The health benefits of Papaya
The papaya is not one of the first that pops into your mind when choosing fruit.
Years ago it would not have been in our supermarkets as it is tropical fruit.
These days you can find it in the fruit and vegetable aisle all year round.
It is oval in shape with a yellowy, green speckled skin.
Inside it is a glorious orange colour with quite a few round, black seeds in the centre.
Apparently it is also known as a pawpaw which brings to mind the song sung by Baloo in the Jungle Book.
But this is an entirely different fruit and the papaya does not have any thorns. (So you won’t prick your paw!)
As you might imagine papayas are full of lots of healthy vitamins from A to C, plus Vitamin K.
Vitamin A gives papayas their lovely orange colour.
And vitamin B gives you energy.
A whole papaya has just 120 calories but will make you feel quite full.
Which is much more satisfying than a chocolate bar.
This is because papayas contain fibre and protein which both take longer to digest.
It is pretty much fat free too, with hardly any sodium (salt).
So it is an ideal snack. It tastes a bit like melon but is not quite as sweet.
Some people say it hasn’t got much flavour but they probably ate it before it was completely ripe.
One drawback of this fruit is that when it is fully ripe is has a slightly weird smell.
But the benefits of this fruit far outweigh that negative point.
Papayas contain the minerals copper, magnesium, potassium, choline and calcium.
Another great reason to snack on papaya to improve your health.
Have you ever heard of phytonutrients?
They are compounds in food that are not classed as essential to eat, but if you do eat them they are great for boosting your health and immunity.
The main phytonutrients in papayas are beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein.
Inflammation and soreness
There is an enzyme plus a nutrient in papaya that are great for reducing soreness in the body.
This soreness is called inflammation. The enzyme is called papain and the nutrient is called choline.
Eating papaya is great for soothing a sore throat.
If you struggle to swallow because of the pain, it might be easier to drink juice made from the fruit.
The vitamins A and C will also help to fight the bacteria that caused the soreness and heal it quicker.
Papaya also tastes much nicer than drugs that are taken for pain relief.
There is another enzyme in papaya called protease which is good at reducing pain and soreness.
For this reason papaya can also be used on the skin if you have a flesh wound or injury.
You can buy papaya products but it is just as effective using the fruit fresh.
Mash it with a fork and put on the wound.
Cover with cling film and leave on for as long as possible.
Then rinse it off with warm water.
This will help reduce the pain in a natural way without having to take drugs which can cause side effects.
You can buy cream that contains the enzymes found in papaya but they contain other ingredients which some people may be allergic to.
So eating an actual papaya is much safer – and delicious.
Have you ever been running and afterwards your muscles feel really sore?
Papaya is great for helping to reduce this soreness quickly.
This is again due to the papain and protease enzymes.
There are supplements for sale that contain papain and protease but a refreshing slice of papaya after your run is much better for you.
This is because of all the other nutrients and water it contains helping to rehydrate the body.
Rashes, acne and skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis are also sore.
Papaya can also help to reduce the pain and soreness.
Eating papaya regularly will help your body to fight the inflammation and ease the pain.
The vitamins A and C in papaya are also what are known as anti-oxidants.
These help our bodies to heal.
Another great reason that papaya is good for your skin.
Shingles is a very painful skin condition.
The enzymes in papaya help to soothe the pain of shingles just like they do for other rashes.
Shingles can last for months, so eating papaya can help reduce the length of time you have to suffer.
Likewise the enzymes, papain and chymopapain can also help reduce the soreness of burns and make them heal faster.
Just as vitamin C and beta-carotene are great for healing your skin they are also good at keeping it healthy.
And having a healthy skin makes you look younger.
Vitamin C is important to make a protein called collagen.
Collagen is vital for healthy, elastic skin and keeps the skin looking plumped up which reduces the signs of ageing like wrinkles.
One of the main causes of ageing is the damage caused by free-radicals.
Vitamin C and beta-carotene, along with lycopene, also found in papaya fruits are very good at getting rid of free radicals, protecting your skin and keeping you looking young.
You can use mashed papaya flesh to make a face mask.
Massage it in so that the enzyme, papain, can get rid of the dead skin cells and leave it glowing.
A papaya mask is also really good to heal sunburn – although it is better to not get sunburnt in the first place!
There is lots of vitamin A in papaya which is great for shiny, strong hair.
This is because vitamin A is needed for the skin to produce a natural oil called sebum.
And sebum gives the hair moisture.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene also help damaged hair to repair.
Heart disease and cholesterol
As already mentioned, papaya is full of fibre.
This helps to reduce cholesterol which we all know is not good for your heart or blood vessels.
The anti-oxidants in papaya, vitamins A and C, lycopene and beta-carotene are all good for making sure cholesterol doesn’t cause problems in your body.
If there is too much cholesterol in your blood vessels it can clog them up and cause high blood pressure and also cause the heart to stop working.
This is called a heart attack and can kill you.
Having too much sodium and not enough potassium in your food is another reason that your heart might not work properly.
Papaya is great for this as it has hardly any sodium and lots of potassium.
Scientific researchers have also found that papaya can help reduce the risk of strokes.
This is because the enzyme papain can naturally thin the blood.
However, if taking blood thinning medicines like warfarin it is best to check with the doctor before eating this fruit.
Papaya is low in fat and has much less sugar in it that a lot of other fruits.
The fibre in papaya will help to keep you feeling full as well.
Another way that the fibre in papaya helps with weight loss is making sure that you are able to go to the toilet regularly!!
The low amount of sugar in papaya also means that it is a great food to eat if you have diabetes.
The fibre and protein means that the sugar gets into your blood nice and slowly which also keeps insulin at a healthy level.
Controlling the way sugar and insulin are released into the blood is also a great way to prevent diabetes in the first place.
There are two types of diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes need to make sure that the sugar levels in their blood are controlled well.
Too much as well as too little is bad for their health.
People with type 2 diabetes also need to prevent high sugar, insulin and fat levels in their blood.
Scientists have found out that eating fibre is a good way to help people suffering from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
They also found out that papaya lowers blood sugar.
For this reason it is not a good idea to eat papaya if taking diabetes medicine unless you speak to the doctor first.
To make sure that you feel well you need to have good immunity.
This means that you can then fight off diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and other nasty bugs that make you feel ill.
One way to keep your immune system at its best is to make sure that you eat foods with lots of anti-oxidants in.
This is because the diseases, bacteria and bugs cause things called free radicals which cause damage to your cells.
This damage can cause pain, soreness and means that the cells are not as healthy as they could be.
You then begin to feel poorly.
Vitamin C is a very effective anti-oxidant and there is loads in a papaya.
In fact there is 2 times the amount that you need every day in just one papaya.
It is much better to be prepared so that your body can fight illnesses more easily.
This means that you will be ill less times and the illness won’t last as long.
This is especially important in the very young and the elderly.
And for everyone during the winter when there are more viruses around.
So a papaya a day, alongside that apple will definitely help keep the doctor away!
Have you heard that eating carrots helps you see in the dark?
This is because of the beta-carotene and lutein in them.
Well these two compounds are also in papayas and are both great for your eyesight.
As we get older our eye sight often gets worse but you can do something about it by eating the right foods.
The reduction to the eyesight is partly due to the effect of blue light that causes damage at the back of the eye.
It can cause you to get blurred vision and maybe even make you blind.
To help protect the cells from this blue light we need something called Zeaxanthin.
Zeaxanthin is also an anti-oxidant and the good news is that there is lots of it in papaya.
Some scientists have studied the effect of eating papaya on eyesight and found that it is very good at helping to slow down the aging process on the cells at the back of our eyes.
The other thing to do, to protect your eyes, is reduce the amount of blue light.
Blue light is produced by electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
Try to reduce how often you use these gadgets or install a blue light reducing app.
And munch on those papayas.
Another disease that often affects us as we age is arthritis.
If you have a look at your grandparents’ hands you will likely notice that they have twisted, lumpy fingers.
This is caused by arthritis and is extremely painful.
It can also affect other joints in the legs and arms which means it is harder to walk and move.
This is because the joints become stiff, sore and very painful.
It has already been mentioned that papayas contain vitamins that can reduce inflammation and soreness.
This is again because they are anti-oxidants.
It is best to make sure you eat lots of fruits with vitamins in before these diseases start as they help to prevent them in the first place.
But they can also ease the pain and help to reduce the soreness.
Papaya is particularly good for this as it contains an enzyme called papain.
Papain is also in pineapple so a fruit salad that contains both fruits along with oranges for even more vitamin C will help if you suffer from arthritis.
If you suffer from constipation and cannot go to the toilet then eating a papaya will help.
This is because of the fibre and papain that we have already talked about.
The fibre helps to keep the food you eat moving through your gut.
The papain helps to break down that food once you have eaten it.
Eating a papaya is a much better remedy than turning to drugs as it is natural and doesn’t cause side effects.
Having said that, it is not a good idea to eat too many papayas at once.
This is due to its laxative effect.
It is better to eat papaya regularly instead of just when you have a stomach ache.
It will keep your gut healthy so that if you do eat something that might upset your stomach it will cause less symptoms.
The enzyme papain is also good for digesting protein.
The protein that we eat is meat and eggs.
If this is not broken down properly it can cause us to feel bloated and constipated.
If this happens a lot it can cause more long term illnesses.
These include ulcers in the stomach which are very painful and problems with the kidneys.
If the kidneys are not working properly it is harder to control blood pressure which can then lead to heart disease, strokes and even diabetes.
Papain is so good at helping to relieve digestive problems that it is used in drugs that treat constipation.
Unfortunately some women have cramps once a month during menstruation.
These cramps can be extremely painful and unpleasant.
To reduce period pain, the walls of the uterus must relax and this is helped by the vitamins and minerals in papaya, especially vitamins A and C.
Potassium is also good for this so why not try a smoothie made with papaya and a banana, both of which have loads of potassium in.
It is also worth mentioning that papaya may cause oestrogen to be released.
Oestrogen is a female sex hormone that starts menstruation.
Papayas are therefore good if periods are not regular.
However, due to papayas starting menstruation it is best not to eat papaya if you are pregnant.
This is because it can sadly cause damage to the unborn baby or miscarriage.
Helps to fight against cancer
Because of all the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in papaya it is a very good food to eat in the fight against all sorts of diseases.
But the one disease that everyone is really worried about is cancer.
The risk of getting this horrible, life-limiting disease can be reduced by eating a healthy diet full of lots of fruit and vegetables.
But it is really important that you include papaya.
Prostate cancer can be avoided by eating papaya because of the lycopene it contains.
Lycopene is also in tomatoes so make sure the men in your life eat plenty of those too.
Papayas are great for digestion and keeping the gut healthy.
For this reason papayas can also reduce the risk of getting stomach and colon cancer.
Did you know that vitamin C is great for helping to reduce stress?
This is because it is part of quite a few complicated processes in the body that control stress.
Put very simply when we are stressed our body produces stress hormones – cortisol and adrenalin.
If these hormones are in our bodies for a long time, it causes inflammation.
Inflammation causes pain and means that we get ill more easily.
So we need to have a really strong immunity.
And this is where vitamin C comes in.
It helps to increase immunity and also to control the amount of stress hormones that our body produces.
And papayas have plenty of vitamin C in.
In fact twice as much as we actually need for day to day living.
Which means if our body needs a bit more to keep us healthy papaya has got us covered.
Asthma is caused when the lungs aren’t working properly leading to trouble breathing.
It helps to avoid over-doing it when exercising and not smoking.
It is important to keep the lungs healthy and this means eating a diet with lots of magnesium, potassium and choline in.
Magnesium and potassium relax the lungs and choline keeps the membranes healthy.
If the membranes in the lungs are not working properly they prevent the lungs from expanding making breathing harder.
The anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E are also great at boosting immunity to keep the lungs healthy.
It is well known that calcium is important for strong, healthy bones.
Vitamin K is also necessary for bone strength as it helps calcium get into bones in the first place and stops it from being lost from the bones again.
It is well-known that dairy foods provide calcium but many people cannot eat dairy foods.
Papaya contains calcium as well as Vitamin K so is an ideal source of these nutrients to make sure you keep your bones healthy.
Add it to spinach for a calcium-boosting smoothie.
Papayas are a great source of choline.
Choline, is not a very well-known nutrient but it is very important for the brain to work properly and to stay healthy.
Messages from the brain to the nerves are important for fast reactions, learning, memory and being able to move.
Choline helps these messages to be delivered so when you eat papaya you are doing the best for your brain.
Omega 3 is also great for the brain so why not have a salad made from papaya, avocado and walnuts.
Delicious, healthy and full of brain-boosting power.
The risks of eating papaya
We have talked about the benefits of papaya but unfortunately just because it is natural doesn’t mean it is completely safe to eat for everyone.
Some people have a reaction to a substance called latex.
This tends to be mostly associated with rubber products, like washing up gloves.
However, papaya contains a form of latex so those people that react to it need to avoid eating it.
Papaya can also interact with some medicines and tablets so if you are taking medication on a regular basis, check with your doctor that it is safe to eat papaya.
When we talk about the benefits of papaya it is only fair to give the seeds a mention.
They are round and black and look just like peppercorns.
In fact, they actually have a peppery taste so you can use them in recipes in place of pepper but are better cooked to destroy the enzyme carpine, which can be toxic.
The seeds have many of the benefits of the papaya fruit, especially for digestion.
They are also great for a healthy liver and to reduce cholesterol in the blood.
So next time you are in the supermarket thinking about what fruit to try, why not give a papaya a try?
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