Papaya is a fruit that is native to Mexico, Central America, and some parts of South America. It has a sweet flavor and a texture similar to melon. Many people love papaya for its appealing taste alone, but it is also packed with beneficial nutrients as well.
Health Benefits of Papaya
Papaya contains lycopene and other carotenoids (the beneficial antioxidants that give orange fruit and vegetables their color). It is easier for the body to absorb carotenoids from papaya than from any other fruits or vegetables 1. Lycopene can help prevent cancer and slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 2 3
Papaya is also rich in vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system. 4 Foods like papaya that are high in both lycopene and vitamin C can help prevent cardiovascular disease, so papaya is a beneficial dietary addition to those being conscious of their heart health. 5 6
While more studies need to be conducted, evidence suggests that consuming papaya can help to fight cancer. 7 This is because papaya reduces free radicals in the body, which contribute to cancer development . 8
Papaya is also often recommended to those with IBS and other digestive issues and can reduce stomach pain. This is because papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps manage digestive disorders. 9
How to Prepare and Eat Papaya
You can tell that a papaya is ripe when its skin turns from green to yellow and it is slightly soft to the touch. To help a papaya ripen faster, place it in a paper bag with an apple. Apples produce ethylene, which helps fruit nearby ripen.
To prepare a papaya for eating, first cut it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds out from the center of each half of the papaya. Next, you can remove the flesh of the papaya using a spoon or melon baller, or you can peel it and slice the fruit into small pieces. Do not eat the skin.
You can simply eat fresh papaya on its own as a snack, or try one of these easy, delicious ways to incorporate more papaya into your diet:
Add chopped papaya to your favorite salsa recipe for a tropical kick.
Freeze chunks of papaya to have on hand and add to morning smoothies.
Grill papaya halves for a unique side dish that pairs well with meat, fish, and other savory dishes.
Sprinkle papaya with cinnamon and a little sugar, then bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serve hot with your favorite dairy-free ice cream.
Add papaya to any fruit salad for a boost of flavor and nutrition.
Dry papaya pieces in a food dehydrator and enjoy them on their own as a snack or add to your preferred trail mix.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in the healing capacity of food and other natural health practices, naturopathic medicine may be a good fit for you.