It's fortified with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, fight disease, and help you look young.
Here are 5 health benefits that papaya fruit offers.
Delicious and fortified with nutrients
Papaya is the fruit of the Carica papaya plant.
It is native to Central America and Southern Mexico, but is now cultivated in many other parts of the world.
Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which can break down the tough protein chains found in muscle meat. Because of this, people have used papaya to tenderize meat for thousands of years.
If the papaya is ripe, it can be eaten raw. However, unripe papaya should always be cooked before eating - especially during pregnancy, as the wild fruit is high in latex, which can cause contractions.
Papayas are shaped similar to pears and can be up to 51 cm long. Its skin is green when barren and orange when ripe, while the flesh is yellow, orange or red. The fruit also has many black seeds, which are edible but bitter. One small papaya (152 grams) contains:
Calories: 59 Carbohydrates: 15 grams Fiber: 3 grams Protein: 1 gram Vitamin C: 157% of the RDI Vitamin A: 33% of the RDI Folate (vitamin B9): 14% of the RDI Potassium: 11% of RDA Trace elements of calcium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B3, B5, E and K.
Papaya also contains healthy antioxidants known as carotenoids - particularly a type called lycopene.
Plus, your body absorbs these beneficial antioxidants better from papaya than other fruits and vegetables.
It has strong antioxidant effects
Free radicals are reactive molecules created during metabolism. They can contribute to oxidative stress, which can lead to disease.
Antioxidants, including the carotenoids found in papaya, can neutralize free radicals.
Studies note that sweetened papaya can reduce oxidative stress in older adults and people with prediabetes, mild hypothyroidism, and liver disease.
Also, many researchers believe that excess free radicals in the brain are an important factor in Alzheimer's disease.
In one study, people with Alzheimer's who took a fermented papaya extract for six months experienced a 40% drop in a biomarker that indicates oxidative damage to DNA - and is also linked to aging and cancer.
The reduction of oxidative stress is due to papaya's lycopene content and ability to scavenge excess iron, which is known to produce free radicals.
It has anti-cancer properties
Research shows that the lycopene in papaya may reduce the risk of cancer.
It may also be beneficial for people undergoing cancer treatment.
Papaya may work by reducing free radicals that contribute to cancer.
In addition, papaya may have some unique effects not found in other fruits.
Among 14 fruits and vegetables with known antioxidant properties, only papaya demonstrated anticancer activity in breast cancer cells.
In a small study in older adults with inflammation and precancerous stomach conditions, a fermented papaya preparation reduced oxidative damage.
However, more research is needed before recommendations can be made.
It can improve heart health
Adding more papaya to your diet can boost your heart health.
Studies show that fruits high in lycopene and vitamin C can help prevent heart disease.
Antioxidants in papaya can protect your heart and enhance the protective effects of "good" HDL cholesterol.
In one study, people who took a fermented papaya supplement for 14 weeks had less inflammation and a better ratio of "bad" LDL to "good" HDL than people who took a placebo.
An improved ratio is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease
It can fight inflammation
Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases, and junk food and poor lifestyle choices can lead to the inflammatory process.
Studies show that antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like papaya help reduce inflammatory markers.
For example, one study showed that men who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids had a significant reduction in CRP, a specific marker of inflammation.