Papaya is the fruit of the Carica papaya plant. It originated in Central America and Southern Mexico but is now grown in many other parts of the world. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which can break down the tough protein chains found in muscle meat. Because of this, people have used papaya to tenderize meat for thousands of years.
If the papaya is ripe, it can be eaten raw. However, unripe papaya should always be cooked before eating especially during pregnancy, as the unripe fruit is high in latex, which can stimulate contractions.
Papayas also contain healthy antioxidants known as carotenoids particularly one type called lycopene.
Has powerful antioxidants effects: Free radicals are reactive molecules created during your body’s metabolism. They can promote oxidative stress, which can lead to disease.
Antioxidants, including the carotenoids found in papayas, can neutralize free radicals.
Studies note that fermented papaya can reduce oxidative stress in older adults and people with prediabetes, mild hypothyroidism and liver disease.
Also, many researchers believe that excessive free radicals in the brain are an important factor in Alzheimer’s disease.
Anticancer properties: Research suggests that the lycopene in papaya can reduce cancer risk. It may also be beneficial for people who are being treated for cancer. Papaya may work by reducing free radicals that contribute to cancer. Additionally, papaya may have some unique effects not shared by other. Among 14 fruits and vegetables with known antioxidant properties, only papaya demonstrated anticancer activity in breast cancer cells.
May improve heart health: Adding more papaya to your diet may boost your heart health. Studies show that fruits high in lycopene and vitamin C may help prevent heart disease. The antioxidants in papaya may protect your heart and enhance the protective effects of “good” HDL cholesterol.
In one study, people who took a fermented papaya supplement for 14 weeks had less inflammation and a better ratio of “bad” LDL to “good” HDL than people given a placebo.
May fight inflammation: Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases, and unhealthy foods and lifestyle choices can drive the inflammatory process. Studies show that antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like papaya help reduce inflammatory markers.
For example, one study noted that men who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids had a significant decrease in CRP, a particular inflammatory marker.
Improve digestion: The papain enzyme in papaya can make protein easier to digest.
People in the tropics consider papaya to be a remedy for constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In one study, people who took a papaya-based formula for 40 days had significant improvement in constipation and bloating.
Protects against skin damage: In addition to keeping your body healthy, papaya can also help your skin look more toned and youthful. Excessive free radical activity is believed to be responsible for much of the wrinkling, sagging and other skin damage that occurs with age. The vitamin C and lycopene in papaya protect your skin and may help reduce these signs of aging. In one study, supplementing with lycopene for 10–12 weeks decreased skin redness after sun exposure, which is a sign of skin injury. In another, older women who consumed a mixture of lycopene, vitamin C and other antioxidants for 14 weeks had a visible and measurable reduction in depth of facial wrinkles.