Papayas are spherical or pear-shaped fruits that can be as long as 20 inches. The ones commonly found in the market usually average about 7 inches and weigh about one pound. Their flesh is a rich orange color with either yellow or pink hues.
Papaya has a wonderfully soft, butter-like consistency and a deliciously sweet, musky taste. Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are black, round seeds encased in a gelatinous-like substance. Papaya's seeds are edible, although their peppery flavor is somewhat bitter.
The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. This enzyme is especially concentrated in the fruit when it is unripe. Papain is extracted to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.
These nutrients help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Only when cholesterol becomes oxidized is it able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, forming dangerous plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes. One way in which dietary vitamin E and vitamin C may exert this effect is through their suggested association with a compound called paraoxonase, an enzyme that inhibits LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol oxidation.
Papayas are also a good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels. The folic acid found in papayas is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine into benign amino acids such as cysteine or methionine. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and, if levels get too high, is considered a significant risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.
These nutrients provide synergistic protection for colon cells from free radical damage to their DNA. Increasing your intake of these nutrients by enjoying papaya is an especially good idea for individuals at risk of colon cancer.
The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.
While studying the relationship between vitamin A, lung inflammation, and emphysema, Richard Baybutt, associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State, made a surprising discovery: a common carcinogen in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, induces vitamin A deficiency.
Baybutt's earlier research had shown that laboratory animals fed a vitamin A-deficient diet developed emphysema. His latest animal studies indicate that not only does the benzo(a)pyrene in cigarette smoke cause vitamin A deficiency, but that a diet rich in vitamin A can help counter this effect, thus greatly reducing emphysema.
Baybutt believes vitamin A's protective effects may help explain why some smokers do not develop emphysema. "There are a lot of people who live to be 90 years old and are smokers," he said. "Why? Probably because of their diet. The implications are that those who start smoking at an early age are more likely to become vitamin A deficient and develop complications associated with cancer and emphysema. And if they have a poor diet, forget it." If you or someone you love smokes, or if your work necessitates exposure to second hand smoke, protect yourself by making sure that at least one of the World's Healthiest Foods that are rich in vitamin A, such as papaya, is a daily part of your healthy way of eating.
In this case-control study involving 130 prostate cancer patients and 274 hospital controls, men drinking the most green tea were found to have an 86% reduced risk of prostate cancer compared, to those drinking the least.
A similar inverse association was found between the men's consumption of lycopene-rich fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, and guava. Men who most frequently enjoyed these foods were 82% less likely to have prostate cancer compared to those consuming the least lycopene-rich foods.
Regular consumption of both green tea and foods rich in lycopene resulted in a synergistic protective effect, stronger than the protection afforded by either, the researchers also noted.
Practical Tips: Get in the habit of drinking green tea and eating lycopene-rich foods.
- Take a quart of iced green tea to work and sip throughout the day or take it to the gym to provide prostate protection while replenishing fluids after your workout.
- Pack a ziploc bag of apricots and almonds in your briefcase or gym bag for a handy snack.
- Start your breakfast with a half grapefruit or a glass of papaya or guava juice.
- Add papaya to any smoothie or fruit salad or use as a delectable garnish for fish.
- For a delicious summer lunch, cut a papaya in half, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle with lime juice and top with cottage cheese, a fresh mint leaf, and roasted almonds.
- Begin lunch or dinner with some spicy tomato juice on the rocks with a twist of lime. Snack on tomato crostini: in the oven, toast whole wheat bread till crusty, then top with tomato sauce, herbs, a little grated cheese, and reheat until the cheese melts.
- Top whole wheat pasta with olive oil, pine nuts, feta cheese and a rich tomato sauce for lunch or dinner.