Referred to as the “fruit of angels” by Christopher Columbus due to its golden-yellow outer skin and soft-musky flavor, papaya also serves as a healthy and a nutritious fruit. The healthy nutrients in papaya include vitamin C, potassium, folate, dietary fiber, vitamin A, E, K and the eye-saving carotenoids- lutein and zeaxanthin. It is due to its healthy constituents that it is also known as the “nutritional masterpiece”. Together, these nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer. The fibers of Papaya help to bind cancer-causing toxins in the colon and thus keep them away from the healthy colon cells. In addition, papaya’s folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E have each been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
The fruit of the papaya tree contains papain which is an enzyme useful for the digestion of proteins. Thus the most common use of papaya is to aid in digestion and its natural digestive properties also act as an added advantage for people who want to lose weight. This is due to the fact that the papain in papayas breaks down protein and thus allows less fat to settle down and become fat. Being rich in Vitamin A and C, a papaya also helps to maintain a healthy immune system and thus prevents recurrent illness like cough, cold and flu. According to a study, vitamin C-rich foods, such as papaya, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis which is a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.
Papaya is an excellent source for three powerful antioxidants (Vitamin A, E and C) which prevent oxidation of cholesterol thereby providing a protection against heart diseases. It is only when the cholesterol becomes oxidized that it poses a threat to the heart functioning as oxidized cholesterol can stick in blood vessel walls and can eventually cause heart attacks and strokes.
Papayas can be eaten in a variety of ways: in a fruit salad or by making a number of delicious and healthy papaya recipes. However, one needs to take caution if one has a tendency for latex- fruit allergy because papayas contain substances called chitinases which can cause allergy in sensitive people.