NUTRITION: Papaya helps in the prevention of atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart disease

Papaya, a tropical tree, bears fruit after eleven months and its fruit is considered one of the favorites among fruit lovers for its luscious taste and its many health benefits.

Even unripe papaya has many benefits. The white colored milky juice that comes out from an injured green unripe fruit is a good digestive aid. It stimulates the secretion of gastric juice, hence is used in cases of stomach discomfort like dyspepsia.

It has been a practice in the provinces to put stems of the leaves of papaya when cooking meat to make it  tender and digestible. But studies later show that there is basis for this practice: papaya contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is widely used in tenderizing meat.  Papain is also used as a digestive aid and is assumed to have an anti-inflammatory benefits.

Green papaya is generally used as a vegetable ingredient in tinola, atchara and ukoy. Vigan’s famous empanada has the green papaya for its main ingredient.

According to a study, papaya is a rich source of antioxidants such as folic acid, fiber, carotenes, vitamin C and E. Antioxidants are vital in the promotion of a  healthy cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer.

Papaya also helps in the prevention of atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart disease. Folic acid found in papaya is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine, an amino acid. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and if levels get too high, it is considered a significant risk factor to heart attack and strokes.

Papaya is also a good source of fiber which lowers cholesterol levels and helps in easing the discomforts of constipation. This fiber is able to bind cancer toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells.

Morover, papaya contains vitamins C and E papaya which are all associated with reduced risk of colon cancer. The pigment in the fruit called carotene, is similar to that of carrots and squash. Carotene in food is converted into vitamin A which promotes good eyesight. Papaya is also an ideal food for those with difficulty in chewing and swallowing.

The papaya has a low glycemic index (GI) making it good for diabetics. One small slice of ripe papaya or three-fourths (3/4) cup contains 40 kilocalories.

In summary, the following are the many benefits of papaya: it contains less calories; ensures a good supply of vitamins C and E; aids in digestion; serves as an ideal food for those who have problems in chewing and swallowing their foods; and functions as a meat tenderizer.

Health authorities highly recommend the inclusion of  this low-calorie, nutritious and affordable all-season fruit in the diet to ensure that we have a healthy body.#