Benefits Of Papaya

Few people know of the benefits of papaya or there would be lines of people in the fruit sections of supermarkets every day with people adding papayas to their carts. Papayas are still considered to be an exotic fruit, although now you can find papayas in grocery stores year-round. Papayas do peak at the end of the summer and there will be even more available during that time of year and into the fall.

Christopher Columbus called the papaya the “fruit of angels,” due to its sweetness combined with a buttery smoothness. Today, most papayas are around seven inches long and weigh in the neighborhood of one pound. This is considered just the right amount for one person to eat. At times you can obtain papayas that are up to twenty inches in length. Papayas are usually shaped like a pear.

One of the benefits of papaya is the enzyme, papain, which is used by the body to digest proteins. Unfortunately, you are apt to find the highest quantity of papain in papayas when they are green. Many companies use these green papayas to make digestive enzyme supplements, which can be obtained in most pharmacies and health food stores. Papain is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.

Many of the biggest benefits of papaya come from the many antioxidants which are present in ripened papayas. They are full of carotenes and flavonoids, Vitamins C, E and A, B-complex vitamins, along with pantothenic acid, lots of fiber and such minerals as magnesium and potassium. It is this combination of nutrients which helps protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. Research suggests that a combination of green tea and papaya make be just right for preventing prostate cancer.

One of the ways these vitamins work is that they can help stop the oxidation of cholesterol, which is the process which allows it to build up on the walls of blood vessels. It is believed that these antioxidants combine with an enzyme, paraoxonase, to limit the whole oxidation process. In addition, papayas contain a goodly amount of folic acid, which converts homocysteine into other amino acids. Homocysteine damages the walls of blood vessels and can lead to a heart attack.

The fiber in papaya, along with beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, and folate, all work together to prevent colon cancer. They do this by protecting colon cells from damage by free radicals or toxins. The digestive benefits of papaya also help keep the colon healthy.

Papain does more than just help the body digest proteins, although this is a very important function.  Papain and another enzyme, chymopapain also reduces inflammation, especially in the area of joints. That means that people who have rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or even asthma can benefit from eating papayas. So can those whose immune system is overtaxed so much that they constantly have colds or the flu.

Macular degeneration is another area where the benefits of papaya have been seen. This eye disease affects people as they age, with the majority being over the age of sixty.

Research done at Kansas State University has shown an unlikely area where the benefits of eating papaya and other fruits with vitamin A has been discovered. It suggests that benzo(a)pyrene, a chemical in cigarette smoke creates a vitamin A deficiency and that this deficiency can lead to emphysema. If smokers were to consume a diet rich in vitamin A, it could help them from acquiring emphysema. While more research will certainly be done in this area, the preliminary findings have indeed been very positive.