As consumers become more aware of the nutritional value and health benefits of the foods that they consume, the papaya (also known as “paw paw”) is quickly becoming a favorite fruit of chefs and home cooks everywhere. With roots in the Central Americas, this flowering tree has become more affordable. It is now grown in many tropical locations such as Florida, the Philippines, Hawaii, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Africa, Australia, and the Caribbean Islands, making the papaya’s health benefits readily available at all times of the year.
This amazing fruit, which is actually a berry, is a source of nutrition from the roots up. Most recipes that include papaya are referring to the flesh, which is normally cut into cubes. One cup of cubed papaya contains 3 percent (54.6 g) of the daily recommended dose of calories.
In addition, it contains 5 percent (13.7 g) of carbohydrates, 10 percent (2.5 g) of fiber, with an additional 8.3 g of sugars. When looking at the nutritional “bang for your buck” that a single medium sized papaya provides, it is easy to understand why it is fourth in tropical fruit production globally and is an important revenue for countries of Asia and Latin America.
Health Benefits of Papaya
When it comes to papaya health benefits, the list is long. The papaya fruit is filled with anti-oxidants and numerous other nutrients that can help ameliorate the symptoms of certain diseases, and contribute to your general well-being. Some of the health issues papaya can help with are:
- Diabetes-A medium fruit will help lower blood glucose levels in type 1 sufferers, and improved insulin, lipids, and blood sugar levels in type 2 sufferers.
- Digestion-The high fiber, water, and papain enzyme levels of this fruit aid in proper digestion and reduces the instances of constipation.
- Bone Health– Consuming papaya can increase calcium levels and thus promote bone health. With increased levels of calcium, fractures are far less likely.
- Asthma Prevention-The high level of beta-carotene helps prevent the development of asthma
- Heart Disease-The potassium contained in papaya along with a reduction in sodium intake are the best prevention for this condition.
- Inflammation– Papaya contains the natural ingredient choline. Some believe this substance helps with muscle movement, memory, learning, and sleep. It is also vital in the absorption of fat, reducing inflammation, maintaining the structure of cells, the communication of nerve impulses. It can also help the body sleep and recover.
- Age-related Macular Degeneration-The papaya’s antioxidant zeaxanthin filters out blue light and reduces the damage from this condition.
- Injury Healing– You can mash papaya and use it as a topical treatment for the prevention of infection on burn areas and healing wounded areas of the body.
- Skin Conditions-Other conditions that papaya helps address include bedsores and decubitus ulcers. The vitamins promote the growth and health of hair, skin, and nails.
Papaya Nutritional Value
As mentioned, papaya is packed full of essential nutrients and vitamins. One regular-sized papaya contains 18 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, 120 calories, 2 grams of protein, and 30 grams of carbohydrates to a daily diet. Below is a list of the most important vitamins and minerals you can find in papaya:
- Magnesium Copper-3% or 33.6 mg
- Vitamin C-144% or 86.5 mg (224% of a body’s daily needs)
- Folate-13% or 53.2 mcg
- Vitamin A-31% or 1,531 IU
- Fiber-10% or 2.5 g
- Pantothenic Acid-3% or 0.3 mg
- Vitamin B6-1% or 0.0 mg
- Vitamin E-5% or 1.0 mg
- Sodium-0% or 4.2 mg
- Vitamin K-5% or 3.6 mcg
- Potassium-10% or 360 mg
- Omega 3-35 mg
- Omega 6-8.4 mg
- Saturated fat-0.1 g
- Monosaturated fat-0.1 g
- Calcium-3% or 33.6 mg
- Iron-1% or 0.1 mg
- Phosphorus-1% or 7.0 mg
- Selenium-1% or 0.8 mcg
- Water-124 g
The way that we use the papaya has evolved to include many different areas of cooking. Besides dishes, this fruit can be used for the production of non-food items as well, as a medicine, and as a preventative and healing health ingredient. Some examples of these uses include the following:
Most people commonly consume the papaya fruit as a juice or cut up and eaten in the same manner as any other melon (without the skin or seeds). However, you can also cook the leaves and shoots when they are young. This results in a tasty and highly beneficial food similar to spinach. You can also eat green papaya if you cook it, in salads, curries, and stews. The eye-catching flowers can also be stir-fried or sautéed with tomatoes and chilies to create a vegetable dish. Plus, papayas are perfect for making of jellies and jams due to their high pectin content. More than that, the black and spicy seeds can act as a substitute for black pepper, if you grind them.
Home Remedy Juice
Papaya juice can be used both internally and externally to promote general well-being. Papaya juice is a great source of vitamins and minerals, as well as wonderful hydration aid. You can also use papaya juice as a natural skin care product, since papaya can moisturize the skin, due to its high water content.
Candy manufacturers use this fruit as a flavoring in the production of preserves, jellies, candies, and ice cream. By cutting slits along the flesh of the fruit when it is mature but not fully ripe, a white milky substance comes out of the fruit. This sap is collected, and dried to be used in applications such as cheese production, beer brewing, chewing gum, and as a meat tenderizer.
Cosmetic manufacturers use the dry papaya fruit in select toothpastes, facial creams, and shampoos. The active by-product of collecting, drying, and scraping the fruit is called “crude papain”. Since papaya has natural anti-inflammatory properties, it is a great remedy for delicate and sensitive skin, prone to irritation.
Medicine and Health
Some believe papaya juice can be effective against in eliminating intestinal worms, healing bed sores and eliminating corns/warts. In addition, you can also use papaya to soften extra-thick skin. Some believe papaya juice can even ward off tumors and cancer. Herbologists use the roots of this plant to treat tumors, syphilis, hemorrhoids, to remove mineral from urine, and cancer of the uterus.
You can use the ripe fruits to address urinary tract issues and rheumatism. The ripe seeds also have medicinal properties. They can be used to treat intestinal worms or to help with menstrual issues. The unripe fruit has relatively strong diuretic and laxative properties. You can also use the leaves to make a poultice. This is a common treatment for elephantoid growths and nervous pains. Alongside all of these medicinal properties, the fruit also produces a latex-like substance. This substance is quite useful in the treatment of psoriasis, indigestion, ringworm, burns, and scalds.
Consumers who still consider this an unaffordable luxury exotic fruit are missing out on the long list of papaya health benefits, the high nutritional value of papaya, and the versatile uses of all parts of this exotic fruit. For those who were skeptical, this information about the papaya should convince them to give this unusual and affordable tropical fruit a try. Whether it is cooked or raw, this magical fruit is quickly becoming a desirable ingredient. Chefs and home cooks alike are turning papaya into some of the tastiest, healthiest, and nutrient-rich dishes.