August 22, 2019 · Written by Foodtolive Team

Surprising Facts and Health Benefits of Papaya

Take one bite from perfectly ripe papaya, and you’ll see why Christopher Columbus called it the “fruit of the angels.”

The flavors of papaya are irresistible, although slightly hard to describe other than predominantly sweet. The taste is something similar to a combination of mangos, bananas, and pineapples.

Also known as pawpaws, papayas range in color from yellow-gold to red-gold with a green tint. The fruit itself is soft and creamy, like an indulgent, exotic desert.


Where do Papayas come from

Papayas are cultivated in tropical climates in North and South America, Asia, and Africa. For thousands of years, they were used as an effective way to tenderize meat. They contain papain, an enzyme that works to break apart the chains of protein within muscle meat.

Jamaica is home to several varieties of the papaya, all of which are high in antioxidants like vitamins C, E, B, beta-carotene, minerals, and fiber.

For those craving a new way to meet their daily recommended nutrient intake, papayas are the way to go. They offer many health benefits that will promote a longer, healthier life along with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Here are some surprising facts and health benefits of papaya.

Papaya Nutritional Breakdown

Papayas have very little saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They are excellent sources of fiber, folate, and vitamins A and C. Papayas do have a high sugar content, which is where about 92% of the calories in this fruit comes from.

Here’s what to expect from small papaya:

  • Calories: 59
  • Carbohydrates: 15 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Vitamin C: 157% of the daily recommended intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin A: 33% of the RDI
  • Folate: 14% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 11% of the RDI

Papayas do have small levels of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B and K; however, they are somewhat negligible.


Health Benefits of Papaya

This fruit is a good source of antioxidants, especially carotenoids, which give papayas, grapefruits, oranges, and other fruits their vibrant colors. Carotenoids help plants photosynthesize. In humans, they act as antioxidants that fight free radicals.

Carotenoids, along with the other antioxidants in papayas, have been shown to prevent some types of cancer, improve the health of vision, decrease inflammation, boost the immune system, and aid cardiovascular health by lowering the chances of disease.

Carotenoids, as well as some of the other antioxidants inside papayas, have a high bioavailability, which is how readily the body absorbs the nutrients and makes use of them. Papayas have a higher bioavailability over tomatoes, carrots, and other foods.

Several studies have found that eating or drinking fermented papayas can lower oxidative stress, especially in older adults, those with prediabetes, mild hypothyroidism, and liver disease.

The benefits of papaya don’t stop there. Another study conducted with Alzheimer’s patients revealed that consuming fermented papaya for half a year could reduce the damage of oxidative stress on DNA by up to 40%.

The Everyday Benefits of Papaya

Fermented papayas aren’t the only way of obtaining the numerous benefits they offer. Eating a small papaya every day, raw or cooked, is enough to start seeing improvements in your body’s day-to-day functioning.

The fiber and vitamin C in papayas are effective at lowering cholesterol by clearing buildup in the arteries.

Additionally, their rich fiber content can stimulate weight loss as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle. Fiber does this in two ways: it keeps you feeling fuller longer, and also assists with digestion, which is a key part of weight management.

Like many citrus and tropical fruits, papayas are great for preventing illnesses like the common cold. Eating one a day is more than enough to give your immune system the extra boost it needs to stay healthy any time of the year.


How To Choose and Eat Delicious Papayas

While papaya is a nourishing fruit that can help your body run its best, there are a few things to know before biting into one.

It’s important to check the ripeness of any fruit before eating, but it’s doubly important to do so with papayas. Ripe papayas are safe to eat, but unripe ones must be cooked beforehand.

Pregnant women should be especially careful of consuming unripe papayas as they contain high amounts of latex, which can cause contractions.

Unripe papayas are greener, and as they age, they develop their signature vibrant orange and gold tones. The inside of a ripe papaya will have flesh that ranges from yellow, orange, or red.

The seeds inside papayas are edible and safe to eat; however, they are very bitter and will probably take some of the enjoyment out of an otherwise tasty fruit.

Try sliced papaya on top of salads, fish, or in a delicious and antioxidant-packed smoothie bowl. Alternatively, freeze the slices for a refreshing treat on hot summer days.

There are dozens of ways to make papaya a regular part of any diet. Try it out and enjoy the health benefits yourself.