Papaya – the fruit with a natural cure in every bite
Did you know that June is National Papaya month?
The reason? Papaya has a wealth of nutritional and health benefits, from helping with digestion to fighting cancer.
Papaya – which is also known as paw paw in Australia – is available all year round and the parts that are used medicinally are its fruit, seeds, stems and leaves. Papaya fruit is an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, C and E. It also contains a small amount of calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin and is rich in antioxidant nutrients, flavonoids and carotenes. We also love it because it is low in calories and sodium.
The reason papaya is so beneficial is that it is chock full of enzymes called papain and chymopapain which help with digestion because they break down the proteins from the food we eat into amino acids. The latest research shows that amino acids are crucial for our mental and physical health. As we age we produce fewer digestive enzymes in our stomach and pancreas, which leads to ineffective digestion of proteins. Because of this we end up with an excess amount of undigested protein, which leads to the overgrowth of bad bacteria in our gastrointestinal system. So eating papaya after a meal will make for better digestion – and prevent bloating.
Arthritis, stokes and diabetes
Papain also works as a great anti-inflammatory, which is great news for those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Because of its high antioxidant content, papaya can also prevent cholesterol oxidation and can help protect against atherosclerosis (thickening of the artery walls), strokes, heart attacks and diabetic heart disease.
But it is not just serious disease and conditions where papaya can be beneficial. The fruit is great for general, everyday health because it can work its magic on strengthening the immune system, thereby preventing recurrent colds and flu.
Papain is also being studied for its abilities to help the body to fight the cancer. A study carried out by the University of Queensland, Australia found that papaya juice (which contains lycopene) caused cancer cell death in liver cancer patients. The unripened (green) papaya contains more of the enzymes papain and chymopapain than ripened papaya which we commonly eat. So it’s good to bear that in mind when shopping.
As well as the fruit, you can also juice the leaves and stems but the taste is an acquired one! It is not as delicious as the fruit.
Papaya has other healing properties which include lowering the risk of emphysema, preventing nausea and constipation and protecting against cataract formation. Papaya can also be used externally as a treatment for skin wounds that are slow to heal. In this case, you can use papaya peel directly onto the affected area or an ointment made from papaya.
Remember to always consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before embarking on any treatment, it’s your health and it’s IMPORTANT. Disclaimer
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