The Papaya – A Delicious SuperFruit that Fights Cancer and Enhances Digestion

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Papaya is Mexico’s prehistoric super-fruit that fights cancer, enhances digestion & supercharges the immune system!  Tweet This.

Super Powers & Health Benefits

  1. Aids Muscle Control and Electrolyte Balance
  2. Enhances Visual Acuity
  3. Fights Cancer
  4. Enhances Digestion
  5. Supercharges the Immune System

Secret Compounds

  1. Papain and Chymopapain - powerful enzymes called “proteolytic” enzymes that promote digestion by breaking down proteins into amino acids and protect the body from inflammation. They can also digest scar tissue.
  2. Phytochemicals - have been shown to potentially affect serious diseases such as stroke and cancer.
  3. Vitamin C -  bolsters the immune system and  acts as an anti-oxidant and protects the body from free radical damage.
  4. Vitamin A – aka Retinol is essential in maintenance of vision as it is needed in the eye for good low light and colour vision. It’s also required for maintaining good skin health and a healthy immune system.
  5. Dietary minerals - needed to carry out normal bodily functions like muscle control and water balance in the body. In the papaya you will find iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.

Papaya: The Prehistoric fruit of Mexico

Ancient papayas have been traced back to the age of the dinosaurs3! Their presence in both Africa and South America indicate this crop first sprang up in pangea. In many cultures, the papaya symbolizes both love and protection4.

Interestingly, the Ilocano (indigenous people of the Philippines) believe that nursing women should avoid eating this fruit for at least 6 months to prevent their children from contracting thrush — a condition that raises red flags when spotted in children and older folks with a weakened or compromised immune system. While papayas themselves do not actually cause this condition, the Ilocano may have been on to something after all…In fact, papayas do contain a protein-destroying enzyme that can cause a moderate to severe immune response in people with latex allergies5.

Finding the Papaya

The Papaya or the pawpaw is the fruit of the Carica papaya tree, which is thought to have first been domesticated in Mexico. This large oval fruit is often yellow or orange in appearance. Consuming the papaya varies greatly with culture. It is most commonly eaten raw but juices are not difficult to find.

The Nom-nom Factor

When ripe, the papaya has a sweet, juicy flavour with a strong distinct aroma that some people deem unpleasant. In the actual fruit are several black seeds which though edible, are generally not consumed with the fruit.

In some cultures and exotic cuisines, the seeds of the papaya are dried and used as a substitute for black pepper as they possess a similar sharp, spicy flavour. Echoing the usefulness of the plant are the multitude of applications it has. In Asia, the leaves can be steamed and consumed like spinach (a well-known super food) while some prefer to boil them and have them as tea in order to treat malaria. Still others prefer to eat the papaya raw or prepared as part of a curry or a stew.

Papaya Research from the Lab

Aids Muscle Control and Electrolyte Balance. Much like all super fruits, the papaya also contains a generous dose of dietary minerals. As we have discussed earlier, these are needed to carry out normal bodily functions like muscle control and water balance in the body. In the papaya you will find iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.

Enhances Visual Acuity. There is also a huge dose of Vitamin A in the papaya. In that same 100g that is packed with Vitamin C, you also get 41% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential in maintenance of vision as it is needed in the eye for good low light and color vision. It is actually known as Vitamin A Retinol with the word ‘retinol’ being derived from ‘retina’ which is the section of the eye that serves a function similar to that of the film in a camera (recording images). Of course, that’s not all Vitamin A does. It is required for maintaining good skin health and a healthy immune system just to mention a few.

Fights Cancer.  The papaya has a rather impressive list of nutrients that make it worthy of the super fruit moniker. Abundant in the papaya are phytochemicals. While ‘phytochemicals’ are not usually listed as essential nutrients, they have been shown to potentially affect serious diseases such as stroke and cancer2. The papaya contains a lot of these in its pulp, skin and seed. While the seed and skin are not typically consumed, they are edible and they do have medicinal uses, which further cements the claim that phytochemicals deliver significant health benefits. Scientists examined 14 fruits and vegetables commonly eaten in Mexico to determine if any of them could stop breast cancer. Only papayas had the ability to significantly halt the growth of breast cancer cells. In 2010, a University of Florida researcher published research documenting the effectiveness of papaya leaf extract against a broad range of tumors, including cancers of the cervix, breast, liver, lung and pancreas1.

Enhances Digestion. Papayas contain two powerful enzymes called papain and chymopapain. These 2 enzymes promote digestion by breaking down proteins into amino acids. These are called proteolytic enzymes, and they protect the body from inflammation. They can also digest scar tissue.

Supercharges the Immune System. There’s an impressive amount of our favorite vitamin in the papaya. 100g of it will deliver an incredible 74% of your daily recommended intake! We of course know that Vitamin C bolsters the immune system – allowing us to recover from illnesses like the common cold. It also acts as an anti-oxidant and protects the body from free radical damage. The same UF researcher that published the cancer research above also reported that papaya leaf extracted increases the production of an important kind of white blood cell called Th1-type cytokines, or Type 1 Helper T cells.

Power Tips

Of course we can only recommend you enjoy the fruit raw as the scientific studies on its nutrition have been carried out on the raw fruit. The effect that other methods of preparation have on the nutritional content of the fruit is currently not known. Therefore, if you’re looking to get some papaya in your diet – and this we recommend highly – go to your local supermarket and grab these super-fruits! You’ll be in for a treat (provided the strong aroma doesn’t put you off).

Research References

  1. Aqueous extract of Carica papaya leaves exhibits anti-tumor activity and immunomodulatory effects. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 127, Issue 3, 17. February 2010, Pages 760–767. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2009.11.024
  2. “Health Benefits of Papayas.” Health Benefits of Papayas.
  3. A dated phylogeny of the papaya family (Caricaceae) reveals the crop’s closest relatives and the family’s biogeographic history. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 65, Issue 1, October 2012, Pages 46–53
  4. “Symbolism of Plants, Herbs, and Trees.” Symbolism of Plants, Herbs, and Trees
  5. Latex allergy: clinical features and cross-reactivity with fruits. (PMID:7943998)Blanco C, Carrillo T, Castillo R, Quiralte J, et al. Annals of Allergy [1994, 73(4):309-314].