This is a fruit which you come to love once you develop a taste for it. It is not everyone’s favourite, but those who love it find it hard to get by a morning without digging into a bowl of freshly cubed papayas. The orange-coloured flesh is very tempting indeed, but what puts most people off, is the slight bitter aftertaste that accompanies the otherwise sweet fruit. This is the reason why children are often fussy about it and instead go for sinful mangoes, grapes, berries and the like. Have it on its own or team it with a mixed-fruit bowl, it is an energy booster. Believed to be a native of Central America, growing along the Caribbean coast, the tree was considered sacred by the Mayans for its various medicinal properties. The fruits are not the only segment of the tree that was considered valuable, the leaves, seeds, and flowers too possess healing powers. It is also said that the great voyager Christopher Columbus used to refer to it as “fruit of the angels”. What makes papaya such an incredible ingredient is the presence of the enzyme papain along with other essential nutrients that work together to provide you nature’s best.
The Benefits of Papaya
1. Digestion – The enzyme papain present in papaya is known to aid digestion by breaking down proteins. Therefore, a glass of papaya juice is often recommended as a home remedy for digestion-related problems or constipation. Papaya is also high in fibre and water content, both of which help to prevent constipation and promote a smooth bowel movement.
2. Anti-inflammatory – Apart from papain, papaya also contains other effective enzymes that help against inflammation and promote healing of burns. Papayas have high digestive enzymes; they help in supporting your digestive fire or agni.
3. Heart Disease and Cancer – Papaya is rich in anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients that work against free radicals and therefore is said to protect the body from possible heart diseases and cancer. The fibre, potassium and vitamin content help ward off the risk of heart diseases. Including more papaya in your diet can help keep your heart safe.
4. Diabetes – Many researchers have found that the consumption of raw papaya could help maintain blood sugar level and cholesterol because of the high fiber content, thereby keeping a check on diabetes. According to a study done by the Centre of Excellence for Biomedical and Biomaterials Research at the Mauritius University, green tea and fermented papaya work together as preventive means for diabetes. In some parts of India, especially the North East, papaya flowers are locally used as a preventive measure against diabetes. The bitter flowers are lightly sautéed in a little oil and consumed as a side to rice on a regular basis.
5. Immunity – Papaya is a great source of vitamin A, B, C, and K and is known as an excellent immunity booster. It is great for the growth of body tissues, including hair and skin. It helps in maintaining collagen, the structural protein of connective tissues. It is said that a medium-sized papaya could provide you double your daily requirement of vitamins.
6. Cleansing – Beauty experts too, often suggest using slices of papaya as a natural skin cleanser as the active enzymes work wonders to remove impurities.
7. Arthritis – It is also rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper. Regular consumption helps in building up the calcium bank in the body and in the long run could help keep a check on arthritis.
8. Dengue – Papaya leaves are commonly used in the treatment of dengue to help boost up the count of platelets. Dr. Anju Sood, a Bangaluru-based nutritionist says, “Dengue is an infection which affects the blood platelets massively. A simple remedy to get back the platelets count is to give the patient a glass of papaya leaf juice. It is prepared by grinding the leaves with a small amount of water to extract the juice.” However, dengue can prove to be fatal once it develops into Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which shuts down the circulatory system.