Carica papaya: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes, and More

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on January 27, 2021
Last updated on May 23, 2021

When you are trying to be healthy, you find yourself constantly considering your eating habits, counting calories, and nutrients. Well, today, we thought that we would discuss one very tasty and highly beneficial food with you – papaya. Perhaps you have this abundantly in your place and you are already eating it as a fruit or dessert. But are you familiar with its many health benefits? Can it really aid weight loss?

Carica papaya Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes, and More

Papaya Nutrition

Aside from being tasty and sweet, papayas are really nutritious! 

One small papaya is packed with only 59 calories. It contains 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein, which is not bad at all, considering that we are talking about an exotic fruit here. It also contains Vitamin A, C, and Folate! Traces of other vitamins such as Vitamin B1, B3, B5, E, and K, are also found in this delicious fruit in addition to finding traces of potassium, calcium, and magnesium (1).

But one of the most interesting things about papayas is their high levels of the much-healthy and needed antioxidants called carotenoids, particularly one special type called lycopene. It is also worth mentioning that our body is actually more capable of absorbing these antioxidants coming from papayas as compared to them coming from any other fruit or vegetable known to men, such as carrots and tomatoes (2).

Why Eat Papaya Regularly? 

It might surprise you, but aside from offering a great taste and a high nutritional value, papayas come with multiple health benefits that our bodies can use. It turns out that papayas, when consumed regularly, are great for our mental and physical health, so we bet that after you are done finishing today’s article, you will end up adding papayas to every shopping list from now on. Let’s look into some of the most valuable health benefits that come from the regular consummation of papayas. 

Papayas Are Good Antioxidants

So we mentioned papayas being an excellent source of the popular carotenoids and our body being able to use more of these carotenoids when they are provided from papaya. But how important are antioxidants for our health exactly?

Antioxidants, including the carotenoids found in the papaya, have been scientifically proven to be able to reduce the levels of free radicals and oxidative stress in the body (3)

Fermented papayas have been found to be able to reduce oxidative stress in individuals struggling with mild hypothyroidism, prediabetes, and liver disease (4, 5, 6). 

The strong antioxidant activity of the papaya is explained with its high levels of a certain antioxidant that we mentioned earlier – lycopene. Lycopene has been found to be able to eliminate excess iron, which is known to produce free radicals, thus increasing the levels of oxidative stress in the body (7).

They Can Help Improve Your Heart Health

Anyone who is at risk of heart disease is advised to start adding more papaya in their daily diet. It has been suggested that the use of lycopene and Vitamin C can help prevent heart disease, and surprisingly enough, both lycopene and Vitamin C can be found in significant amounts in the delicious papaya (8)

Papayas Fight Cancer

The lycopene found in the papaya is also thought to be able to fight cancer because of its strong anti-cancer properties, as suggested in a study published in 2014 (9). And while being able to fight cancer in diagnosed patients, papayas have been found beneficial for those you are struggling with an increased risk of cancer, as a prevention method. 

They Have Strong Anti-inflammatory Properties

Antioxidant, anticancer, and now we have anti-inflammatory abilities to add to the list of beneficial effects of adding papayas to your diet. Because of the strong antioxidants found in papayas but also because of their high levels of Vitamin C, papayas have been found capable of reducing the present inflammation in the body (10).

Papayas Boost Your Immune System

If you want to shield yourself from the annoying common cold and any other disease or infection in the time coming, then you better make an effort to shop for some fresh papaya in the near future. Because of their high Vitamin C content, papayas are able to give your immune system a real boost, thus preventing multiple diseases and infections from occurring (11).

They Keep You Good Looking 

In addition to boosting your immune system, eliminating oxidative stress, and being incredibly nutritious, papayas also do a lot for your outside as well, considering how they can make your skin appear younger and smoother. Once again, their strong anti-oxidative abilities come at our rescue, removing any excessive free radicals that are believed to be adding to the fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging that appear as a result of old age (12).

Papayas Aids in Digestion

If you ever feel bloated, eat fresh papaya. The same goes for struggling with any constipation since papayas are highly effective when it comes to improving your digestion. It is their high fiber content that promotes healthy bowel activity that you have to be thankful for in this case (13).

Can Papaya Really Aid Weight Loss? How?

So now to the question that brought you here in the first place – Are papayas really worth the effort when it comes to your weight loss journey? Will it make a difference if you have a papaya a day regarding the number on the scales? 

We covered most of the important health benefits that you need to expect once you add papayas to your everyday diet, but expect this one as well – Yes, you will start losing more weight thanks to papayas! But let’s see how exactly is that possible if you have not figured it out already!

1. Low in Calories

We mentioned papaya being low in calories, with only around 59 calories found in one small papaya. And that is very much true. Because of their low-calorie count, papayas are easily incorporated in the everyday diet, combined with other foods to add to your meal’s nutritional value, thus satisfying your body’s daily requirements for the long list of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Plus, because it is so low in calories but very much high in its sweet taste, papaya can serve as a great snack option in between meals for those of you with a sweet tooth. That way, you will no longer intake empty calories, and you will reduce your hunger, but in a much healthier and meaningful matter.

2. Rich in Fiber

Most people, while trying to lose weight, tend to struggle with adding more fiber to their diet. But why make it difficult when you can keep it simple and add a fruit that is known to be high in the much-needed fiber instead? Fruit like papaya is. 

An excellent source of fiber, papayas will help you conquer your hunger in the long run. If you ever have tried losing weight, then you must have heard about the importance of fiber and how they are able to keep you feeling fuller longer due to their high fiber content (14).

You must know that weight loss is not about starving yourself, and papayas certainly do help with that, satisfying your hunger while providing nutrients with very little calories in the process. But that is not all. By satisfying your hunger, papayas will also help you stay away from overeating throughout the day. Since you will be feeling full, you will be more able to reduce your daily calorie intake and achieve the needed calorie deficit in order to lose weight in a healthy manner.

3. Contains Valuable Digestive Enzymes

We have already learned that papayas boost your digestive system and act as a prevention method but also as a natural therapeutic method for constipation and feeling bloated. But did you know that because of the digestive enzyme called papain found in papayas, they are also able to help clean the intestinal walls and help digest proteins better than ever? 

By doing so, papayas are additionally boosting your digestion, helping your metabolic rate to increase over time. A high metabolic rate means that you will be burning more calories than ever, which is just the effect that you should be looking for when you are trying to lose weight!

4. Low Glycemic Index

Although one small papaya comes with around 15 grams of carbs, and mind you that we are after all talking about natural, healthy carbs that your body needs, papayas still have a pretty low glycemic index which is what you should focus on the most. Papayas have a low glycemic index score of three, which is much lower compared to pineapple, peaches, and strawberries (15)

Foods that have a lower glycemic index are found to be quite useful in the weight loss process. This is because they do not cause the blood sugar levels to spike, an effect that is otherwise known to lead to overeating, which on the other hand, leads to weight gain and obesity (16).

5. High Water Content 

While only providing around 49 calories, small papaya is known to provide as much as 138 grams of water, which is around 89% of its weight. You should always look for foods that are rich in water since they will be helping to hydrate your body properly, and you know how important proper hydration really is. More water also means that papayas will be able to satisfy your hunger additionally.

And yet, that is not all. Since they are rich in water, papayas are able to help flush the toxins from the body, which can interfere with the normal metabolism once they accumulate. By doing so, papayas are once again helping promote a healthy digestive function, giving your metabolism a real boost, thus influencing the weight loss process. 

How to Add More Papaya in Your Regular Diet?

When we are talking about something as delicious as papayas, adding more of them to your everyday diet should not pose a difficult task. One thing that you do need to know about eating papayas is that, as with our beloved avocados, ripeness is the key. Perfectly ripe papaya is yellow or orange-red in color.

You can always eat papaya as an afternoon snack by simply eating it like a melon. Papaya goes great with Greek yogurt and some berries and chia seeds as well, to have it in the morning. Preparing delicious smoothies and desserts by using papayas is an old-time classic. You are sure to find several good papaya recipes all around the world other than mixing it with yogurt or making it a smoothie! We’ve listed some favorites to help. 

8 Easy Papayas Recipes You Should Try

1. Papaya Jam

Most jams and jellies are loaded with preservatives and additives, though can be transformed into a more natural product with a few simple modifications. Using ripe papaya, blend into two cups of puree and mix in ¼ cup of sugar if desired. In a saucepan, heat mixture on high until the consistency is thick and turn off heat. Add one teaspoon lemon juice, mix well, allow to cool, and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Top onto sprouted grain toast, oats, and any other way you prefer to use jam.

2. Green Papaya Salad

Also known as Som Tam, this traditional green papaya salad recipe features green beans, tomatoes, peanuts, dried shrimp, and papaya with a chili lime dressing. Touted as sweet, sour, spicy, and savory, the flavor profile is bursting!

3. Papaya Salsa

Salsa is much more than a tomato-based dip, and that is very much proven here. Dip with these homemade cinnamon pita chips or top onto yogurt for a well-balanced breakfast or snack.

4. Lettuce Wraps with Shrimp and Papaya

Low-carb and high-protein, these papaya shrimp lettuce wraps can be enjoyed as a light meal option or even as a snack.

5. Pork Chops and Papaya

Fire up the grill for this pork chops and papaya recipe. From papaya, to garlic, to coriander leaves, the grilled dish is sure to excite the taste buds!

6. Chicken and Papaya Stir-Fry

Colorful and ample in nutrients, take a bite out of this chicken and papaya stir-fry. Chicken can be swapped with other meat varieties or tofu and tempeh for a vegetarian option.

7. Papaya Pie Bites

Start by preparing the filling recipe described here, feeling free to reduce sugar content, as the fruits naturally sweeten the pie already. And rather than filling in a traditional pie crust, keep portions moderated with wonton cups. Fill cups with mixture, dollop with fresh whipped cream, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve!

8. Papaya Bars

Gluten-free and honey-sweetened, this papaya dessert recipe is resembling a traditional lemon bar, just with a more tropical spin. Find directions to the nutritious and delicious papaya bars here.

The Bottom Line

Thank God for whoever discovered papayas because they really do add a great taste to your morning smoothie, do they? But they do a lot more than simply provide a great taste. Packed with way too many nutrients than we can count, providing a long list of health benefits, and helping with the weight loss process on top of that – that simply cannot be true and yet, it is what this small, yet powerful fruit offers us day after day! So do not make the mistake of not including it in your everyday diet and especially your weight loss journey.

References

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