Sometimes life gets hectic, and our best efforts at health and wellness can get pushed to the wayside. In moments when life is rushing past, take 5 minutes to nurture your health by eating a power-packed papaya. Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, papayas help promote cardiovascular health, help protect against cancer, and even help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Papayas are loaded with vitamin C. In fact, just one cup of papaya delivers 144% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. Vitamin C consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of cancers of the breast and stomach, cardiovascular disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, and gout. And, of course, it is a superstar immune booster.
One cup of papaya also doles out 31% of the RDA for vitamin A. Vitamin A helps protect your eyes from conditions such as macular degeneration, aids red blood cell production, regulates gene expression and prenatal and postnatal development, and helps defend against skin, breast, liver, and prostate cancers.
Papayas are also a terrific source of folate, which helps to lower homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Folate is also essential in preventing neural tube defects in developing babies.
Papaya also has a noteworthy anti-inflammatory effect courtesy of papain, a digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins. Papain and chymopapain in papaya possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation and the joint pain associated with arthritis. Papain may also help alleviate menstrual cramps and regulate blood flow during menstruation.
High in antioxidants that can help prevent cell injury to your DNA, papayas have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and free radical damage. One study showed that people who consumed fermented papaya for six months had a 40% reduction in one biomarker of oxidative stress damage to DNA, increased aging and cancer development.
Don’t Forget the Seeds
Papaya seeds are also edible. Blend them in a smoothie or eat them as a yogurt topping. The seeds and pulp of the papaya contain a compound called benzyl glucosinolate (BG), which has been shown to have cancer-prohibiting properties. Research shows that the pulp contains more BG compounds prior to ripening, while the seeds have a pretty consistent BG strength through every stage of development.
Picking the Freshest Papaya
Look for organic papaya that is green to slightly yellow. Let it ripen unrefrigerated for two to three days. It will be bright yellow with a soft flesh when ripe. If the papaya ripens before you’re ready to enjoy, then seal it in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to seven days. If you’d like the papaya to ripen quicker, put it in a brown paper bag.