering which gradually turns yellow as it ripens. It also has many black seeds and usually, they are either seemingly oval, circular or pear-shaped.
Before we talk about its multiple health benefits, see its nutritional content below.
The Nutritional Content of Papaya
152 grams of papaya contains:
- Calories – 59
- Carbohydrates – 15 grams
- Fibre – 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
- Other nutrients present in trace amounts are calcium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B3, B5, E and K.
Proven Health Benefits of Papayas
1. Helps To Maintain a Healthy Heart
Research suggests that improving and maintaining a healthy heart are part of the health benefits of papayas. This is particularly due to its lycopene and vitamin C content.
Also, its antioxidant content prevents the oxidation of cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of blockage along the blood vessels. Another content of papaya that helps to keep the heart healthy is fibre. Fruits with high fibre content are often low in cholesterol.
2. Can Protect Against Cancer
Lycopene saves the day again! This unique content of papaya which gives it its orange colour is not only good for the heart but also helps to protect the body against cancer.
It reduces the free radicals that may contribute to cancer growth. More so, papaya can be helpful for people who are already receiving cancer treatment.
3. Improves Digestion
Papaya is generally good for the gut. One of its enzymatic content, papain helps to ease the digestion of protein. Hence, some people use it when they suffer from constipation or other irritable bowel syndromes (IBS).
Aside from the value of the fruit, some people also use its leaf, seed and root to treat ulcers, thereby maximizing the incredible health benefits of papayas.
Foods rich in antioxidants have proven to be good fighters against inflammation. Some experts say that papaya contains enzymes; papain and chymopapain.
Hence, its anti-inflammation properties. Because chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases it is important to eat healthy meals like papaya that can prevent them.
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5. Maintains Healthy Skin
The wonders of papaya are not limited to internal organs. The yummy fruit also contributes to keeping the skin toned, firm and youthful. It does this by reducing free radicals (the body produces these free radicals during metabolism) which contribute to ageing and sagging of the skin.
On exposure to sunlight, papaya helps to prevent redness of the skin. Lycopene and vitamin C are majorly responsible for the good works of this fruit on the skin.
6. Boosts The Immune System
A combination of its antioxidant properties and sufficient amount of vitamins A and C makes papaya a good immune booster. Hence, with such health benefits of papayas, if you intend to start an immune healthy diet, you should not leave papaya out of your meals.
7. Has Antioxidant Properties
Again, papaya is rich in antioxidants such as carotenoids and they help to neutralize free radicals. These free radicals if left unchecked can lead to oxidative stress, and consequently diseases.
One of the diseases that these free radicals (those of the brain) are responsible for is Alzheimer’s disease.
More Health Benefits of Papayas
The seed and leaf of papaya share some health benefits with the fruit of the plant. Other health benefits of papayas that are peculiar to the seed and leaf are listed below.
- Papaya seed can fight infections in the body
- The seed may help to preserve the kidney and its function
- The leaves of papaya may be useful in treating symptoms of dengue fever
- Also, the leaves may improve blood-sugar balance
- Papaya leaves may contribute to healthy hair growth
Health Benefits of Unripe Papayas
While ripe and unripe papayas have similar content as well as health benefits, they differ a little. Improved digestion, skin protection and improved heart performance are some of their mutual health benefits. Other health benefits of unripe papaya are:
- Helps to speed up wound healing
- Reduces menstrual cramp
- Increases lactation in new mothers
Papaya is both appealing to the eyes and nourishing to the body. We have seen that the health benefits of papayas are not limited to the fruit alone, but that the seeds and leaves are equally important.
However, it is important to note that consuming too much of seeds and leaves may become more detrimental than beneficial. Also, pregnant women should avoid semi-ripe and unripe papaya as well as its seed.
The ripe fruit on the other hand is completely safe for everyone.
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