Papaya, Papaw, Pawpaw—however you prefer to pronounce it, consider adding this exotic fruit to your list of summer fruits to try. You won’t be sorry, both nutritionally and taste-wise. When you set out to purchase your papaya, you can tell its ripe, or just about ripe, when the skin is more yellow or orange than green, and a light and fragrant smell is coming from the top where the stem used to be.
When you cut into this pear-shaped fruit, the first thing you’ll notice is the bright orange color of the flesh, and then lots of black, round gelatinous seeds, which are also edible. In fact, they’re used as a parasite treatment and an internal cleanser. Regardless if you opt to eat the black seeds or not, the papaya flesh has amazing health benefits.
You gotta love it when a single food packs a super nutrition punch. Papaya contains numerous different beneficial antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lycopene—all important for protecting your body’s cells from disease-causing free radicals. Every body creates free radicals, even the uber healthy ones, so it’s important for everyone to eat antioxidant-rich foods.
Skin Protection and Beautifying
All those antioxidants are extremely helpful for protecting your skin against free radicals known to cause damage that leads to wrinkles and other visible signs of aging. One unique feature about papaya is that the flesh and skin of papaya contains a natural enzyme called papain. It’s actually so good at breaking down proteins, it’s used as a meat tenderizer commercially. For skin health, papain breaks down dead skin cells and helps promote skin renewal when used topically on the face or body.
Advocates of papaya recommend rubbing the inside of the papaya skin, with a thin layer of the wet papaya pulp remaining on it, directly onto your face for a couple minutes, preferably in the morning or evening before showering. It is believed to help diminish age spots and minor scarring, improve acne or other blemishes and is said to be great relief for sun damaged skin.
Eats for Your Eyes—Fend off Macular Degeneration
The beta-carotene found in papaya can be converted into vitamin A, which is particularly important for healthy eyes and vision. Papaya also contains two phytonutrients our eyes can’t do without—lutein and zeaxanthin. They’re highly concentrated in the macula, which is the part of the eye responsible for central vision and high-resolution visual acuity. Ensuring you eat enough zeaxanthin and lutein can significantly reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. They may also protect against developing cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye diseases.
How To Eat Papaya
Eating papaya for breakfast is a refreshing and cleansing way to start the day. It also makes a great dessert, especially after a meat-filled meal because the natural digestive enzymes assist in digesting your food.
I also enjoy eating papaya as a dried fruit. It’s easy to take with you for a snack anytime and anywhere. Chop it up and add to muesli, trail mixes, and homemade snack bars. My kids love it too!
Considerations When Picking Your Papaya
The greener the papaya, the more papain enzymes it contains, which are very good for clearing out the intestines of undigested waste. On the other hand, the ripe papaya or the brighter colored pulp are thought to have more antioxidants.
Side note: It’s important to mention, the papaya seed enzymes are so powerful, please talk to your doctor if you have a health condition or take medications. The enzyme might actually interfere with it! Please avoid papaya if you’re pregnant.
If you enjoy eating papaya, how do you like to eat it?
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods