Fruits & Vegetables

Fruit of the Angels: Papaya and Benefits

Papaya contains 'papain' which helps to digest food.

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.

Papaya

Originally from southern Mexico and neighbouring countries, the papaya plant is now cultivated in most tropical countries. Christopher Columbus reportedly called it "the fruit of the angels" and not without reason! Papayas are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients, minerals and fibre.

The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. This enzyme, which is used to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma, and allergies, 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.

Health Benefits of Papaya

Heart disease: Papayas may be very helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and 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. Only when cholesterol becomes oxidised is it able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, forming dangerous plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes.

High cholesterol: Papayas are also a very good source of fibre, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels.

The folic acid found in papayas is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine into benign amino acids. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and is considered a significant risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.

Cancer: Papaya's fibre is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells.

In addition, papaya's folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E have each been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. These nutrients provide synergistic protection for colon cells from free radical damage to their DNA.

Increasing your intake of these nutrients by enjoying papaya is an especially good idea for individuals at risk of colon cancer.

Inflammation: The enzymes contained in papaya have been shown to help lower inflammation and to improve healing from burns.

In addition, the antioxidant nutrients found in papaya are also very good at reducing inflammation. This may explain why people with diseases that are worsened by inflammation, such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, find that the severity of their condition is reduced when they get more of these nutrients.

A July 2004 study indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as papaya, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints. The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began.

Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.

Other benefits: The fibre found in papayas may also help with the symptoms of those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

In addition, vitamin C and vitamin A, which is made in the body from the beta-carotene in papaya, are both needed for the proper function of a healthy immune system. Papaya may therefore be a healthy fruit choice for preventing such illnesses as recurrent ear infections, colds and flu.

The Ayurveda experts have regarded papain as a remedy for abdominal disorders. It is a good medicine for dysentery, hyperacidity, 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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