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Papaya – Tropical All-Rounder

Do you find the many black seeds in papayas annoying? You shouldn’t. The small globules are an indication of the high nutrient content of this tropical power fruit.

Papaya – a healthy fruit from the tropics

Christopher Columbus called the papaya (Carica papaya), which is native to Mexico and South America, the “fruit of angels”. This tropical revelation with its sweet and juicy orange to cherry-red flesh and small black, peppery seeds is also available in Europe all year round. The papaya is not only delicious, refreshing, and low in calories, but also of enormous health value.

International studies are vying for the fruity all-rounder. For example, papaya is said to regulate digestion and shed excess pounds, restore intestinal health after antibiotic therapy, be effective as a natural anti-aging agent in the fight against wrinkles, lower cholesterol and contribute to heart health, reduce inflammation, and aid in wound healing stimulate, increase male fertility and can even take on cancer cells. We would like to take a closer look at some of the health benefits of papaya at this point.

Papaya against gastrointestinal complaints

Whether enjoyed on its own or prepared in a salad, as a smoothie, or freshly squeezed juice, this fruit is good for your figure and relieves gastrointestinal discomforts like bloating, upset stomach, and constipation. The nutrient-packed papaya pulp contains papain, a protein-splitting enzyme that aids in digestion. The still unripe, green papaya, which is used for example for Asian papaya salads, has the highest papain content.

This papain, which is also found in other parts of the papaya tree (e.g. the leaves), sets off a chemical reaction in our digestive tract in which proteins from food are broken down into amino acids so that they can be used by humans. At the same time, the enzyme protects internally against inflammation, which can otherwise be the cradle of many diseases (e.g. rheumatism).

If we look at the other ingredients of papaya, in addition to the digestive enzyme papain, we find many other essential nutrients, some of which have antioxidant and thus disease-preventing effects. Particularly noteworthy are the high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. In addition, papaya is a good source of magnesium, potassium, and a number of B vitamins such as folic acid and pantothenic acid (B5). Not to be scoffed at are the dietary fibers that are essential for a healthy intestine.

Papaya against stomach ulcers and intestinal parasites

The papain and fiber in papaya are not only useful in the digestive system, but some animal studies also offer hope for alternative treatments for stomach ulcers. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food reported unripe papaya’s effectiveness against ulcers in laboratory rats. Thus, concentrated papaya extract might also be attractive as a chemical-free anti-ulcer agent in humans.

As a protein-splitting enzyme, papain also declares war on intestinal parasites that feed on undigested protein and put a strain on the immune system. Papain is also effective against viruses, allergens, yeasts, and fungi in the intestine. Enjoy papaya especially after antibiotic treatments, as it helps restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which in turn boosts the immune system and discourages cancer cells.

The papaya seeds in particular have proven to be extremely effective against intestinal parasites. You can find out what other effects papaya seeds have in our article on the healing powers of papaya seeds.

Papaya inhibits the growth of cancer cells

Medical professionals in the western world are beginning to recognize the health benefits of papaya, which primitive peoples seem to have known for generations. More than 600 studies deal with the healing powers of papaya against cancer alone. The Australian health service even officially promotes the fruit as a cancer medicinal plant.

Scientists from American and Japanese universities have tested papaya’s anti-cancer properties in a variety of laboratory-grown tumors including breast, cervical, pancreatic, liver, and lung cancer. For their tests, the researchers used an extract from dried papaya leaves. In all studies, exposure to papaya extract slowed cancer cell growth within 24 hours.

While Prof. Bharat B. Aggarwal of the University of Texas once again gives cancer research praises to the health-promoting active ingredients of the enzyme papain, other studies are considering a chemical compound from the group of mustard oils. According to an issue of the Journal of Oncology, animal studies confirmed the effectiveness of the so-called isothiocyanates against the above-mentioned forms of cancer as well as against colon cancer and leukemia.

A prostate cancer study by Virginia State University, on the other hand, focused on the anti-carcinogenic potential of the antioxidant lycopene, which, as a representative of the carotenoids, is not only responsible for the orange-colored flesh of the papaya but also serves as a radical scavenger.

Studies ascribed high bioavailability to the lycopene, which makes it easy for our organism to utilize. Lycopene accumulations in human tissues such as prostate cells can thus protect against cancer.

Australian research found that men with the highest consumption of foods containing lycopene, such as papaya, were 83 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.

The claim that papaya seeds can deacidify the body also seems interesting in this context. Since cancer cells feel most comfortable in an acidic environment, we should perhaps eat the black globules as a precaution the next time we enjoy papaya or use them elsewhere as a fruity-peppery spice. We can look forward to corresponding studies!

Papaya for wrinkles

When we browse through the cosmetics ranges in drugstores and take a closer look at one or the other anti-aging article, one inscription always catches the eye: with valuable papaya extract! In fact, the papaya has a whole squadron of natural anti-wrinkle ingredients up its sleeve that make it a fruity fountain of youth for internal and external use.

The much-vaunted digestive enzyme papain also has a positive effect on the wrinkle front. Just as its antioxidant abilities accelerate wound healing, papain is also said to strengthen the skin’s elasticity and thus become active against wrinkles. By helping to loosen dead skin cells that would otherwise clog pores and cause acne, it smoothes the top layer of skin and may reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

The high vitamin C content of papayas also supports collagen production, which creates the basis for firm skin. The antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamins A and E can visibly improve the complexion and at the same time strengthen the structure of hair and nails. Applied externally as a cream or mask, papaya not only provides elasticity and suppleness but is also said to be able to fade freckles and sun spots.

Beauty tip with papaya

Treat yourself to a homemade papaya face mask every now and then. To do this, mix 1/3 of the pureed papaya with egg yolk, half an avocado, a teaspoon of honey, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Apply the mask to clean the skin and leave it on for about 15 minutes. You can then rinse off the mass with warm water and enjoy your revitalized skin!

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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