Papaya is the fruit of the Carica papaya plant. It originated in Central America and Southern Mexico but is now grown in many other parts of the world. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which can break down the tough protein chains found in muscle meat. Because of this, people have used papaya to tenderise meat for thousands of years. If the papaya is ripe, it can be eaten raw. However, unripe papaya should always be cooked before eating — especially during pregnancy, as the unripe fruit is high in latex, which can stimulate contractions
One small papaya (152 grams) contains (2):
- Calories: 59
- Carbohydrates: 15 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Vitamin C: 157% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 33% of the RDI
- Folate (vitamin B9): 14% of the RDI
- Potassium: 11% of the RDI
- Trace amounts of calcium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B3, B5, E and K.
Papayas also contain healthy antioxidants known as carotenoids — particularly one type called lycopene. Papaya is a tropical fruit high in vitamins C and A, as well as fiber and healthy plant compounds. It also contains an enzyme called papain, used to tenderise meat.
Papaya’s high vitamin C and lycopene content can improve heart health and may reduce your risk of heart disease. Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Papayas are very high in carotenoids that can reduce inflammation.
Here are a few easy recipe ideas using one small papaya:
- Breakfast: Cut it in half and fill each half with Greek yogurt, then top with a few blueberries and chopped nuts.
- Appetizer: Cut it into strips and wrap a slice of ham or prosciutto around each strip.
- Salsa: Chop papaya, tomatoes, onions and cilantro, then add lime juice and mix well.
- Smoothie: Combine the diced fruit with coconut milk and ice in a blender, then blend until smooth.
- Salad: Chop papaya and avocado into cubes, add diced cooked chicken and dress with olive oil and vinegar.
- Dessert: Combine the chopped fruit with 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of chia seeds, 1 cup (240 ml) of almond milk and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well and refrigerate before eating
- Papaya is a delicious fruit that is best enjoyed ripe. It can be eaten alone or easily combined with other foods.