The health benefits of papaya include better digestion, relief from a toothache, regulated menstruation, stronger immunity, weight loss, skin care, and a better heart health. Papaya, also known as Carica Papaya, pawpaw or papaw is believed to prevent cancer. No wonder, the fruit is quite popular for its high nutritive and medicinal value.
What is Papaya?
Papaya is a cerise-orange colored juicy fruit, which is not only fragrant and delicious but also very healthy. It has been famous for hundreds of years and was once called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus. Papaya is a natural source of vitamins and minerals that are essential for the normal functioning of the body. It is famous for its luscious taste and sunlit color of the tropics and can be eaten as a fruit in the raw form, a smoothie, a milkshake, or as a vegetable in various recipes.
Latex derived from the raw papaya fruit is used as a meat tenderizer and is also used in the manufacturing of several cosmetic, skin, and beauty products, as well as certain chewing gums. They are available for consumption throughout the year.
The whole fruit, including other parts of the tree, are beneficial to health in several ways. Papaya in raw form contains enzymes, which are used in the preparation of dietary supplements and chewing gums. Papaya is rich in antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, flavonoids, and vitamin C, as well as vitamin B (folate and pantothenic acid). It is also a good source of fiber and minerals such as magnesium. Together, these nutrients help improve cardiovascular health and protect against colon cancer.
Health Benefits of Papaya
The health benefits of papaya include:
- Papaya helps in digestion
- It promotes weight loss
- It regulates menstruation
- It prevents infections
- It provides relief from a toothache
- It has anticancer properties
- It helps in skin care
- It improves heart health
- Papaya reduces the symptoms of acne and burns
- It has anti-inflammatory effects
- Papaya is good for macular degeneration
- It helps in treats constipation
- It helps prevent arthritis
- It improves immunity
Let us look into these benefits in detail.
Aids in Digestion
Papayas are commonly consumed for proper digestion. The presence of papain, a digestive super enzyme, improves digestion by breaking down proteins and also cleanses the digestive tract. This ensures a reduced conversion of protein into body fat. If the protein in our diet is not digested properly, it may cause arthritis, constipation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other related health conditions.
Papayas are also good for people who are trying to lose weight naturally. Having a bowl full of papaya as a mid-evening or mid-morning snack is good for health.
A paste of fresh papaya roots can be rubbed onto the teeth and gums to get relief from toothaches. The bark of the tree, primarily the inner bark, is also an excellent remedy for tooth problems. (Somonsohn, 2002).
Researchers have discovered that papayas are effective against breast, pancreatic, and other cancers. A papaya leaf extract obtained from dried leaves produced anti-carcinogenic effects against tumor cells that were grown in the laboratory. It was observed in a study conducted by Dr. Nam Dang and his colleagues in Japan, that the effects were stronger when the cells were given larger doses of papaya leaf tea. The scientists exposed different types of cancer-affected cells to different papaya leaf extracts and found that the growth of tumors slowed down. The fruit has gained credibility and has been used in many medicines for its anticancer powers.
Papayas can be great revitalizing agents, which is why they are used in many cosmetics. Also, papayas are used in homemade face masks by many women. The papain in them kills dead cells and purifies the skin. The beneficial properties and the healing enzymes present in papaya help treat sunburn and irritated skin. A good facial massage using papaya is a fabulous remedy to remove dead cells. If you are a person who spends most of the time outdoors, then papayas can be a great help, as papayas fight free radicals that age your skin. The peels of papayas are also used to rub on the face and hands for healthy skin. Papayas are also used to treat skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, etc.
Improves Heart Health
The seeds of papayas are good for a healthy heart. Having three powerful antioxidant vitamins, namely vitamin A, C, and E, means papayas are helpful in preventing problems such as atherosclerosis and diabetic heart diseases. The presence of pro-carotenoid phytonutrients helps prevent oxidization of cholesterol in the body. When oxidation of cholesterol takes place, it sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and forms plaque that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin E and vitamin C obtained from papayas help in preventing the cholesterol from sticking to the walls, thereby keeping your heart healthy. As a good source of fiber, papayas also help reduce the LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Include papayas in your daily diet as a mid-evening snack to keep your heart young. It also helps in treating sores, wounds, and ulcers.
Reduces Acne & Burns
The latex obtained from papayas is used to treat the areas on the skin affected by acne. The fleshy side of the papaya skin can be used as a mask to cure acne. A diet which includes papayas will help cure the condition internally, making the skin clear. Got a burn? Use papaya. When the latex from the fruit is applied on burnt area, it helps in reducing the marks caused due to the burn.
The enzymes present in papayas, especially the papain and chymopapain, reduce the inflammation in different parts of the body.
Treats Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a disease of the eye. In this condition, the ocular cells degenerate, which results in blurred vision and can cause blindness as well. This is an age-related illness and adding papayas to the diet is beneficial for reducing the risk of developing macular degeneration. An antioxidant named beta-carotene gives papaya its orange color. Just as carrots help improve the eyesight due to the presence of beta-carotene, papayas are also known to be effective in reducing the effect of macular degeneration. According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, a consumption of 3 or more servings of this fruit on a daily basis day may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
The presence of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E in papayas reduces motion sickness by producing a tonic effect in the stomach and in the intestines. Papaya juice and the ripened form of papaya also aid in digestion. The fiber obtained from the fruit helps increase bowel movements. Improved bowel movements help ease the passage of stool, thereby reducing the effects of constipation (Pinoy B. 2010).
Papaya juice can be of great help for women with irregular menses. Consumption of green, unripe papayas can normalize the irregularity in one’s periodic cycle. Papayas are considered as a ‘hot food’, meaning that they produce heat in the body. This excessive production of heat in the body stimulates the estrogen hormone. This induces periods in the females. Hence, papayas can be beneficial in handling difficult menses.
Papayas have been known to be effective against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. One of the enzymes found in papayas, called chymopapain, has a significant effect on controlling rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Papaya consumption has also been linked an improvement in the immune system of the body. Research conducted by Hiramoto, Imao, Sato, Inoue, and Mori from Japan is a proof that the antioxidants present in papaya play an important role in improving the immunity of people.
Side Effects of Papaya
Consumption of papaya in normal amounts is recognized safe by FDA. However, there are certain side effects of consuming papaya.
Pregnant Women: Papaya is classified as being harmful during pregnancy. It is considered as a ‘hot’ fruit. Latex, present in high concentrations in raw and semi-ripe papayas, causes uterine contractions which might lead to abortions. Avoid eating raw papaya if you are pregnant.
Gastrointestinal Irritation: Consuming too many papayas can cause a powerful laxative effect in the intestines. Avoid eating large quantities of papaya, especially if it is in its raw form. Unripe or raw papaya can cause pain in the intestines or stomach and can sometimes cause esophageal perforations.
Seeds: The black seeds of the papaya contain traces of an enzyme called carpine, which is a potentially toxic substance. According to the International BioPark Foundation’s information about medicinal plants of the Peruvian Amazon, this enzyme can make the nerve centers numb, which could lead to paralysis or cardiac depression. In some cases, the narrowing of blood vessels is also seen, which is the caused due to carpine.
Quick Tips to Enjoy Papayas:
- Pieces of papaya, when soaked with a bit of lemon juice and honey, are an absolute treat for the taste buds.
- Blend papayas, strawberries, and yogurt for a cold soup treat.
- Add a slice of papaya to a fresh fruit salad and have it as a snack.
- Have a bowl of fresh, ripe papaya along with your breakfast to add calories that you require for the day.