Papaya is very similar to a large melon and can be eaten both ripe and unripe. The degree of ripeness of the fruit allows you to obtain preparations with very different flavours.
The nutritional properties of papaya have elevated this fruit to “super food”. The fruit has important nutritional values as it is low in calories, only 28 calories per 100 grams. In fact, this tropical fruit is rich in many vitamins, precious antioxidant compounds, minerals and fibers. A particular characteristic is the presence of proteolytic enzymes which favor the digestive process and intestinal function.
Furthermore, thanks to its antioxidant properties, this exotic fruit is ideal for maintaining the well-being of the whole body, counteracting the effects of aging. Fermented papaya has become very famous in recent years and many studies have been done on its benefits for stimulating the immune system and fighting free radicals.
In the kitchen, with papaya, you can prepare smoothies, sweets, ice creams, jams and candies. The pulp is also dried and eaten as dried fruit. Papaya can also be found for consumption in fermented form, or made into jam, jelly, and candy. Furthermore, it is also used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
Papaya – what is it
Papaya or papaya (Carica papaya L.) is a fruit plant native to the Central American area which extends from Mexico to Panama.
Its cultivation is currently widespread in many other regions with tropical or temperate climates but with hot humid summers, such as:
- Hawaiian Islands.
To a very small extent, papaya is also grown in America, particularly in Sicily.
Fermented papaya: how to consume it and health benefits
The preparations based on fermented papaya can also be of a certain interest, often combined with other plant extracts (such as green tea, pomegranate, grapes, etc.) endowed with the same antioxidant and immunostimulant activity.
These products can be a valid integration in the prevention therapy of some diseases, especially neuro-degenerative ones, to be used preferably under medical supervision.
Using fermented papaya, a nutraceutical supplement with favorable effects on immunological, haematological, inflammatory and OS parameters in chronic/degenerative diseases, a significant reduction of oxidative stress in patients with Alzheimer’s was observed, with consequent slowing of the pathological state.
Furthermore, fermented papaya has been shown to reduce apoptosis related to oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokine activation and to counteract DNA damage related to free radical production.
If you are interested in the topic, discover our study on fermented papaya.
Papaya: how to eat it
Different parts of the papaya plant lend themselves to being consumed in different ways. The tender and young leaves are used for antimalarial, antibacterial and vermifuge herbal teas.
Ripe fruits are used in much the same way as melons. Their taste is very reminiscent of them, but on the palate it is more buttery and with a soft peach fragrance. They are cut in half, deprived of the seeds (which are also edible), peeled and served cut into small pieces, accompanied by the juice of a lemon or lime wedge, which enhances their flavour.
Even the unripe fruit is edible, but less sweet. Instead, the green fruit is used in the preparation of salads but also cakes and ice creams.
Properties and benefits of papaya
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Papaya is an excellent source of antioxidants. Vitamin C, Provitamin A (beta-carotene), Lutein, Zeaxanthin.
Lycopene and other flavonoids make up a package of antioxidant substances which carry out an important protective action on our body. In fact, these antioxidant substances help us counteract the effect of some reactive oxygen compounds (ROS) produced by the body during normal cellular metabolism.
According to the most recent studies conducted, the papaya antioxidants can effectively intervene in slowing down the degenerative processes that lead to the aging of the organism caused by those responsible for the oxidative damage.
Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory benefits deriving from the antioxidants present in the fruit can support the proper functioning of the immune system, can help protect against macular degeneration and have a significant anti-neoplastic activity, with a reduction in the risk of the onset of tumors, in particular of the prostate, colon and, according to a recent survey, breastfeeding.
Papain from papaya also has an anti-inflammatory effect in cases of trauma and allergies.
Beneficial for the cardiovascular system
The nutrients present in the papaya composition have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, protecting it from cardiovascular diseases caused by free radicals due to oxidative stress. It has also been reported to help in the treatment of diabetes mellitus and in reducing cholesterol levels.
Both the pulp and the other parts of the plant (leaves and seeds) thanks to their antioxidant, antihypertensive, hypoglycaemic and hypolipidemic actions, actively participate in maintaining the state of well-being of the entire cardiovascular system, in the prevention and treatment of obesity and associated metabolic disorders, i.e. cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
The high fiber content of this fruit also causes a decrease in fat absorption.
Digestive and laxative fruit
Thanks to the content of proteolytic enzymes, papain and chymopapain, particularly abundant in unripe fruit, papaya performs an effective and precious action in case of difficult digestion due to a poor production of gastric juices, or in the presence of inflammatory states such as: gastritis , pancreatitis, chronic and ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel.
Furthermore, the fruit is effective in increasing intestinal motility and transit time, helping in cases of chronic constipation.
Vermifuge, antiparasitic and antimicrobial
Latex and papaya leaves act as excellent vermifuges in case of infections of worms and intestinal parasites, in particular against tapeworms.
Papaya also possesses antimicrobial, anti-amoebic, anti-parasitic and anti-malaria actions. The use of leaf extract has shown antimicrobial activity on the inhibition of some human pathogens, such as, for example, Escherichia coli.
Furthermore, the seeds have been found to be particularly useful against human intestinal parasites (Caernorhabditis elegans).
Papaya: nutritional values
This exotic fruit has an excellent amount of vitamins, many more than other fruits, mainly:
- provitamin A (beta-carotene).
- Vitamin C
- B vitamins.
- Folic acid.
- Vitamin E.
The picture is completed by a good content of dietary fiber, antioxidant agents, such as carotenoids and bioflavonoids, and two proteolytic enzymes, papain and chymopapain, capable of facilitating the proteolytic process, i.e. the splitting of proteins into amino acids.
The seeds are particularly rich in phenolic compounds.
The oil extracted from the seed mainly contains oleic (omega-9) and palmitic, linoleic (omega-6) and stearic acids, while the leaves have a high content of:
- dietary fiber.
- Polyphenolic compounds.
- Benzyl isothiocyanate.
Uses in the kitchen
The habit of consuming the papaya fruit traditionally belongs to the customs of tropical and subtropical populations, where availability is abundant. The ripe fruit can be eaten raw, seasoned with a little sugar and lemon juice, alone, or in fruit salads and salads. The pulp of very ripe fruits can be centrifuged or blended, seasoned and served as a refreshing drink, or frozen and eaten as a granita.
Furthermore, the ripe fruit can be consumed in the form of a refreshing and thirst-quenching juice, even in combination with the juice of other fruits.
The pulp also lends itself to being boiled to accompany meat-based main courses as a side dish. A fairly common dish is papaya stuffed with oven-baked minced beef or pork.
Green papaya: Thai recipes
The unripe and still green raw fruits lend themselves to the preparation of salads. In Thailand, the unripe fruit is finely cut as the basis for the composition of a very popular spicy salad called “som tam”, prepared with garlic, tomatoes, green beans, lime and toasted peanuts. The original recipe calls for the use of fish or fish sauce, but there is also a vegetarian version with soy sauce.
Green papaya can also be eaten boiled like zucchini or preserved and eaten as a pickle.
Still in the countries of origin, the seeds are also consumed, eaten raw or dried and minced as a mildly aromatic spice to season meat.
In the Philippines papaya is prepared as an appetizer/condiment in a very interesting recipe called “papaya Atchara or Atcharang”.
It is made from pickled, julienned or grated green papaya that is placed in airtight containers and left to soak for a week in a vinegar-sugar mixture cooked with onions, garlic, ginger, pepper, and red bell pepper.
1 – The tropical smoothie with papaya
Total calories: 100/ calories per person: 100
- pink grapefruit
- 2 kiwi
- ½ papaya.
Find out how to prepare smoothie with papaya.
Papaya: uses in beauty
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