Papaya, also known as papaw, is a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and special digestive enzymes that have a remarkable effect both internally and externally.
If you’d like to improve your skin, relieve digestion problems, protect your eyes and heart and possibly lower your risk of many diseases like cancer, then consider the many benefits of eating papaya.
Ripe papaya is a great source of antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene. The high levels of these valuable nutrients can help protect your skin against free radicals known to cause damage that leads to wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
The enzyme papain in the flesh and skin of the fruit actually breaks down dead skin cells and helps promote skin renewal when used topically on the face or body. Papaya facial treatments are a popular way to improve your skin’s texture, elasticity and appearance. They may also help with wound healing and burns and even assist in the treatment of skin problems like acne, blemishes and age spots.
Papaya is Good for Your Eyes
Along with its beta-carotene content that can be converted to vitamin A, so important to healthy eyes and vision, papaya also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein and zeaxanthin, known as xanthophylls, are concentrated in the macular region of our eyes. Here they provide protection against high energy blue light that can damage our eye’s retinas. A good intake of both lutein and zeaxanthin is believed to significantly reduce our risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the most common cause of blindness in America.
The high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in papaya may also protect us against developing cataracts, glaucoma, and other chronic eye diseases. Other good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are pumpkins, spinach, broccoli and the yolks from free range eggs.
Many people also report an improvement in visual acuity and color perception with high doses of lutein and zeaxanthin in supplements derived from natural sources like marigold flowers.
Heart Disease and Papaya
The high levels of vitamin C and vitamin E along with antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene in papaw can help reduce the oxidization of cholesterol in our arteries. Cholesterol oxidization is considered a dangerous process, potentially leading to arteries blocked with plaque that can result in heart attacks. Increasing your intake of these antioxidants from health foods like papaya may help improve blood flow to the heart and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Papaya is a good source of folate which helps control homocysteine levels in the bloodstream. High levels of homocysteine in the blood is known to damage blood vessels and is considered another potential cause of cardiovascular disease.
The beneficial fiber in papaya can also help lower undesirable LDL cholesterol levels in the blood by inhibiting its absorption during digestion. This is yet another way eating this amazing superfood can help protect us from heart disease and stroke.
The enzymes in papaya, and especially the green fruit, can improve digestion by breaking down proteins into their individual amino acids. Undigested proteins can lead to many health issues, such as gastrointestinal problems and an overgrowth of flatulence causing bacteria in the colon.
The proteolytic enzyme papain found in papaya is actually so good at breaking down proteins, it is used as a meat tenderizer commercially.
If you can’t find it fresh, green papaya enzyme capsules and high strength digestive powder are convenient to take with a protein meal. Papaya does make for a great dessert whenever you can get it though.
There is much more on how papain can benefit your health in the page on how papain enzymes benefit digestion.
Papaya and Cancer Prevention
There are several important compounds that may make papaya a very beneficial superfood for reducing your risk of developing certain types of cancers. Obviously seek the advice of a knowledgeable health care professional when dealing with any serious disease. But also know that nutritious foods can support the body’s natural defenses and, in the case of papaya, may have certain nutrients of particular relevance for reducing cancer risk.
Once again, the rich antioxidant content of papaya, particularly lycopene, beta-carotene and another less well known carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin, are particularly beneficial in reducing your risk of developing cancer.
Proteolytic enzymes in papaya can digest the fibrin protein layer of cancer cells that usually surrounds and protects them. This may leave the cancerous cells more susceptible to the body’s immune response. It is also believed to hinder its growth and inhibit the cancer from spreading.
The fruit also contains compounds called isothiocyanates that may help prevent cancer by eliminating potential carcinogens from our bodies and enhancing the action of tumor suppressing proteins. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are an even richer source of isothiocyanates, but papaya is still a good source.
Recent research has studied the powerful cancer cell killing effects of compounds found in papaya leaves. See the page on could papaya leaf be a cancer treatment for more details.
Hopefully these 5 papaya health benefits are inspiring enough to have you wanting to eat it more often. If so, the next page on eating papaya for better health has many ways to include more of this great tasting and very healthy fruit in your daily meals.