Papaya is sometimes considered the forgotten fruit because it’s often overlooked while cruising the produce section.  But this little fruit packs a mighty healthful punch.  Papaya is a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and special digestive enzymes.

 

Ripe papaya is a great source of antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene. The high levels of these nutrients can help protect your skin against free radicals known to cause damage that leads to wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.  The enzyme papain in the flesh and skin of the fruit actually breaks down dead skin cells and helps promote skin renewal when used topically on the face or body.  They may also help with wound healing and burns and even assist in the treatment of acne, blemishes and age spots.

 

Papaya contains beta-carotene that can be converted to vitamin A which is important in maintaining healthy eyes and vision.  It also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin, are concentrated in the macular region of our eyes and provide protection against high energy blue light that can damage our eye’s retinas. A good intake of both lutein and zeaxanthin is believed to significantly reduce our risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in America.  The high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in papaya may also protect us against developing cataracts, glaucoma, and other chronic eye diseases.

Papayas are a heart healthy fruit, with high levels of vitamin C and vitamin E along with antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene, eating papayas can help reduce the oxidization of cholesterol in our arteries. Cholesterol oxidization is considered a dangerous process, potentially leading to arteries blocked with plaque that can result in heart attacks. Increasing your intake of these antioxidants from health foods like papaya may help improve blood flow to the heart and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

They are also a good source of folate which helps control homocysteine levels in the bloodstream. High levels of homocysteine in the blood is known to damage blood vessels and is considered another potential cause of cardiovascular disease.  The fiber in papaya can also help lower undesirable LDL cholesterol levels in the blood by inhibiting its absorption during digestion.  The enzymes in papaya can improve digestion by breaking down proteins into their individual amino acids. Undigested proteins can lead to many health issues, such as gastrointestinal problems and an overgrowth of flatulence causing bacteria in the colon.

This super fruit is a cancer protector as well.  The rich antioxidant content of papaya, particularly lycopene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, are particularly beneficial in reducing your risk of developing cancer.  Proteolytic enzymes in papaya can digest the fibrin protein layer of cancer cells that usually surrounds and protects them. This may leave the cancerous cells more susceptible to the body’s immune response. It is also believed to hinder its growth and inhibit the cancer from spreading.  The fruit also contains compounds called isothiocyanates that may help prevent cancer by eliminating potential carcinogens from our bodies and enhancing the action of tumor suppressing proteins.

 

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