Papaya is one of those fruits which most people overlook in their weekly food shop, including myself until recently. However as it turns out, this aptly named “fruit of the angels” is one that we all need to be reaching for!
These tropical fruits have a range of health benefits, the ones of which most caught my eye were their aid in assisting skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne (which I both suffer from), proposed ability to help in reducing inflammation and aiding conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis as well as their high amount of digestive enzymes.
So, what are the amazing nutritional and health benefits of papaya? Read on below to find out!
Great for digestion
Papayas contain a digestive enzyme called Papain, similar to bromelain in pineapple, which helps to digest protein. Papain is also extracted and used for digestive enzyme dietary supplements.
These digestive enzymes which apart from the obviously role of aiding digestion, also help to support the pancreas, heal the intestinal tract and reduce inflammation, as well as coenzymes which help enhancing the alkalinity of the digestive tract.
Due to their role in promoting good digestive health, they are also beneficial in preventing colon cancer. Nutrients in papaya such as folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E all also work together synergistically to protect colon cells from free radical damage.
Boosts gut health
It makes sense that a fruit which is so high in digestive enzymes is also apparently helpful in aiding digestive system issues such as colitis, Crohn’s, IBS, stomach ulcers, liver disease and pancreatitis. Papayas also contain amino acids and enzymes which are beneficial in repelling viruses, and are also said to help kill of harmful gut bacteria and parasites. such as H. pylori, C. difficile, and E. coli among others.
They’re also said to be beneficial if you’ve been suffering from constipation, suffering from stomach aches or even after a period of fasting or not being able to eat properly, as they’re not only easy to digest but also provide nutrients and assist with healing the gut.
Along with papain, they also contain another unique protein-digesting enzyme called chymopapain. These enzymes help to lower inflammation, along with vitamin C and beta-carotene that papaya’s also contain. Because of this, papayas are said to be a valuable dietary addition for people suffering from conditions made worse by inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and asthma. Inflammation in general is also linked to a much wider range of illnesses and conditions, and so it’s so important to keep this under control.
Suffering from inflammatory conditions myself (I have ankylosing spondylitis) I know the damage that can be caused from having a high level of inflammation in the body. Unfortunately anti-inflammatory medications (like all other medications) do have side effects such as stomach ulcers after prolonged use. I have quite a sensitive stomach which gets upset easily from this medication which is why I try and manage my inflammation through diet first, and then medication only if needed. Obviously, there are times though when medication is needed, but I strongly believe in prevention being the best first option.
May help to protect against heart disease
Papaya are also high in powerful antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A, which help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. This is important, as it is only when cholesterol becomes oxidised that it is then able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls (atherosclerosis) which can eventually then cause heart attacks or strokes.
They are also high in fibre, which has also been shown to lower high cholesterol levels.
Helps with beautiful skin
Papaya was apparently used by our ancestors to heal burns and also skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis. These are inflammatory skin conditions and as mentioned above, papaya is a great anti-inflammatory food.
The high amount of antioxidants as well as papain apparently work externally as a perfect natural exfoliator to ride the skin of dead skin cells, lock in moisture, reduce pore size and assist in the reduction of wrinkles. Applied directly to the skin, it’s apparently also great at reducing redness and itchiness. Papain and chymopapain also contain anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties to help keep pores clean and prevent acne breakouts.
Apart from helping to reduce inflammation, which worstens acne, papayas also contain lycopene, which also helps to protect the skin from the free radicals which can cause it too.
The vitamins and antioxidants that papaya are rich in, are also great for general skin health and to keep it glowing and youthful!
Can potentially protect against Aged Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)
You may have been told to eat your carrots to keep your eyesight bright, and papayas also contain carotenoids which are vital for vision. Some studies have shown that fruit intake, along with antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids, rather than vegetables, were more strongly related to protecting against ARMD. This doesn’t mean you can still skip the veggies though, as always having a balance diet to make sure you get a range of all vital vitamins and nutrients is key!
As mentioned in one of the points above, I believe strongly in using good nutrition as a way or prevention and helping your body achieve optimal health. Any health concerns though should be taken seriously and discussed with your doctor, and it’s also important to find out what works best for you individually. With that said, papaya are definitely a fruit I’ll be adding to my weekly shop, and I look forward to monitoring the health benefits it may bring!