I knew that papaya was loaded with nutrients that help digestive issues and protect us from disease, but I hadn’t had good experience with papaya until my recent trip to Hawaii. The papaya was so good there that I had to give it another chance on the mainland. As soon as I got home from my trip, I purchased one at Costco, of all places. It was mostly green when I bought it but in a few days, one-third of it was yellow. At that point, I opened it up, and to my surprise, it was perfect. I realized I had been letting them get too yellow and thus too ripe.
I’m so glad that I’ve given papaya another chance. Not only can I enjoy its delicious taste, but now I can take full advantage of the wonderful health benefits. With 144% of daily value of vitamin C in one cup of papaya, along with a good dose of folate, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, copper, vitamin E, and choline, papaya can boost our immune system to help us fight sickness. Some of these nutrients reduce the severity of some diseases worsened by inflammation, like asthma and arthritis.
Papaya is well known for its enzymes, papain and chymopapain, that also help lower inflammation and improve healing from burns. These enzymes appear to ease intestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, in some people. Chronic diseases like heart disease, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s appear to be related to chronic internal inflammation possibly caused, or made worse, by our poor lifestyle patterns. Less inflammation inside our body over time also helps decrease the amount of plaque buildup on the walls of our arteries. The folic acid in papaya protects blood vessel walls for even more protection against heart attacks and strokes.
Papaya is a deterrent against cancer too. The fiber in papaya is helpful in the prevention of colon cancer by binding substances that potentially can cause cancer. Papaya also contains the phytonutrient lycopene that helps reduce risk of prostate cancer. Studies seem to be in agreement that foods high in lycopene like papaya, watermelon, tomatoes, and pink grapefruit help prevent prostate cancer, compared to people not eating these foods.
Papaya that has a patch or two of yellow color will take a few days to be ready, but don’t make my mistake and let them get overripe. They are ready when they have about a third to half reddish-orange or yellow skin and are slightly soft to the touch. Papayas that are too hard and green aren’t ripe and will not ripen properly. If you buy them that way they will need to be cooked.
In Hawaii, we ate papaya filled with plain yogurt, covered with granola, and drizzled with local honey. Now I eat this at home for breakfast. I love this scrumptious fruit! It’s time for you to enjoy this wonderful fruit. Take June’s Healthy Challenge and eat papaya this month. You’ll get hooked like me. Papaya is certainly a tasty way to help our bodies avoid disease and stay healthy!