Add Papaya to Your Diet for Better Digestion


Christopher Columbus called it the "fruit of angels." Others were less poetic merely referring to it as the "big melon." But today, papaya is best known as the fruit for digestion.

Cultivated in Mexico, this nutrient packed fruit has been used medicinally for centuries. Orange in colour, smooth and soft in texture, ripe papayas are very sweet and house pepper-tasting black seeds (that most people avoid). And yes, they can help with your stomach problems.

Papayas contain the protein-digesting enzymes papain and chymopapain. The body needs enzymes to help break food down into small absorbable units. These enzymes can also reduce inflammation in the gut.

Papain is similar to two stomach enzymes, pepsin and trypsin, that are used to digest protein. Because of its ability to break down meat fibers some companies use papain as a meat tenderizer. Reports have also linked papain to speedy burn recovery when it is applied to the skin. Around the world you can find the enzyme being used to treat cuts, rashes, stings and burns.

Papayas are also packed with vitamin C. One medium sized papaya has 187mg of vitamin C, compared to an orange which has 69mg. Vitamin C has long been though of a powerful antioxidant that keeps immune systems strong. Papaya's antioxidant properties don't stop there, the fruit also packs a punch with lung-health promoting vitamin A. Eating foods rich in vitamin A have been shown to help reduce emphysema.

Recent research has also shown that men who eat lycopene rich fruits, like papaya, and drink green tea have a greatly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. If that's not enough for you, papayas are also a source of vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, copper, some iron and calcium.

Here are some ways you can add papayas to your family's day:
  • Cut up a papaya and serve in small cubes on a salad.
  • Add it to your Sunday morning fruit salad.
  • In a blender mix 1/2 a papaya with some strawberries, ground flax/salba and yogurt for a smoothie.
  • Add it to a dessert cobbler; papaya with mango, pineapple and peaches blends well.
For more papaya recipes check out Karla's post on papaya fruit salad.

Karla Heintz (BSc) is a nutrition educator and author of 'Picky? Not Me, Mom! A parents' guide to children's nutrition.'

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