A papaya represents a vision of lush, exotic environments: palm trees, tropical birds, and an overwhelming sense of health and fertility. If you’ve never seen one before, they are large (up to 10 or more pounds), oblong and vary between shades of green to peachy. Their flesh is dense, like a cantaloupe melon, but their interior contains a dense mesh of black gelatinous seeds, which are also edible. Technically, although we call it a papaya tree, and a papaya fruit, the plant itself is a giant herb. They are known to be finicky to grow, and require a very particular set of tropical conditions to flourish. Mostly they are produced for export by Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, and India, but if you have traveled anywhere tropical, it’s very common to find in many kitchen gardens and yards throughout the world.
Papaya is a common staple eaten around the world. It provides a powerful dose of vitamins and minerals and also a series of health benefits that are only now being fully understood through extensive study. Papaya benefits go far beyond the fruit, because both the seeds and leaves are also edible.
1. Good for Heart Health
Fruits rich in Vitamin C and lycopene (an antioxidant) have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. Lucky for us, papaya is an excellent source of both these substances. Some studies, investigating the effects of fermented papaya supplements on cardiovascular health, found that it was able to boost the effects of the healthy cholesterol called HDL, and reduce cardiovascular inflammation.
2. Lowers Blood Sugar
When consumed after a fermentation process, papaya may decrease blood sugar levels through fully natural means. There is also evidence suggesting that papaya leaf extract can reduce the genetic markers of type-II Diabetes. These markers are responsible for poor insulin sensitivity, but when treated with papaya leaf supplement, sensitivity is increased thus increasing the ability for healthy glucose uptake throughout the body.
3. Improves digestion
The fruit of papaya contains a substance called papain, which is extracted and used to treat a variety of digestive issues. The papain enzyme is used as a digestive dietary supplement that breaks down proteins and fats throughout the digestive system, leading to an increased nutrient absorption. It also breaks down fiber, which can often cause bowel problems. Papain has been used traditionally throughout ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammation, reduce gas and bloating and ease general digestion issues.
4. Antibacterial and Antiviral
Papaya seeds and papaya fruit are used to treat bacterial and viral infections in the digestive tract. In Nigeria, papaya seed juice was also found to kill parasites in children nearly 75% of the time. This is because the seeds contain a powerful substance called Carpaine that targets and kills parasites, while the fruit metabolizes proteins throughout the intestinal tract to make it very unsuitable for parasitic growth.
Extract from the seed is a useful tool in the fight against E.coli infection, or staph infections. As mentioned above, papaya seeds are used to treat many common ailments throughout the tropics, in particular they are used to treat the symptoms of common viruses like dengue.
5. Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s
Through the power of antioxidants, papaya is also a means to possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Many experts believe that Alzheimer’s may be caused by an excess of free radicals found in the brain, and with its high level of antioxidants, papaya is a good dietary addition to target these harmful free radicals. One small study found that with fermented papaya supplement, participants were able to decrease the level of a biomarker known to show oxidative damage in DNA. Over a 6-month period, it dropped by nearly 40%.
6. A Boost of Vitamins and Minerals
Papaya fruit contains more vitamin C than an orange. Pound for pound, it packs more of a vitamin C punch than many other fruits. One cup of papaya contains 144% of your daily recommended dose! Vitamin C is a great natural method for preventing Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stroke; boosting your overall immunity; and reducing symptoms of gout.
It’s also rich in vitamin A. Something found in other orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the orange papaya also contains high levels of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for a ton of bodily functions including red blood cell production, pre-and post-natal development as well as something as basic (and vital) as gene expression.
7. Rich in Antioxidants
The flesh of papaya is particularly rich in antioxidants called carotenoids. These antioxidants have been linked to a protective effect in numerous cancers such as neck and back cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer. These studies are limited in nature, but open the door for further exciting avenues of study.