Papayas were revered by the Indians throughout South America as an incredibly healthy food and natural medicine. It is said that Christopher Columbus called papayas ‘the fruit of the angels’. Other explorers recognized how beneficial papayas are as a natural remedy for many ailments and carried the plants to other lands in their travels, such as the Philippines, India and Africa. Although papayas (or pawpaws) did not reach America until the 20th century, the US is now one of the largest growers of papaya.
What is Papaya?
Unlike many of the fruit trees we are familiar with, papaya trees produce fruit all year. The fruit is large, soft and sweet, with small, peppery, black seeds and orange flesh. The fresh fruit is eaten raw, cooked, made into jam and pickled. Papayas contain papain, a digestive enzyme, which is concentrated in unripe fruit. Papain is an ingredient in many dietary supplements, meat tenderizers and some chewing gums.
Papayas are an excellent source of Vitamin C; one small fruit has over 150% of the RDA. These fruits contain other antioxidants as well. They also contain A and B vitamins, fiber and minerals (potassium, copper and magnesium). The antioxidants, vitamins and minerals provide natural benefits to the cardiovascular system as well as offering some protection against colon cancer and eye problems. The digestive enzyme papain is used to treat allergies and sports injuries.
Papaya is also a high-energy food. It helps to maintain blood glucose levels, enabling us to feel energetic all day long.
Health Benefits of Papaya
Papayas offer so many traditional health benefits that it’s difficult to think of a reason why anyone would not eat them regularly. Papayas are one of the most delicious (and low calorie) folk remedies ever!
Helps Prevent Heart Disease
The powerful antioxidants in this fruit are an extremely valuable (and tasty!) natural remedy to help prevent heart disease. Nutrients help to keep cholesterol from oxidizing; cholesterol becomes dangerous plaque after it has oxidized and sticks to blood vessel walls. Fiber found in papayas also helps lower cholesterol levels. Folic acid helps to convert homocysteine into benign amino acids, further protection against a heart attack or stroke.
Supports the Immune System and has Anti-inflammatory Benefits
Vitamins A and C are great anti-inflammatories and aid the immune system. Asthma, arthritis and ear infections are just some of the ailments that are helped by this versatile home cure.
Reduces the Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
One large study found that 3 servings a day of fruit (not carrots!) may lower the risk of developing this dreaded eye problem. Eating fruit proved to be more effective eye protection than vegetables, vitamins A, C or E or carotenoids.
If you aren’t familiar with yummy papayas, try one. With all of these natural health benefits, it’s no wonder that millions of people around the world have made papayas part of their daily health regimens.
Isela Esther Juárez-Rojop et al. Hypoglycemic effect of Carica papaya leaves in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:236
Zhou, K.; Wang, H.; Mei, W.; Li, X.; Luo, Y.; Dai, H. Antioxidant Activity of Papaya Seed Extracts. Molecules 2011, 16, 6179-6192