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Health benefits of papaya range from weight loss to protection from cancer. Read on to know about the benefits of eating papaya and drinking papaya leaf juice.
The papaya is believed to have originated in southern Mexico and Central America. Records say that, from its area of origin, the papaya was first brought to Panama and then taken to the Dominican Republic. It is from here that papaya spread throughout the world.
The word 'papaya' is of Spanish origin, which, in turn, is borrowed from the Tano word 'papia'. It is called pawpaw or papaw in Australia and a few Caribbean countries. The botanical name of papaya is Carica papaya.
Packed with nutrition and calories, the papaya is synonymous with healthy food. Years of use, along with modern research, has revealed numerous uses of papaya and papaya's benefits for health.
Usually, most varieties of papaya are either oval or pear-shaped with a smooth skin; however, round varieties exist as well. A fresh, ripe papaya is juicy and sweet. So, it is usually consumed as a dessert. However, unripe papaya is consumed as a vegetable. The fruit is also processed to produce products like jam, ice cream and juice. But, no matter which way we consume it, papaya benefits our health immensely.
Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
To boost their health and cure any ailments, an increasing number of individuals are now turning towards nature. And, what better way to do this than by eating papaya. Some of the many benefits of eating papaya include:
Treats dengue: According to Priya Kathpal, a leading nutrition consultant of Chennai,
"Papaya is a very a popular fruit because it is easily available, is affordable and has a great taste. It has antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. It also has anti-ageing and skin-healing properties.
Traditionally, papaya leaves are used as a cure for dengue, an infection which causes a drop in blood platelets counts. Dengue patients are asked to drink the extract or juice of papaya leaves to increase the platelet count. Case studies have indicated that the extract or juice of papaya leaves contain chymopapain and papain which help boost platelets count in dengue patients and relieve symptoms.
Papaya leaf extract preparations are available in the form of capsules and liquid formulas. About 20-25 mL of papaya leaf juice is recommended twice a day for a week for a quick increase in platelet count. However, papaya leaf juice may lead to stomach upset in some cases. So, it's better to start with a small quantity and increase it gradually."
While most of us prefer to eat the ripe, sweet papaya, unripe papaya is consumed as a vegetable and confers numerous health benefits such as:
Most of us believe the papaya plant to be a tree, which isn't true. Though the stem of the papaya plant resembles a tree, it is a herb which produces an edible fruit called papaya. There are many uses of papaya. When it is ripe, it is consumed as a fruit, and when it is raw/green, it is consumed as a vegetable. Papaya is also used as medicine to help with constipation and other stomach disorders, skin disorders, respiratory ailments and menstrual problems. Papaya juice is gaining popularity as it is also beneficial to health.
In addition to the fruit, the sap (or latex) extracted from papaya is used in industries for clotting milk, and manufacturing cosmetics and toothpaste.
In addition to the fruit, there are many uses of papaya leaves as well. Papaya leaf extract has medicinal properties and is used in the treatment of dengue to improve platelet count, as an antimicrobial to stop the growth of various bacteria, to protect against ulcers of the digestive tract and improve digestion, and to strengthen the immune system. Rowe et al found in their study that, "Papaya enzymes assist with maintaining a clean and moistened mouth, free of bacteria and assisted with the increase in saliva flow."
Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and helpful in preventing and treating various health conditions, can papaya be given to babies or young children? Of course, yes. It improves digestion and metabolism, boosts eyesight and immunity, and keeps the skin healthy.
You can introduce papaya in your child's diet after she completes 7 / 8 months. If your child is an infant, you can deseed the papaya and mash it or pure it. If your child is a toddler or a pre-schooler, you can serve papaya after cutting it into small chunks.
However, children suffering from latex allergy or having cystic fibrosis should not be given papaya, as it may cause health complications.
There are many ways we can make papaya a part of our diet. And, the benefits the fruit confers are many. However, some individuals may experience certain side effects after eating papaya. These could include an upset stomach due to the high fibre content, allergic reactions like rashes and itching, abdominal cramps and pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness and headache, and carotenemia.
According to Dr Neha Sanwalka Rungta, paediatric nutritionist and director of NutriCanvas, "raw papaya should be avoided during pregnancy. Raw papaya contains the enzyme papain which is known to cause uterine contractions and miscarriage. Hence, pregnant mothers should avoid eating raw papaya especially during the first trimester."
Ripe papaya is safe to consume overall. Quantity should be half a bowl and can be consumed once or twice a week. However, if a mother is worried, she can always eat other fruits in place of papaya.
About the expert:
Reviewed by Meenu Agarwal on 23 October 2019
Meenu Agarwal is a Clinical Dietitian and Nutritionist based in Singapore, who holds a master's degree in Dietetics and Food Service Management. She helps people stay healthy and fit with simple lifestyle changes and scientific nutrition advice.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 14 October 2019; updated on 23 October 2019
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
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