As lovers of global cuisine, we are fortunate to live in an area where there are world-class ethnic restaurants all over town. One of our family favorites is an authentic Thai restaurant that never disappoints. Whenever we go, I always order a “som tum” salad, which is made from shredded unripe papaya. Som tum salad is savory and spicy, and if you didn’t know it, you’d never think that it was made from papaya. Of course, most people know papaya as a fleshy sweet tropical fruit which tastes great in a fruit salad with a squeeze of lime. What they don’t know is that papaya is ripe (pun intended) with nutritional and medicinal benefits. This article gives you the scoop on this tropical treasure.
Though they were once seen as a tropical treasure and even called “the fruit of the angels,” papayas don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. This perfectly sweet, soft fruit is native to Central America, Hawaii, and Mexico, but can be found in most grocery stores all year long. Not only is papaya delicious, but it is also surprisingly healthy and is the perfect choice for a natural dessert that won’t spike your blood sugar. Read on for our favorite health benefits of papaya and how to incorporate this superfruit into your diet.
Boosts your immune system
Like many other fruits, papaya is loaded with vitamin C and can give your immune system a much-needed boost to help ward off the cold and flu.
High in Antioxidants
Carotenoids are a particular type of antioxidant found in papayas that are known for their ability to eradicate free radicals and protect the body from oxidative stress. In one promising study, patients with Alzheimer’s were given a fermented papaya extract and experienced a significant reduction in oxidative damage of the DNA. Researchers even noted slowing in the progression of the disease.
Papaya can lower bad cholesterol in the body and help protect from heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Great for those with diabetes
As mentioned earlier, papaya is a delectable, sweet fruit that is surprisingly low in natural sugar. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and want a sweet treat that won’t make your blood sugar go crazy, papaya is for you.
The high water and fiber content in papaya helps encourage healthy bowel function and stimulates digestive juices to keep food flowing smoothly. It can ease constipation and reduce bloating as well, which can eliminate stomach problems.
Though wrinkles are an unavoidable part of life, it is important to eat foods that support your skin and nourish you from the inside out. Vitamin C and lycopene in papaya work to tighten and firm skin while reducing signs of aging and eliminating free radicals that lead to wrinkles.
Chronic inflammation leads to many health issues and can prove devastating over time. Take action to reverse inflammation by incorporating antioxidant-rich foods such as papayas and other fruits and veggies into your diet.
How to eat more papaya
Many people are turned away from papaya after one bad incident involving an unripe fruit. Unripe papayas are rather flavorless and have none of the subtle sweetness that comes along with a perfectly ripe papaya. Though it can be hard to determine ripeness at first, over time, you will be able to discern which papaya to buy. The skin should have a slight give, similar to a ripe avocado, and should be yellow to orange-red.
Yogurt: There is perhaps no better combination of breakfast foods than Greek yogurt and fruit. Scoop the seeds out of each side of the papaya and fill the empty hole with a scoop of yogurt. Drizzle with raw honey and enjoy!
Salad: Chop fresh papaya into chunks and enjoy on a bed of lettuce with some grilled chicken for a heart-healthy, low-calorie meal that will still fill you up. Sprinkle with walnuts and olive oil and vinegar for the perfect salad.
Smoothie: Freeze papaya pieces or enjoy the fresh fruit in the blender with coconut milk and any other fruits and veggies of your choice. Add in some chia seeds for the ultimate breakfast meal.
Salsa: You’ve probably heard of mango salsa, but what about papaya salsa? Combine diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and papaya in the food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached. If you prefer a chunkier salsa, you can simply dice the ingredients and mix well.
Enjoy the seeds: Papaya seeds are actually highly nutritious and are totally edible. They have a peppery flavor and can be added whole to savory dishes for a unique crunch. Bake them in the oven until dried out and crush with a mortar and pestle to create a yummy seasoning.
-The UpWellness Team