Papayas are loaded with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. These tasty tropical fruits offer benefits to the digestive system by providing ample dietary fiber and a protein-digesting enzyme called papain. Papayas also benefit the lungs and immune system. More generally, every organ in the body uses the vitamins in papayas to neutralize free radicals, synthesize energy and heal damaged tissue. Whether you're seeking a specific benefit or eating well to promote overall well-being, papayas are a good choice.
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One papaya contains 5.5 grams of dietary fiber, which is 22 percent of the daily recommended intake. Dietary fiber prevents constipation, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids, and it satiates hunger, which makes it easier to maintain your weight or to stick to a weight-loss diet. Fiber also provides striking benefits beyond the digestive system. About 60 percent of papayas' dietary fiber is soluble, and soluble fiber lowers levels of dangerous low-density lipoproteins in the blood. It causes sugar to digest more slowly, which decreases blood-sugar spikes and protects against type-2 diabetes.
Papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps to digest protein. If you suffer from indigestion following high-protein meals, eating papaya or taking papain-containing digestive aids can help ease discomfort. Green papaya is higher in papain than is ripe papaya and, when shredded, makes a delicious Thai green papaya salad. Check with a health care provider before self-treating digestive ailments with papaya or papain supplements.
A medium papaya contains 2,313 micrograms of beta-cryptoxanthin. This orange-yellow carotenoid has anticancer properties and can lower risk of lung cancer by 30 percent, according to nutritionist Jonny Bowden. Beta-cryptoxanthin may also protect smokers' lungs from the inflammation and damage that cigarette smoke causes. Although the scientific research on cancer prevention and carotenes is preliminary, eating papaya and other colorful fruits and vegetables is a great way to boost your antioxidant intake.
Immune System and Other Benefits
Papayas are loaded with essential nutrients that keep the immune system healthy. One papaya, which yields about two cups of chopped fruit, has 188 milligrams of vitamin C. This is more than 251 percent of your recommended daily intake. It's also rich in vitamin A, folate, vitamin E and potassium. Vitamin C and vitamin A are especially crucial for immune function, while folate aids in cell production and prevents birth defects. Potassium is an electrolyte that maintains the proper fluid balance in the blood, while vitamin E is another essential nutrient and antioxidant that helps the body recover from exposure to toxins and free radicals.