Health Benefits of Papaya

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Papaya commonly known as ‘PawPaw’ is a delicious fruit with butter-like consistency. Once considered quite exotic, they can now be found in markets throughout the year. Although there is a slight seasonal peak in early summer and fall, papaya trees produce fruit year round, with the peak season running from April through October. Originally from southern Mexico and neighbouring countries, the papaya plant is now cultivated in most tropical countries. Papayas are grown in both tropical and subtropical regions, including Mexico, Brazil, India, and Southeast Asia. The trees, related to the North American pawpaw, grow quickly and do not live long, but nevertheless seed easily and yield fruit year-round. There are about 50 varieties of papayas, many of which are inedible and not sold commercially.

The papaya, is the fruit of the Carica papaya tree. Papayas are spherical or pear-shaped fruits that can be as long as 20 inches. The ones commonly found in the market usually average about 7 inches and weigh about one pound. Their flesh is a rich orange color with either yellow or pink hues. Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are black, round seeds encased in a gelatinous-like substance. Papaya’s seeds are edible, although their peppery flavor is somewhat bitter.

Papayas are picked completely green and firm, they will usually not ripen, but can be used in cooking. Choose fruit that is free of black spots and damage to the skin. The spreading yellow color indicates the papaya is softening and shows how far along it is in ripening; fruit with a little yellow near the end takes five to seven days to ripen. Ripe yellow papayas may be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Refrigeration will also slow the ripening process in fruit intended for cooking.

For the biggest nutritional benefits, the fruit, seeds and/or skin should be eaten. But tea made from the leaves or dried fruit has shown many of the same properties. Papaya is most often taken in the form of supplements (papaya enzymes) but if you enjoy tea, you might as well give it a try. The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. This enzyme is especially concentrated in the fruit when it is unripe. Papain is extracted to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums. Papayas are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients, minerals and fibre. Papayas may be very helpful for the prevention of diabetic heart disease. Papayas are an excellent source of vitamin C as well as a very good source of vitamin E and beta-carotene, three very powerful antioxidants. These nutrients help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. They are rich in Fibre. The Ayurveda experts have regarded papain as a remedy for abdominal disorders. It is a good medicine for dysentery, hyper-acidity, dyspepsia and constipation. Pimples are removed by rubbing the white pulp of raw papaya on the face. It brings lustre to the face and removes wrinkles.

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