Papaya is called fruit of the angels by Conquistadors because of its heavenly taste. In its prime, it is a cerise-orange colored, unbelievably juicy fruit with an aroma to match its heavenly taste.
How fortunate that this glorious fruit is available year-round. Although a native of the tropics, papaya trees produce fruit all year long and are now produced in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. A ripe papaya can be as long as twenty inches, but most commercially grown fruits are pear-shaped, about seven inches in length and about a pound in weight. It is high in bromelain, which makes it beneficial in ways similar to pineapple. Since it loses nutrient strength as it ripens, papaya is best if purchased mostly ripe and eaten by the next day. Purchase fruit that is orangey-red in color and just a little soft to touch. Fruits that have yellow patches are less ripe and will take a few days at home to become their best. The seeds of a papaya are small, round and black in color. Although they are edible, they have a bitter, peppery flavor that few people seem to find enjoyable.
The papaya is considered to be one of the healthiest fruits to eat and to some the most nutritious fruit of all. In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based consumer group that studies nutrition, compared forty fruits for their overall healthfulness. Based on a point system awarded to each fruit for the RDA percentage of the nine individual vitamins plus estimations for potassium and fiber, the papaya was number one, followed by cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, and tangerines.
This delicious fruit is rich in anti-oxidants, the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium and magnesium; and fiber. Together, “these nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer.” In addition, papaya contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is used like bromelain, a similar enzyme found in pineapple, to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma, and allergies. 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.
Papaya can be eaten for its digestive and heart health properties. It is an amazingly rich source of the proteolytic enzymes.Externally, it is used in anti-aging products and both the skin and pulp are valuable as healing agents. After a course of antibiotic therapy, papaya juice will rapidly return the intestinal bacteria count to normal. It is especially rich in Vitamin C and carotene. More unusual, but very valuable is its high arginine, papain and carpain contents. Arginine is known to be good for male fertility, while papain is a proteolytic enzyme. This means papain can break down protein. Carpain is an enzyme considered to be good for the heart. Papaya also contains fibrin, a rarity in the plant world. In humans, fibrin is an essential part of the blood clotting process.
Papaya is good for many digestive disorders and is excellent for improving poor digestion. It has also been recommended as part of the treatment for cancer.
Although further study needs to be done, early findings lead to the belief that papaya may prevent diabetic heart disease. It is high in fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol. A very special ability of the fiber contained in papaya is that it can bind cancer causing toxins to it, preventing them from binding to cells in the colon. For individuals with a family history of colon cancer, papaya may be an important dietary addition.
Many experts have claimed rejuvenating properties for papaya, especially for the control of premature aging. It may be that it works simply because a poor digestion leaves the body without the correct nutrients. Those who find it almost impossible to digest anything frequently find that papaya used regularly marks the turning point in the climb back to vitality and good health.
The skin of the papaya is a first class external treatment for skin wounds and places that do not heal quickly. The pulp from the juicer can be used for this and as a poultice.
Another promising finding is that men who ate lycopene-rich foods are less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Papaya is a great addition to any meal or snack. Chunks of fresh papaya are terrific in cereal or in smoothies.