Papaya is pear-shaped or spherical fruit with rich orange colored flesh and yellow or pink hues. It is favorite of most fruit-lovers due to its soft, butter-like consistency and delicious musky, sweet taste. The inner cavity of fruit consists of round, black seeds enclosed in a gelatinous-like substance. The papaya tree is known by the scientific name Carica papaya and it belongs to family Caricaceae. Native to southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America, papaya is cultivated in most of the tropical countries for its amazing taste and medicinal properties.
The fruit is rich in an enzyme called papain, which is helpful in protein digestion. Papaya fruit is a rich source of vital nutrients like provitamin A carotenoids, beta-carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K as well as minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, potassium, zinc and phosphorus. The skin, pulp and seeds of papaya fruit consist of a large variety of phytochemicals, such as polyphenols and lycopene. Ripe papaya fruit is eaten in its original form, or used in various dishes and jellies.
Health Benefits of Papaya
Papaya fruit is popular worldwide not only for its great taste, but also for offering a number of health benefits. Nutrient-rich papaya is beneficial for cardiovascular health and also prevents colon cancer. The digestive enzyme, papain, is helpful for treating sport injuries, traumas and allergies.
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Papaya for Heart: Papaya is very effective in preventing atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Papaya is an excellent source of vitamin A, C and E; all three are powerful antioxidants, which can prevent oxidation of cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol tends to stick to and build up in the blood vessel walls. It results in the formation of dangerous plaques, which can cause heart attack or stroke. In this way, consumption of papaya can minimize the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Papaya for Digestive Health: The fiber present in papaya binds to cancer-causing toxins present in the colon. Additionally, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and vitamin E present in papaya fruit are associated with decreased risk of colon cancer. These nutrients prevent damage to DNA of colon cells from free radicals and prevent potential risk of colon cancer.
Papaya for Digestive Disorders: Papain, a proteolytic enzyme in papaya, eases break down of proteins in food and enhances better digestion. Papain is very effective for those with cystic fibrosis or pancreatic conditions. Regular consumption of papaya fruit helps to relive digestive disorders like bloating and chronic indigestion.
Anti-inflammatory Effect: Papain and chymopapain are the protein-digesting enzymes present in papaya. These enzymes decrease inflammation and enhance heeling from burns. Also, antioxidants in papaya are also effective in reducing inflammation in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
Some other health benefits of papaya are as follows:
– Due to presence of vitamin C and A, papaya strengthens and improves immune system. Therefore, papaya can be a healthy choice to prevent various ailments like cold and flu as well as recurrent ear infections.
– Another great benefit of eating papaya is to improve male virility. Papaya is a rich source of arginine, an enzyme known to improve blood flow around the penis. Arginine promotes nitric acid in the body for relaxation of muscles surrounding the blood vessels in the penis. Dilatation of blood vessels occurs, resulting in increased blood flow. Thus, arginine is helpful in treating erectile dysfunction.
– Papaya mask is the best tonic for healthy skin. It helps to reduce acne scars and blemishes, making the skin clear and smooth. It prevents wrinkles and premature aging.
– Due to high fiber content, papaya acts as a natural cleanser and flushes out toxins from the colon, lowering the risk of colon cancer.
Precautions and Side Effects
Papaya releases a latex fluid when not ripe completely. It can lead to irritation and may trigger allergic reactions in some people. The latex concentration of papaya can cause uterine contractions, leading to miscarriage. Excessive consumption of papaya may result in carotenemia, which causes yellowing of soles and palms.
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