Deliciously sweet with musky undertones and a soft, butter-like consistency, it's no wonder this super fruit was reputably called the "fruit of the angels" by Christopher Columbus.
Once considered quite exotic, they can now be found in markets throughout the year.
Although there is a slight seasonal peak in early summer and fall, the trees produce fruit year round.
These tropical super fruits are spherical or pear-shaped fruits that can be as long as 20 inches.
The ones commonly found in the market usually average about 7 inches and weigh about one pound.
Their flesh is a rich orange color with either yellow or pink hues.
Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are black, round seeds encased in a gelatinous-like substance.
The seeds are edible, although their peppery flavor is somewhat bitter.
The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins.
This enzyme is especially concentrated in the fruit when it is unripe.
Papain is extracted to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.
Papayas offer not only the luscious taste and sunlit color of the tropics, but are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin-C and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
Together, these nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer.
In addition, this super fruit contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is used like bromelain, a similar enzyme found in pineapple, to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma, and allergies.
Protection Against Heart Disease
Papayas may be very helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
They're an excellent source of vitamin-C as well as a good source of vitamin-E and vitamin-A (through their concentration of pro-vitamin-A carotenoid phytonutrients), three very powerful antioxidants.
These nutrients help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol.
Only when cholesterol becomes oxidized is it able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, forming dangerous plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes.
One way in which dietary vitamin-E and vitamin-C may exert this effect is through their suggested association with a compound called paraoxonase, an enzyme that inhibits LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol oxidation.
These super fruits are also a good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels.
The folic acid found in these fruits are needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine into benign amino acids such as cysteine or methionine.
When unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and, if levels get too high, is considered a significant risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.
Promotes Digestive Health
The nutrients in papaya have also been shown to be helpful in the prevention of colon cancer.
The fiber is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells.
In addition, folate, vitamin-C, beta-carotene, and vitamin-E have each been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
These nutrients provide synergistic protection for colon cells from free radical damage to their DNA.
Increasing your intake of these nutrients is an especially good idea for individuals at risk of colon cancer.
Papaya contains several unique protein-digesting enzymes including papain and chymopapain.
These enzymes have been shown to help lower inflammation and to improve healing from burns.
In addition, the antioxidant nutrients found in these super fruits, including vitamin-C, vitamin-E and beta-carotene, are also very good at reducing inflammation.
This may explain why people with diseases that are worsened by inflammation, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, find that the severity of their condition is reduced when they get more of these nutrients.
Vitamin-C and vitamin-A, which is made in the body from the beta-carotene in this super fruit, are both needed for the proper function of a healthy immune system.
Papaya may therefore be a healthy fruit choice for preventing such illnesses as recurrent ear infections, colds and flu.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright when you were a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight.
Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins-A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss.
While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease.
Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but these tropical fruits can help you reach this goal.
Add fresh slices to your morning cereal, lunch time yogurt or green salads.
Cut one in half and fill with cottage cheese, crab, shrimp or tuna salad.
For an elegant meal, place fresh slices over any broiled fish.
Protection against Rheumatoid Arthritis
While one study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin-C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in laboratory animals, another indicates that vitamin-C rich foods, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.
The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period.
Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin-C rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.
Promote Lung Health
If you or someone you love is a smoker, or if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, then making vitamin-A rich foods, such as this super fruit, part of your healthy way of eating may save your life.
While studying the relationship between vitamin-A, lung inflammation, and emphysema, Richard Baybutt, associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State, made a surprising discovery: a common carcinogen in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, induces vitamin-A deficiency.
Earlier research had shown that laboratory animals fed a vitamin A-deficient diet developed emphysema.
The latest animal studies indicate that not only does the benzo(a)pyrene in cigarette smoke cause vitamin-A deficiency, but that a diet rich in vitamin-A can help counter this effect, thus greatly reducing emphysema.
It's believed that vitamin-A's protective effects may help explain why some smokers do not develop emphysema.
There are a lot of people who live to be 90 years old and are smokers.
The implications are that those who start smoking at an early age are more likely to become vitamin-A deficient and develop complications associated with cancer and emphysema.
And if they have a poor diet, forget it.
If you or someone you love smokes, or if your work necessitates exposure to second hand smoke, protect yourself by making sure that at least one of Natures Super Foods that are rich in vitamin-A, such as this one, is a daily part of your healthy way of eating.
These super tropical fruits are native to Central America and have been long revered by the Latin American Indians.
Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought them to many other subtropical lands to which they journeyed including India, the Philippines and parts of Africa.
In the 20th century, they were brought to the United States and have been cultivated in Hawaii, the major U.S. producer since the 1920s.
Today, the largest commercial producers include the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
How to Select and Store
If you want to eat them within a day of purchase, choose those that have reddish-orange skin and are slightly soft to the touch.
Those that have patches of yellow color will take a few more days to ripen.
Papayas that are totally green or overly hard should not be purchased, unless you are planning on cooking them, or unless you want to use the green ones in a cold dish like an Asian salad, as their flesh will not develop its characteristic sweet juicy flavor.
While a few black spots on the surface will not affect the taste, avoid those that are bruised or overly soft.
Papayas are more available during the summer and fall; however, you can usually purchase them throughout the year.
Papayas that are partially yellow should be left at room temperature where they will ripen in a few days.
If you want to speed this process, place them in a paper bag with a banana.
Ripe papayas should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within one or two days, so you can enjoy their maximum flavor.
For the most antioxidants, eat those that are fully ripened:
Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase.
Key to the process is the change in color that occurs as fruits ripen, a similar process to that seen in the fall when leaves turn from green to red to yellow to brown, a color change caused by the breakdown and disappearance of chlorophyll, which gives leaves and fruits their green color.
Until now, no one really knew what happened to chlorophyll during this process, but a team of researchers, working together with botanists over the past several years, have identified the first decomposition products in leaves: colorless, polar NCCs (nonfluorescing chlorophyll catabolytes), that contain four pyrrole rings, like chlorophyll and heme.
After examining apples and pears, the scientists discovered that NCCs replace the chlorophyll not only in the leaves of fruit trees, but in their very ripe fruits, especially in the peel and flesh immediately below it.
When chlorophyll is released from its protein complexes in the decomposition process, it has a phototoxic effect.
When irradiated with light, it absorbs energy and can transfer it to other substances.
For example, it can transform oxygen into a highly reactive, destructive form.
However, NCCs have just the opposite effect.
Extremely powerful antioxidants, they play an important protective role for the plant, and when consumed as part of the human diet, NCCs deliver the same potent antioxidant protection within our bodies.
How to Enjoy
Tips for Preparing Papaya:
These super fruits can be used many different ways.
They can be eaten as is, added to a fruit salad or to a host of different recipes.
One of the easiest (and most delightful) ways to eat them is to eat it just like a melon.
After washing, cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and then eat it with a spoon.
For a little extra zest, you can squeeze lemon or lime juice on top.
To cut papaya into smaller pieces for fruit salad or recipes, first peel it with a paring knife and then cut into desire size and shape.
You can also use a melon baller to scoop out the fruit of a halved papaya.
If you are adding it to a fruit salad, you should do so just before serving as it tends to cause the other fruits to become very soft.
While most people discard the big black seeds, they're actually edible and have a slight peppery flavor.
They can be chewed whole or blended into a creamy salad dressing, giving it a peppery flavor.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Mix diced papaya, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and ginger together to make a unique salsa that goes great with shrimp, scallops and halibut.
Sprinkle papaya with fresh lime juice and enjoy as is.
Slice a small papaya lengthwise and fill with fruit salad.
In a blender, combine papaya, strawberries and yogurt for a cold soup treat.
Papayas and Latex Allergy
Like avocados and bananas, papayas contain substances called chitinases that are associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome.
There is strong evidence of the cross-reaction between latex and these foods.
If you have a latex allergy, you may very likely be allergic to these foods as well.
Processing the fruit with ethylene gas increases these enzymes; organic produce not treated with gas will have fewer allergy-causing compounds.
In addition, cooking the food may deactivate the enzymes.
Papaya is an excellent source of vitamin-C.
It's a very good source of folate and potassium.
In addition, it is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin-E, vitamin-A and vitamin-K.
Papaya, Endive, and Crab-meat Salad
Makes 4 Servings
I love the combination of sweet and crunchy with seafood, and this salad hits the spot.
We also especially enjoyed how the sweet crab-meat tempers the slight bitter note of endive’s flavor.
There’s no cooking and it’s simple to prepare, you’ll only need to slice-n-chop a little bit.
And, of course you can substitute the crab-meat with shrimp or whatever you prefer.
I probably don’t need to mention the health benefits like vitamin-C and beta-carotene, right?
This salad uses grape seed oil for its dressing, known for its vitamin-E and flavonoids.
1 tsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
2 Tbs. grape seed oil
1/2 large papaya (about 1 lb.), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks (about 3 c.)
1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
3/4 c. jumbo lump crab-meat, picked over and rinsed
Whisk together ginger, lime juice, grape seed oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.
Add diced papaya, endive, cucumber, and crab-meat; gently toss to combine.
You're going to love this!Tweet
*** Our Featured Adverts ***