Papayas: A Powerhouse Of Digestive Enzyme Nutrition

Papayas so sweet and succulent, this elongated, pear shaped fruit is loaded with more vitamin C than an orange. It has a velvety soft, almost buttery-like, texture which Christopher Columbus described as "fruit of the angels".

Once considered quite rare and exotic for most of us, they are now commonly found in most larger end supermarket chains. The seasonal peak is early summer to fall. But, as a tropical plant, the tree can bear fruit year round.

Key nutrients found in this warm weather fruit are vitamins A, B-9 (folate) C, E, K, and a great source of dietary fiber. They also contain calcium, potassium, phosphate, magnesium, copper, and more iron than most fruits with fewer calories.

While they are very sweet to the taste, they are, also surprisingly, relatively low in sugar, another plus, this fruit is one of the least likely to be contaminated with heavy pesticide spraying.

Yellow and orange flesh colored vegetables and fruits, like certain varieties of the smaller varieties of papaya, contain various amounts of plant antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and K. Nutritional scientists are currently, and extensively, studying the different classifications of phytochemicals, like carotenoids and bioflavonoids, that are found in plant foods for their potential health benefits.

Some of the many positive health effects associated with eating papayas include:

* Offers protection against developing heart disease by preventing atherosclerosis of blood vessels due to its high vitamin C content.

The high concentration of carotenoid phytochemicals and antioxidant vitamins A and E help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that can build up inside artery walls.

* Provides protection against developing colon cancer with a complex nutritional source of antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, and fiber.

* Contains several unique protein-digesting enzymes, including papain and chymopapain. These enzyme substances help reduce inflammation in diseases like asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and improves healing of burn wounds.

* The vitamin A and C content, which is made from the beta carotene in papayas, are both needed for the support of a healthy immune system. A wonderful fruit choice for the prevention of systemic ear infections, colds, and flu.

* Fruits like the papaya, and many others, may provide better protection against age-related macular degeneration than carrots in adulthood. Three or more servings of fruit a day lowers the risk of developing this eye disease in older adults by 36 percent.

This fruit has an amazing concentration of two proteolytic enzymes called papain and chymopapain that enables the digestion of protein. Papain, the most important and abundant of the two, is extracted and dried from the green fruit. It has been used for tenderizing meat for years, used to heal wounds, soften, and cleanse the skin, and is one of the primary ingredients used in natural digestive aid supplements.

According to Dr. Lytton-Benard, Yale University, consistently poor digestion leaves the body without proper nutrients. Those who often find it nearly impossible to digest a high protein meal, will find the rejuvenating effects of papaya juice, or dry supplement form, marks the turning point on the climb back up to vitality and good health.

When selecting a fresh papaya, always avoid those that are dark green. They may not fully ripen. A ripe fruit will smell mildly sweet, and you can hasten the ripening of a slightly green fruit at room temperature by placing it in a paper bag for a day or two. The papain concentration is highest when the fruit is green, and lessens when it fully ripens. The papayas outer skin layer turns a golden-yellow color when fully ripe, and the flesh can range from pink and red to bright orange, depending on the specific variety of the fruit.

There are two varieties commonly found in the United States. The 'Solo' variety is grown in Hawaii. It is called solo because it is small, usually about 7 inches long, weighs about a pound, and is easily eaten by one person. The Maradol variety is grown in Mexico or Central America. It is a much larger fruit, measuring up to 20 inches in length, and can weigh up to 5 or 6 pounds.

To eat the fruit like a melon slice it lengthwise and scoop out the slick, black seeds in the center. Refrigerate any left overs and eat within a couple of days.

The flavor of the papaya has been described as having an apricot taste with a twist of ginger. The flesh of the fruit can be used and mixed in all types of recipe dishes, from salads and meat marinades to adding with other fruits in the blender for fruit smoothies.

Any way you choose to slice and eat them, the wide variety of nutrients that are available in a papaya helps support a healthy body. It is one of many fruits that can help you enjoy a happier life inside your skin.


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