Papaya belongs to the Caricaceae family. It was once an exotic fruit that reminds us of the tropics. Papaya has many different names. The Mexican Indians call it ambapaya. It is called “paw paw or papaw” in the United Kingdom and North America, “papaya” in France, and “meloenboom” in Netherland. In Australia, the yellow-fleshed fruit is called “papaw” and the red and pink-fleshed cultivars are called “papayas”. The main papaya cultivars sold on the market are ‘Solo’, ‘Golden’, ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Formosa’.
Papayas are growing on small unbranched trees with latex vessels in all parts. The yellowish orange color of papaya comes from its carotenoids. Red-flesh papaya contains beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene and zeta-carotene. Yellow fleshed papaya contains only beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and zeta-carotene. Among all the carotenoids, only beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are precursors of provitamin A. Hence, both yellow and red papaya are good sources of provitamin A.
Papaya is a healthy fruit. It is low in calories and sodium and high in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B complex, dietary fibre and a broad spectrum of phytochemicals such as flavonoids, carotenoid, polyphenols and sterols. It has been used as both food and for medicinal purpose for centuries and is enjoyed as a traditional breakfast and dessert in the tropical countries. Papaya is commonly consumed as a fresh fruit but also processed into cans, jams or dried fruits. It is also used in breakfast, dessert and in making salads and drinks.
Table 1. Characteristics of different types of papaya
|Taste||Very sweet||Very sweet||sweet||Sweet|
|Seed cavity||Deep||Not very deep||Not very deep||Not very deep|
10 Health Benefits of Papaya
Rich in natural antioxidants
Papaya is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and carotenoids, which are all excellent dietary antioxidants. One serving of papaya offers 144% of the daily recommended value vitamin C, which is even higher than the orange. One medium papaya provides about 15% of the daily value of vitamin A. Papaya, together with carrot and tomato, are the best sources of beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. More importantly, the availability of beta carotene from papayas was about 3 times higher than carrot and tomato. Carotenoids that are not converted to vitamin A, e.g. lycopene, are also powerful antioxidants.
Boost digestive health
Papaya contains proteolytic enzymes, such as papain, chymopapain and caricain. These enzymes make protein digestion easier. Papain is also used to heal dyspepsia and other digestive disorders. The rich fibre content of papaya aids digestion, pomotes weight loss and prevents constipation. In tropical areas, papaya is traditionally used as a remedy for constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The beta-carotene and vitamin C are also useful in improving our digestion.
First of all, papaya is packed with antioxidants which scavenge free radicals and prevent your cell DNA from oxidative damage. Moreover, papaya is one the best dietary sources of lycopene. Lycopene has shown to have an antiproliferative effect on in vitro cancer cells.Regular intake of lycopene-rich fruits, such as papaya, has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Protect heart health
Papaya is an excellent source of dietary antioxidants including vitamin A, C and lycopene. These antioxidants inhibit low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, which is the known culprit of atherosclerosis. The high fibre content of papaya lowers the level of blood cholesterol. In addition, papaya is a rich source of folate, the vitamin helps to reduce the homocysteine in your body. Homocysteine is an amino acid associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
There are a number of natural anti-inflammatory phytochemicals in papaya.Firstly, the proteolytic enzyme, papain, is a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Secondly, vitamin C reduced inflammation by decreasing histamine levels and promote the production of anti-inflammatory agents, adrenal corticosteroids. Last but not the least, papaya is loaded with lycopene, another anti-inflammatory agent. As an antioxidant, lycopene reduces cellular oxidative stress and thereby modify inflammatory response by inhibiting cytokine production via nuclear factor-kB inactivation.
Against intestinal worms
Papaya seeds are used medically against intestinal parasites. It is because the papaya seeds have strong anthelmintic and antiamoebic characteristics. A study conducted in Nigeria showed that children took 20 ml crushed papaya seeds cleaned more than 75% of their intestinal parasites, without any significant side effects.
Regulate menstrual cycle
Eating fresh raw papaya increase blood circulation during menstruation. It helps in stimulating estrogen production and helps in regulating the menstrual cycles. Please take note that only raw papaya conveys this benefits while ripe papaya has little effect in regulating the menstrual cycle. The best way to consume raw papaya is to eat the green papaya salad.
Cure acne and burns
Papaya is effective in getting rid of acne. The proteolytic enzymes of papaya have antifungal and antibacterial properties and reduce the occurrence of acne breakouts. The beta-carotene of papaya stimulates the generation of new, healthy skin cells and reduces the blemishes and red spots of acne. Lycopene decreased skin redness after sun exposure. Papain and chymopapain enzymes of papaya improve healing from burns. Papain is used as a phytotherapeutic agent in the treatment of pressure ulcers, gangrene, eschars, burns and acceleration of wound healing.
Protect your eyes
The good levels of carotenes, especially the lutein and zeaxanthin, of papaya is good for your eyes. They provide protection against UV light that can damage the retinas of our eyes. Studies showed that an adequate intake of lutein and zeaxanthin lower the risk of developing age-related degeneration (ARMD), the leading cause of blindness in America.
Boost immunity and reduce stress
Papaya is one the best fruits to boost your immunity and reduce your stress. It works by providing an abundant amount of vitamin C and vitamin A. These two vitamins are needed for the proper function of a healthy immune system. Research has shown that papaya fruit extract lowers the oxidative stress and improve the immune function of rats. Moreover, vitamin C regulates the flow of a stress hormone, cortisol, and prevents blood pressure increasing under stressful conditions.
Side effect of eating too much papaya
Papaya is a nutritious and healthy fruit for daily consumption. However, excessive intake of papayas might cause adverse effects and is thereby not recommended. Precautions need to be taken for people with special conditions.
- Excessive consumption of papaya will cause excessive intake of beta carotene which might result in the symptoms of skin discoloration called carotenemia. It is temporary, and the symptom will disappear once you stop eating papaya.
- In India and parts of Southeast Asia, consumption of papaya is widely believed to be harmful during pregnancy since unripe papaya is believed to have abortifacient properties lead to miscarriage and teratogenic properties that result in malformations of the fetus. So pregnant women shall avoid eating papaya, especially the unripe green papaya.
- Some people are allergic to the latex it the unripe papaya. Ripe papaya is a much better choice as it contains a much lower amount of antinutrients, such as tannin, phytate and oxalate.
- The papain enzyme of papaya is a natural anticoagulant. Taking papaya with your anticoagulant medicines (e.g. aspirin) that used for blooding thinning will increase your risk of bleeding and bruising. For the same reason, papaya is not recommended for people who are going to have surgery in a few weeks.
- The green papaya might worsen the condition of stomach ulcer.
10 Fun facts of papaya
- The fruit of papaya is technically classified as a fleshy
- Papaya is sometimes called pepo-like berries because it resembles melons with a central seed cavity.
- Papaya tree bears fruits throughout the year. Papaya trees are replanted after 3 to 4 years because of the gradual decline in production when the trees age.
- Female plants produce much better quality papaya fruits than the male plants. The female papaya plants produce medium to large size fruits with a large seed cavity. The male papaya plants produce elongated poor-quality fruits.
- There are three genders of papaya flowers: male, female or both (which contains both the male and female productive organs).
- Papaya seeds taste astringent and peppery. It is used as peppercorn in some Southeast Asian cooking.
- The young leaves of papaya are used in making salad.
- The stems and barks of papaya are used in making ropes.
- The enzyme extract of papaya, which mainly contains papain (a type of protease), is commercially available as a meat tenderizer.
- A small papaya contains 300% of your daily required vitamin C.
Nutrition facts of papaya
For every one medium size papaya (~300 g), you will get the following macro- and micro-nutrients:
|% Daily value|
|Calories 119 kcal||6%|
|From carbohydrate 109 kcal|
|From fat 3.6 kcal|
|From protein 6.2 kcal|
|Total carbohydrate 29.8 g||10%|
|Dietary fiber 5.5 g||22%|
|Starch ~ g|
|Sugar 17.9 g|
|Protein 1.9 g||4%|
|Total Fat 0.4 g||1%|
|Saturated fat 0.1 g||1%|
|Monounsaturated fat 0.1 g|
|Polyunsaturated fat 0.1 g|
|Omega-3 fatty acids 76.0 mg|
|Omega-6 fatty acids 18.2 mg|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0%|
|Vitamin A 3325 IU||67%|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 0.1 mg||5%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.1 mg||6%|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1.0 mg||5%|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 0.7 mg||7%|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.7 mg||7%|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate) 116 mcg||29%|
|Vitamin B12 0.0 mcg||0%|
|Vitamin C 188 mg||313%|
|Vitamin D ~ mg||~|
|Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) 2.2 mg||11%|
|Calcium 73.0 mg||7%|
|Iron 0.3 mg||2%|
|Magnesium 30.4 mg||8%|
|Phosphorus 15.2 mg||2%|
|Potassium 781 mg||22%|
|Sodium 9.1 mg||0%|
|Zinc 0.2 mg||2%|
|Copper 0.0 mg||2%|
|Selenium 1.8 mcg||3%|
The per cent daily values are based on 2000 calorie diet.
Papayas are believed to be originated from tropical America, stretching from Mexico to Panama. The first written record of papaya dates back to the year 1526 when Spanish found them on the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia.Then the Spanish brought papaya from tropical America to the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia in the 1500s. Papaya was introduced to Hawaii in the 1800s and is the only state of U.S. that grows papayas commercially. In fact, the two genetically modified papaya cultivars introduced in Hawaii are the first GMO foods in U.S. food market.
Now, papaya is enjoyed year-round in the tropical and subtropical regions. The world production of papaya is 10.5 million tons in 2009. The world leading papaya-producing are India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico. India, as the world largest papaya producer, alone contributed about 37% of the total world production. Brazil is the second largest producer and contributes 18% of the world papaya production. The world leading papaya exporting countries are Mexico, Brazil, Belize, Malaysia and India. The world top papaya importing countries are United States, Singapore, Canada, Netherlands and Germany.
Global production and export of papayas have grown strongly over the last decade with a reduced price. EU is the second largest market for papaya in the world after the United States in terms of imported value. The average papaya consumption is 0.08 kg per person per year in EU, 0.42 kg in the United States and 0.9 kg in Australia. About 4% of the total papaya production enters world market as fresh or dried fruits. A larger but unknown percentage is processed for export, in the form of can, jams or crystals. The main papaya cultivars sold on the EU and U.S. markets are Solo, Golden and Formosa.
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