Although papaya isn't as popular in the United States as other tropical fruits, such as mangoes and pineapples, Americans consumed an average of about 1.2 pounds of papaya per person in 2010. This nutritious fruit provides a significant amount of fiber and vitamins, making it a healthy addition to your diet.
A 1-cup serving of cubed papaya provides 137.5 international units of vitamin A, which is 28 percent of the daily value. Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, immune function and keeping your kidneys, heart, lungs and other organs working properly. The vitamin A in papaya is in the form of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which act as antioxidants and help limit damage to your cells from substances called free radicals.
Papaya also provides significant amounts of another antioxidant -- vitamin C. Each cup of papaya contains 88.3 milligrams of vitamin C, or 147 percent of the DV. Vitamin C helps heal wounds and repair damaged tissues in your body. You also need it for forming collagen, an essential component in blood vessels, skin, ligaments, cartilage and tendons.
Folate and Other Vitamins
A serving of papaya provides 53.7 micrograms of folate, or 13 percent of the DV. You need folate for cell division and forming DNA. Getting enough of this vitamin is especially important during early pregnancy because folate helps prevent neural tube birth defects. Papaya also contains small amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamins B-6, E and K.
Choose fresh papaya over canned when it's available, as the canned version is a lot higher in sugar and calories and lower in vitamins and minerals. You can make a papaya salsa to serve alongside chicken or seafood, include papaya in fruits salads or smoothies or add it to baked goods such as quick breads or muffins.