Papaya may be consumed or used in many different ways, and each method offers different benefits from this powerful superfood. Health benefits range from antioxidants that help prevent pancreatic, liver, and lung cancer to fighting existing cancer cells and boosting the overall immune system in those who eat the fruit. Other applications can help rejuvenate skin or improve digestion. These benefits make adding papaya juice, papaya jam, and various fermented versions of the fruit to your diet a smart choice.
1. They’re Chock Full of Nutrients!
Papaya packs a powerful nutritional punch, making it a healthy addition to your everyday meal plan. In fact, one cup of cubed raw papaya contains zero fat and cholesterol and a mere 55 calories. It also offers plenty of vitamins and minerals, including:
- 3 grams of dietary fiber
- 1 gram of protein, for more protein try brazil nuts
- 31 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A
- 144 percent of your DV of vitamin C
- 3 percent of your DV of calcium
- 1 percent of your DV of iron, for more iron try mulberries
For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015
2. Green Papaya Can Help Prevent Cancer
Many studies have espoused the benefits of fermented green papaya. This popular food derivative is exceptionally rich in antioxidants. These nutrients play a key role in eliminating or reducing free radicals in the body. Free radicals are believed to have an effect on both cancer and the aging process, and antioxidants prevent them from having a domino effect that can lead to accelerated cell damage. A diet rich in antioxidants can have a notable effect on the growth of cancer cells and the aging process, making fermented green papaya a great food choice. For another cancer fighter like papaya try the leafy green arugula.
3. It’s Great for Skin
You don’t have to eat papaya to enjoy all of its benefits. Application of mashed papaya to the skin can act as an exfoliant to help remove dry skin cells. To smoothen out skin even more try using coconut oil. These skin cells accumulate over time and can reduce the natural glow of healthy cells. By exfoliating these cells, you allow underlying new skin to shine through and create a more vibrant look. Many rejuvenating masks contain mashed papaya as a key ingredient due to this exfoliating property. The vitamin A contained in papaya also helps break down inactive proteins in dead cells, as does the papaya enzyme known as papain. Eating papaya can also contribute to a healthy appearance. Much like their orange cousins the carrots, papaya contains carotene, which is essential for healthy skin. Papaya is also purported to help reduce skin discoloration.
4. Anti-Aging and Hair
It also has antiwrinkle properties that can help ensure your skin looks great even as you age. The many nutrients in the fruit allow it to help you keep your hair longer and prevent balding, and papaya is believed to be effective at controlling dandruff. Applying papaya extract to your hair in the form of a mask or shampoo and conditioner can allow the papaya compounds to remove the buildup of dirt, oil, and dead skin cells to rejuvenate hair follicles in much the same way that it affects the skin.
5. Great for Women
The fruit has many excellent benefits for women in particular. Its anticancer properties resist and fight breast cancer and cervical cancer growth notably effectively. The enzyme papain is also said to reduce and ease menstrual pain.
6. Papaya Leaves are an Immune System Booster
Leaf extract is a common use for papaya. The extract is commonly blended in a tea due to its many anticarcinogenic properties. At least one study has found that the tea allows the body’s immune system to activate natural effects that are toxic to cancer cells, and many other sources purport that it helps regulate digestion and promote overall well-being. Papain, in particular, is available through leaf extract, and it’s known for helping the body break down many important proteins. Drinking tea containing papaya leaf extract may also help combat the indigestion that many people experience when they eat meals containing gluten products.
7. Papaya Seeds are Great for Digestion
Papaya seeds contain many of the powerful antioxidants that help prevent cancer and convert free radicals to prevent their harmful domino effects. The seeds may also help fight off parasites that may infect the digestive tract, though it is best to seek medical assistance before making dietary changes for such a purpose. The seeds should only be consumed in moderation, however, as potential damage can occur at high levels. Benzyl isothiocyanate is present in the seeds, and it may induce toxicological damage if too many seeds are consumed at one time. Work with a doctor to determine the right level of intake for you.
Selection, Preparation, and Storage
When buying papaya fruit, you should look for soft skins that are firm and have as few blemishes as possible. Ripe papaya fruit is bright orange on the inside, and the leaves, if any, should be green. The outer skin should be mostly yellow—a fully orange papaya may already be overripe. For fermented preparation, use underripe, fully green papaya, as the fermentation process will accelerate the ripening process. Overripe papayas are often mushy at the stem end.
Papayas will keep for as long as a week when stored in a refrigerator, but they tend to retain the best freshness and flavor when eaten within one to three days. The fruit may be eaten raw, blended into a smoothie, or fermented in a variety of different recipes. Papaya leaf extract is most commonly used for herbal teas, which deliver papaya benefits as you drink. Papaya is considered a safe food that can be consumed daily, but you should be careful to avoid eating too many seeds. Seek a physician’s assistance with finding the right mix for your diet.