The benefits of papaya are a bit more than one usually thinks. To most of us, the papaya is just another good tasting tropical fruit, and while we expect the papaya to have a certain amount of nutritional value, as is the case with most fruits, the actual benefits of papaya might come as a surprise.
Papaya trees are only found in tropical regions, primarily in the Caribbean area and Central America, as well as Hawaii and several islands in the South Pacific. The papaya tree requires warm moist summers, and cool dry winters. It is not at all frost tolerant, nor can it stand to get its feet wet, although it is quite a demanding plant when it comes to watering needs.
The pear-sized fruit has a flavor one usually associates with a melon. The seeds as well as the fruit are edible, as are the leaves, which in some cultures are boiled like spinach and enjoy use as a staple food item. The fruit, seeds, and leaves have long been used for their medicinal as well as their gastronomic value.
The Benefits Of Papaya
The leaves in particular are considered as being highly beneficial to the digestive system. They contain an enzyme called papain which aids in the digestion of carbohydrates and protein that some have trouble digesting, releasing a greater number of nutrients into the body as a result. Papain is so powerful that it is even used as a meat tenderizer, both in households and commercially.
There are numerous claims made regarding the benefits of papaya as far as health and wellness is concerned. The papaya is said to be good for the heart and the circulatory system. Some claim the juice is an excellent aphrodisiac, while others claim the papaya is an effective cancer fighter. Many, and perhaps most of these claims lack scientific proof, but that doesn’t not mean the claims are totally unreasonable, though at times perhaps a little irresponsible. For example, papaya is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, all powerful antioxidants. Papaya is rich in fiber which may lend some credence to claims that it is a cancer fighter and an aide in keeping cholesterol at healthy levels.
Proper Digestion Equals Good Health
The fact that the papaya contains compounds and elements proven to promote good digestion, and also contains a number of nutrients which tend to strengthen the immune system does give support to some of the claims made about the benefits of papaya. One could simply say that the papaya has a greater positive effect on our digestive system than most other fruits or vegetables, and let it go at that. After all, a properly functioning digestive system benefits most every other organ in the body. That alone would be more than enough to warrant eating more of this fruit. At the very least, the papaya is one more healthy food item worth considering as a part of our diet, and a healthy diet goes a long ways to keeping us feeling our best and staying in top physical condition.
The papaya obviously has a place on any fruit dish and could be used in salads as well. Its use in salads could include the seeds, which are said to have the consistency of capers. Being a tropical fruit, the papaya may not always be readily available in stores, and there is no guarantee that processed papaya juice provides anywhere near the nutritional value that the raw fruit does. If sliced papaya doesn’t exactly appeal to you, though it should, put one or two in the blender and try it out as a healthy addition to the next smoothie you make.
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