These days there are so many conflicting reports of what’s healthy that it’s hard to know which information to trust. Perhaps a back to basics approach is best. Fruits and vegetables really are the best thing for people to eat to stay healthy. They’re packed full of nutrients and other healthy compounds, and there’s not a lot of the “bad” stuff to contend with, like fat, cholesterol, and empty calories. Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to say healthy, and papaya is a great way to do that and to add some variety to your diet too. The papaya fruit itself is an impressive source of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and phytochemicals like beta-carotene and lycopene.
Did you know that the papaya tree produces fruit all year? That’s a good thing, because there are compounds in the fruit of the papaya tree with incredible health benefits. Papain is the most widely known enzyme from papaya, but the related compounds called chymopapain, glycyl endopeptidase, and caricain may have similar effects.
In a fascinating process, first the papaya peel is scored and the compound latex is collected from it, which is then further purified before the enzyme papain is extracted. Papain is an enzyme that breaks down protein bonds, and as such it has been used as a meat tenderizer and to neutralize jellyfish stings, among other things. Homeopathic practitioners particularly embrace its use. Papain can be used to aid in protein digestion and a host of digestive imbalances, as well as improving skin tone, treating ulcers, enzymatic wound debridement, and as an enzyme-action cleansing agent for soft contact lenses.
Although native to South America, and widely cultivated in Mexico, papaya is also grown in large quantities in Hawaii. However, roughly half of Hawaiian varieties have been genetically modified, and such genetically modified foods have not been proven as safe as their conventionally grown counterparts, so keep this in mind as you shop. However you get your papaya, the health benefits are well worth adding this exotic tropical fruit to your health regimen.
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