Pawpaw, known botanically as carica papaya, is often called a wonder fruit for all its great properties.
Pawpaw, grown in tropical climates, has been famous for hundreds of years due to its luscious taste and can be eaten as a fruit in the raw form, a smoothie, a milkshake, or as a vegetable in various recipes.
There is no perfect time to enjoy pawpaw, but it is best eaten before a meal as after a meal the body converts the fruit into sugar while before a meal you absorb all nutrition.
Pawpaw is a rich source of Vitamins A, B, C, E and K, alpha and beta-carotenes, flavonoids, carbohydrate, protein, potassium, magnesium, fibre, copper, pantothenic acid, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with tomatoes. As such, pawpaw imparts numerous health benefits.
The whole fruit, including other parts of the tree, are beneficial to health in several ways.
Health Benefits of Pawpaw
Some of the top health benefits of pawpaw include:
Pawpaw is rich in fibre, Vitamin C and antioxidants which prevent cholesterol build up in your arteries. Too much cholesterol build-up can lead to several heart diseases including heart attack and hypertension.
Good for diabetics
Pawpaw is an excellent food option for diabetics as it has low-sugar content even though it is sweet to taste. It is recommended by doctors on account of its ability to lower blood sugar levels. You can also use pawpaw leaves for diabetes. You can soak pawpaw leaves in water, strain the extract, and consume it three times a day to reduce blood sugar levels.
Helps in weight loss
Those looking to lose weight must include pawpaw in their diet as it is very low in calories. The fibre content in pawpaw leaves you feeling full and also clears your bowel movement making your weight loss regime easier.
Boosts body immunity
Your immune system acts as a shield against various infections that can make you really sick. A single pawpaw contains more than 200% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, making it great for your immunity.
Aids in digestion
Pawpaw is commonly consumed for proper digestion. The presence of papain, a digestive super enzyme, along with fibre, improves digestion by breaking down proteins. This ensures a reduced conversion of protein into body fat. The fibre obtained from the pawpaw helps increase bowel movements. Improved bowel movements help ease the passage of stool, thereby reducing the effects of constipation.
Pawpaws have been known to be effective against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. One of the enzymes found in pawpaw, called chymopapain, has a significant effect on controlling rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Great for one's eyes
Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant found in papaya, filters out harmful blue light rays. It is thought to play a protective role in eye health, and it may ward off macular degeneration. However, a higher intake of all fruits has been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
Helps ease menstrual pain
Women who are experiencing menstrual pain should help themselves to several servings of pawpaw, as an enzyme called papain helps in regulating and easing flow during menstrual periods.
Papayas are effective for killing intestinal worms, thereby avoiding infections and complications associated with them.
Aids skin health
Everybody wants to maintain smooth, healthy, youthful and glowing skin. In most cases, unhealthy or dull skin is a result of poor eating habits and a weakened digestive system. Poor nutrition and the accumulation of harmful toxins in the body are the main reasons for dull skin. One common solution for all these disorders is pawpaw. Pawpaw is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E and antioxidants like beta-carotene which helps prevent your skin from free radical damage keeping wrinkles and other signs of ageing at bay.
Improves hair health
Pawpaw is also great for hair because it contains vitamin A, a nutrient required for sebum production, which keeps hair moisturized. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.
Good for asthma prevention
The risk of developing asthma is lower in people who consume a high amount of certain nutrients. One of these nutrients is beta-carotene, contained in fruits like pawpaw, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and carrots.
May reduce cancer risk
Pawpaw is a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoids that prevent your cells from undergoing free radical damage. Research suggests that the lycopene in pawpaw can reduce cancer risk. It may also be beneficial for people who are being treated for cancer. Additionally, pawpaw may have some unique effects that aren't shared by other fruits. Among 14 fruits and vegetables with known antioxidant properties, only pawpaw demonstrated anti-cancer activity in breast cancer cells. Some studies have also linked the consumption pawpaw to reduced risk of colon and prostate cancer. However, a lot more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.
Aids bone health
Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium, meaning there is more calcium in the body to strengthen and rebuild bones.
Boosts male virility
Another great benefit of pawpaw is to boost male virility. Pawpaw contains an enzyme called arginine which is known in the medical community to boost blood flow around the man-hood. Arginine boosts nitric acid in the body to relax the muscles surrounding the blood vessels that supply the man-hood. These blood vessels then dilate and increase blood flow. A more concentrated form of arginine is used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Helps reduce stress
After working hard for the whole day, it is a good idea to come home to a plate of pawpaw. This wonder fruit is rich in several nutrients like Vitamin C which can keep you free from stress. According to a study conducted in University of Alabama, found that 200 mg of Vitamin C can help regulate the flow of stress hormones in rats.
Consumption of pawpaw in normal amounts is recognized safe. However, there are certain side effects of consuming pawpaw.
Pregnant Women: Pawpaw is classified as being harmful during pregnancy. It is considered as a ‘hot’ fruit. Latex, present in high concentrations in raw and semi-ripe pawpaw, causes uterine contractions which might lead to abortions. Avoid eating raw pawpaw if you are pregnant.
Gastrointestinal Irritation: Consuming too many pawpaws can cause a powerful laxative effect in the intestines. Avoid eating large quantities of pawpaw, especially if it is in its raw form. Unripe or raw pawpaw can cause pain in the intestines or stomach and can sometimes cause oesophageal perforations.
Pawpaw has a unique taste that many people love. However, ripeness is key.
An unripe or overly ripe pawpaw can taste very different from one at its peak of ripeness.
When optimally ripe, pawpaw should be yellow in colour, although a few green spots or patches are fine. Its flavour is best when cold, so it's a good idea to keep it refrigerated whenever possible.
After washing it well, you can peel the entire skin with a knife and cut it in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds. You can further slice into tiny slices or diced for consumption.
Quick tips to enjoy pawpaw:
Pieces of pawpaw, when soaked with a bit of lemon juice and honey, are an absolute treat for the taste buds.
Blend pawpaw, strawberries, and yogurt for a cold soup treat.
Add a slice of pawpaw to a fresh fruit salad and have it as a snack.
Have a bowl of fresh, ripe pawpaw along with your breakfast to add calories that you require for the day.