Papayas, the tropical orange-pink fruit once referred to as the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus, have been a staple in Central and South American diets for hundreds of years. Papayas are grown in southern Mexico and all the way down the Andes in South America. Hawaii is the only state in the US to grow papayas. The general papaya found in farmers markets and grocery stores is about 7 inches long. Papayas’ flesh is sweet, while the black seeds – although edible – can be bitter. A medium sized papaya provides only 119 calories, 2 grams of protein, and no fat, setting the stage for many health benefits!
Immune System Support
Papayas are a great source for vitamin C, offering a slew of health benefits. Vitamin C works to support the immune system, but also to repair body tissues and supply antioxidants for healthy cells. When one does fall ill with a cold or flu, vitamin works to prevent it from developing into anything worse. Although an orange is the first choice for many to obtain their vitamin C, papayas actually contain more! One cup of papaya contains about 144% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Papaya’s rich vitamin C content is also beneficial to people with high cholesterol, or those trying to keep they’re cholesterol numbers down. A diet lacking vitamin C has been shown to be the cause of heart disease. Vitamin C prevents oxidation of cholesterol, preventing artery and vessel buildup of plaque. This clearing of the arteries also benefits the heart, by getting more blood to and through it. A study conducted by American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subject with higher concentrations of vitamin C decreased their risk of stroke by 42%, compared to subject deficient in vitamin C. Regular intake of papayas can lower the chance of stroke.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is beneficial to the body for reproductive health of women and men. Papayas provide roughly 13% of the recommended daily amount of folate in 1 cup, making it a very good source. Women need adequate intake of folate if they are planning to become or already are pregnant. This vitamin is vital to proper development of the fetus; a folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects within the baby, including spina bifida. As for men, a healthy intake of folate from papaya promotes healthy sperm; men with low folate intake have been shown to have sperm with incorrect chromosomal structure.
Papayas support a healthy digestive system thanks the enzymes and fiber it contains. Papayas contain an enzyme known as papain, which breaks down the tough meat fibers during digestion. This digestive aid helps the body absorb the amino acids more effectively from the ingested proteins. Papayas are also a good source fiber, containing about 10% of the recommended daily value for each cup. Some research has indicated that the fiber in papaya has some unique characteristics, in that it can bind to cancer-causing toxins in the colon, keeping them away from healthy colon cells. Papaya is a great food for general digestive and colon health, and may help prevent cancer.
Papayas are not touted frequently enough about their health benefits for our eyes. Papayas are loaded with many vitamins and minerals, especially those beneficial to eye health. They provide approximately 31% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A in just one cup. This helps prevent a vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to issues seeing in dim light. In conjunction with the vitamin C (discussed above), vitamin A, and the other minerals in papayas help keep eyesight healthy and sharp. Regular consumption of papayas can help prevent our eyes from developing glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases.
Looking for more eye health? Check out the health benefits of carrots.
Schocker, L. (n.d.). 7 Foods With More Vitamin C Than An Orange. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/vitamin-c-foods_n_1457397.html
Zelman, Kathleen. 1-07-2010. Benefits of Vitamin C. http://www.webmd.com/diet/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c?page=3
Group, Edward. 10-02-2015. 9 Health benefits of Folate. http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/9-incredible-health-benefits-of-folate/
The Health Benefits of Papain. (2011, June 10). Retrieved from http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/papain/
World health foods. Papaya. 01-04-2010; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=47
Is papaya good for your eyes? 05-0-2013. http://www.firmoo.com/answer/question/12155.html