Healthy eating includes nutritious fruits like papayas. Not only are they loaded with vitamins, but they can help keep weight down by satisfying your sweet tooth.
Healthy Eating Wards off Chronic Disease
Healthy eating is the key to preventing chronic disease later in life. Papayas are an excellent addition to any healthy eating program.
Papayas were once an exotic tropical treat imported seasonally from Central America and Mexico. Now we can enjoy their buttery sweet taste year-round. Christopher Columbus was so taken by their delectable flavor he christened the papaya “the fruit of the angels.” In addition to scrumptious flavor, papayas provide a unique package of powerful antioxidants, especially carotenoids, that help ward off many of the chronic diseases of aging.
This spherical orange fruit is a good low-fat protein source. A medium-sized papaya has less than 120 calories, contains 30 grams of carbs, and enough fiber to meet 20% of your daily needs. This medicinal fruit is ready to eat when its skin turns yellow, it yields easily to pressure, and exudes a faintly sweet smell. Under-ripe green papayas, which should be avoided during pregnancy, can be quickly ripened by putting them in a paper bag with an apple or banana. Papayas are easy to enjoy. Just cut the papaya lengthwise, remove the seeds and eat the flesh in its natural shell. If you prefer slices or dices, simply run a knife between the flesh and the skin for easy rind removal.
As a Certified Nutritionist, I’m an advocate of Hippocrates’ “food is medicine” aphorism. Not only do papayas satisfy a sweet tooth, but they contain a cornucopia of health benefits.
Healthy Eating With Papayas
1. Papayas are Packed with Nutrients
One medium papaya provides more than two times the suggested daily intake of Vitamin C. In addition to its cold-fighting reputation, this vitamin helps boost the immune system, lower hypertension, decrease the risk of stroke, and maintain skin elasticity. Papayas are also a plentiful source of folate, a B vitamin that helps the body produce and maintain new cells and protects against cancer. Other healthy nutrients in papayas include Vitamin A, in the form of disease preventing carotenoids, as well as magnesium and potassium.
2. Papayas are a Great Source of Lycopene
Lycopene is a carotenoid found in red fruits and vegetables. Due to its ability to neutralize free radicals, lycopene is believed to confer protection against many chronic diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and some inflammatory diseases. Although most people get their lycopene intake from tomatoes, testing shows that this antioxidant is actually more bioavailable in papayas than in tomatoes or carrots.
3. Papayas Promote Healthy Digestion
Papayas contain a unique digestive enzyme known as papain that plays a key role in breaking down fibrous protein fibers. A double blind study of volunteers who consumed a papaya preparation for 40 days demonstrated its beneficial effects in reducing irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and bloating.
4. Papayas Can Save Your Eyesight
Macular degeneration is a common eye condition and the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among people over 50. A study of over 100,000 older adults found that consuming three or more daily servings of carotenoid-rich fruits like papayas had significant protective effects on the development of age-related macular degeneration.
5. Papayas Help Fight the Wrinkles and Sagging Associated with Aging
The Vitamin C and lycopene in papayas reduces the visible signs of aging skin that we all dread. In one study, lycopene supplementation for 10-12 weeks decreased skin redness from sun exposure. Another study of post-menopausal women who consumed a mixture of lycopene, Vitamin C, and fish oil for 14 weeks showed that those nutrients “significantly reduce the depth of facial wrinkles” by increasing the skin’s collagen production.
6. Papayas Promote Healthy Hearts and Reduce the Incidence of Diabetes
A randomized controlled clinical trial conducted at a cardiac center demonstrated that short term supplementation with a fermented papaya preparation decreased oxidative stress on several organs, raising the possibility of developing a nutraceutical supplement to manage diabetes, heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.
7. Papayas Have Anticancer Properties
The nutrients in papayas help fight the free radical damage that increases the risk of cancer as we age. One lab study compared 14 plant foods and concluded that only papayas had a significant prophylactic effect on breast cancer. Fermented papaya extract has also been shown to be effective against stomach and prostate cancers. The lycopene in papayas also combats the effects of cancer radiation treatments.
8. Papayas Can Save Your Brain
Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. A biomarker known as 8-OHdG is used to assess the oxidative stress that has been linked to aging and the development of cancers. The brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress. In a small study, Alzheimer’s sufferers who were given a fermented papaya extract for 6 months showed a 40% drop in this predictive marker.
How to Enjoy Papayas as Part of Your Healthy Eating Regime
Here are some easy ways to add papayas to your healthy eating plans.
The simplest way to enjoy papayas is with a squeeze of lime, but they can be incorporated into any meal. For breakfast, cut a papaya in half, scoop out the seeds and fill the cavity with Greek yogurt, nuts and berries. Celebrity chef and restauranteur Bobby Flay makes a delicious papaya-banana smoothie that you can whip up in less than two minutes. Make a healthy chicken salad with cubed papaya and avocado and dress it with vinegar and olive oil. At dinnertime, add papaya to your salsa and use it to season grilled shrimp, roasted scallops or steamed salmon. Papayas also make tasty appetizers when paired with slices of prosciutto and drizzled with lime juice. Next time you barbeque, cut a papaya in half, add your favorite seasonings, place it cut side down and grill it until you see marks.