It’s said that Christopher Columbus called papaya the “fruit of the angels”. Well that’s not too hard to believe. The massive amount of vitamin C in a single papaya fruit could imaginably lead to one having an acute case of longevity. And everyone knows that angels are immortal (or at least they last a darn long time!). So it looks like clever old Chris put two and two together, easey-peasey lemon-squeezie!
Here’s the simple math: each gramme of papaya provides roughly 1%DV (ie. daily value, the amount of that nutrient we need each day) of vitamin C, so if you were to eat a medium sized papaya weighing 300-grammes, you would have also imbibed about 300%DV of vitamin C. No worries about over-dosing, because our bodies don’t store vitamin C. What is not used that day is passed out of our system, and each new day we need to consume enough of it through the food we eat, mainly vegetables and fruits.
What’s vitamin C good for? Short of immortality, nearly everything else! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects us against cancer-causing free radicals, boosts our immune system, and is a great infection-fighter to ward off the flu, cold and other common maladies. Our bodies also need vitamin C for the natural production of collagen which is important for healthy joints and skin (you can’t ingest collagen supplements to boost collagen levels because our bodies won’t absorb it and it’ll just be passed out as expensive waste).
Besides vitamin C, papaya is an excellent source of vitamin A, folic acid, potassium and dietary fibre. When combined with vitamin C, the allies work to control blood pressure, stop plaque build-up in blood vessels, and in turn prevent atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. Furthermore, papaya’s vitamins C and E, fibre, folate and beta-carotene synergise to provide protection against colon cancer specifically.
Regularly adding papaya to your diet can have the long-term effect of protecting you against macular degeneration – ie. loss of sight – a tragic but common ailment amongst older folk. Papaya also contains the flavonoids lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin which provide potent antioxidant protection against free radicals that can wear down your body, and cause premature aging and degenerative diseases.
Papaya is a rich source of B vitamins – folic acid, pyridoxine (B6), riboflavin, and thiamin (B1). These are essential and required for healthy bodily functions, but are not produced by our bodies. As such, we need to consume foods rich in B vitamins on a daily basis, and eating papaya regularly helps a great deal.
Some studies have shown that papaya has wound-healing properties, with particular benefits for those suffering from diabetes. Further studies point to antibacterial properties found in papain, an enzyme in papaya with potential to be an effective treatment for allergies, sport and trauma injuries, general wound management, and even irritable bowel syndrome. Papain has also been shown to combine well with another papaya enzyme chymopapain in reducing inflammation and improve the healing of burns in particular.
Papaya was originally native to Mexico and Central America. Nowadays it’s cultivated in most tropical regions. In the United States, it’s still only in Hawaii that papaya is commercially grown. But here in Singapore we have no shortage of papaya year round. This is great for the diets of Singaporeans, as well as for us here at Sofresh because we get orders for lots of papayas over each cruise season.
The “fruit of the angels” certainly earns its nickname. But before you decide to eat a whole papaya everyday from now on, remember that it is a sweet flavoured fruit – it contains fructose. And because only our liver can metabolise fructose (unlike glucose which every cell in our body can metabolise), a diet too heavy on fructose can lead to our liver being overloaded, and the fructose being converted into fat.
Anyway, for all its health benefits, there’s plenty reason to like papaya. And for some who may be a little put off by the smell, taste or texture of papaya, try squeezing some lime over sliced papaya: the result is pleasantly angelic. Till the next time!