Nutritional and Health Benefits of Papaya (Pawpaw): Overview | Types | Origin | Nutritional Value | Health Benefits

The papaya (also known as papaw or pawpaw) is a plant belonging to the genus Carica and the family Caricaceae. It is one of the 22 recognized plants in the genus Carica. The papaya tree is a small, sparsely branched tree with spirally arranged leaves restricted to the top of the trunk, typically with a single stem rising from 5 to 10 m (16 to 33 ft) tall. Where leaves and fruit is borne, the lower trunk is clearly scarred. The leaves are wide, measuring 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter and have seven lobes. Latex is found in all parts of the plant in articulated laticifers. Papayas have two sexes. The flowers are five-parted and strongly dimorphic, with the stamens fused to the petals on the male flowers. A superior ovary and five contorted petals loosely joined at the base distinguish female flowers. Male and female flowers are produced in the leaf axils, with males having multiflowered dichasia and females having few-flowered dichasia.] The pollen grains are long and elongated, being about 35 microns in length. The flowers have a sweet smell, open at night, and are pollinated by wind or insects.

The fruit is a large berry with a spherical or cylinder shape and a length of 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) and a diameter of 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in). It is ripe when it feels tender (as soft as a ripe avocado or softer), the skin has turned amber to orange, and various black seeds are stuck to the walls of the huge central cavity. There are three types of papaya plants: male, female, and hermaphrodite. Only pollen is produced by the male, and no fruit is produced by the female. Until pollinated, the female produces tiny, inedible fruits. Since its flowers have both male stamens and female ovaries, the hermaphrodite can self-pollinate. Hermaphrodite papayas are used in almost all commercial papaya orchards.

It grows quickly in cultivation, bearing fruit in three years. However, since it is frost-sensitive, it can only be grown in tropical climates. Temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit) are extremely dangerous, if not fatal. Growth is usually restricted to the southern areas of Florida, California, and Texas. Standing water will kill the plant in as little as 24 hours, so it likes sandy, well-drained soil.

Types (Species) of Papaya

There are different types (species) of papayas. The following are some of the most common species of papayas:

Hawaiian Sunrise/Sunset Papayas

The Sunrise papaya is grown on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and the fruit can weigh up to 26 ounces. It has a lovely red-orange skin and flesh that is incredibly sweet. It also has a very shallow seed cavity, making it much easier to extract the seeds than for other papaya varieties.

This papaya, also known as the Strawberry papaya, has a skin that grows freckles as it ripens and some of the sweetest flesh of any papaya. Sunrise papaya is available all year and is high in beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, E, and K. It has a taste that is similar to melon, berries, and peaches. It’s also a very popular fruit; the juice can be used to marinate foods, and the fruit can be diced and added to salads.

The Sunset papaya has orange-red flesh and skin and is small to medium in height. It’s a dwarf variety that bears a large number of fruits, and it was developed at the University of Hawaii. Sunset papayas are a little bigger than Sunrise papayas, and their skin colour is a little darker. Sunset papayas are much more uniform in shape and colour, as well as having a much longer shelf life.

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Mexican Red/Yellow Papayas

Mexican papayas are often big, and many of them can weigh up to ten pounds. The red papayas have a rose-colored flesh and a sweet flavor, but they are never as sweet as papayas grown in Hawaii. Yellow papayas have yellow flesh that is much sweeter than red papayas from Mexico, but they are less tasty than papayas grown in Hawaii.

The fruit of the Mexican papaya turns green as it ripens, and it contains non-edible seeds that must be removed before eating the fruit. They are available all year and can grow to be up to 15 pounds in size, but the typical size for Mexican papaya is one to two pounds and six to twelve inches in length.

They are high in vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, and fiber, among other nutrients. They are one of the fastest-growing tropical plant varieties eaten today, and they can also help with digestion thanks to the enzyme papain.

Bettina Papaya

This papaya is mainly grown in Queensland, Australia, and it is very sweet and heavy, weighing up to 5 pounds.

Guinea Gold Papaya

Guinea Gold papayas are grown in Western Australia and reach a weight of just over 2 pounds with a lovely yellow flesh.

Hortus Gold Papaya

The Hortus Gold papaya is a heavy papaya that can weigh up to 3 pounds and originated from South Africa. It has a lovely yellow flesh as well.

Kamiya Papaya

This is a dwarf variety produced at the University of Hawaii, with yellow-orange flesh that is soft and delicious.

Kapoho Papaya

The flesh of these papayas is yellow, and they can weigh up to 22 ounces. They are cultivated in Hawaii’s Puna region, which grows nearly 90% of the country’s papayas.

Peterson Papaya

Another variety from Queensland, Australia, with a delicious sweet flavor.

Sunnybank Papaya

Sunnybank papayas are grown in Western Australia and have yellow flesh. They are thin, usually only reaching 1 pound in weight.

Waimanalo Papaya

When fully mature, these papayas weigh between 16 and 39 ounces and have a soft, orangish-yellow flesh.

Historical Background (Origin) of Papaya

While no clear archaeological evidence about the center of origin of papaya has been published as of yet, various scholars propose a Mesoamerican origin for C. papaya, which includes southern Mexico to Central America. One explanation for the paucity of geological evidence is the difficulties of distinguishing papaya from phytoliths, and pollen grains have been scarcely discovered. The Mesoamerican theory is supported by the existence of undomesticated peoples in Mexico and Central America, as well as its agriculture in the area prior to the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Indians spread it to the south, and Spanish exploration spread it across the Caribbean. It was also borne by the Spanish to Europe and the Pacific Islands. Papaya had spread across the globe by the mid-seventeenth century. Papaya was first imported to Hawaii in the 1800s, and it is now the only commercially produced papaya in the United States. In the early twentieth century, a small industry arose in Florida, but it soon declined due to the arrival of infectious diseases that now threaten papaya in other parts of the world. In reality, the same pathogen that killed plants in Florida – papaya ringspot virus – was to blame for the recent collapse of the Hawaiian industry. However, biotechnologists at the University of Hawaii were able to defeat the disease by inserting a virus-resistant gene into the ‘Sunrise’ cultivar. As a result, the papaya became the first genetically engineered fruit variety to be consumed by humans. The majority of papaya acreage in Hawaii has been converted to genetically engineered cultivars since 1998.

Nutritional Value (Composition) of Papaya

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Papayas are a perfect source of vitamin C, with one medium fruit supplying 224 percent of the daily recommended amount. A medium papaya contains about 120 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate (including 5 grams of fiber and 18 grams of sugar), and 2 grams of protein. Folate, vitamin A, magnesium, copper, pantothenic acid, and fiber are all contained in papayas. B vitamins, alpha and beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin K, and lycopene, the strong antioxidant associated with tomatoes, are also available.

Culinary Uses of Papaya

Because of its toxic latex content, the unripe green fruit should only be consumed roasted. The papaya’s ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. The papaya’s black seeds are edible and have a sharp, spicy flavor. Green papaya is used both raw and cooked in Southeast Asian cuisine. The young leaves of the papaya are steamed and consumed like spinach in some parts of Asia.

After being brought to the islands by Manila galleons, papayas became a favorite of Filipino cuisine. Unripe or nearly ripe papayas (with orange flesh but still hard and green) are julienned and pickled to make atchara, a common side dish for salty dishes. Papayas that are nearly ripe can be eaten fresh as ensaladang papaya (papaya salad) or cubed and dipped in vinegar or salt. Green papaya is also commonly used as an ingredient or filling in savory dishes such as okoy, tinola, ginataan, lumpia, and empanada, especially in northern Luzon cuisines.

The flower buds are sautéed and stir-fried with chillies and green tomatoes as Minahasan papaya flower vegetable dish in Indonesian cuisine, while the unripe green fruits and young leaves are boiled for use in lalab salad. Unripe green papayas are used in Lao and Thai cuisine to make a spicy salad known as tam maak hoong in Laos and som tam in Thailand. It’s also used in Thai dishes like kaeng som.

Unripe fruits are sometimes used to produce sweets or preserves in Brazil. Both the fruit and the latex of the green papaya are abundant in papain, a protease used to tenderize meat and other proteins, as practiced by indigenous Americans, Caribbean cultures, and Filipinos today. Any powdered meat tenderizers now use it as a part. Since papain’s enzymatic properties preclude gelatin from setting, papaya is not suitable for gelatin-based desserts.

Health Benefits of Papaya

Papaya, which is known for its high Vitamin C content, has a host of health benefits, making it a perfect fruit to include in your diet. Here are some of papaya’s most significant health benefits:

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Reduces Cholesterol Level

Papaya is high in fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants, both of which help to keep cholesterol from forming in your arteries. A build-up of cholesterol in the arteries can lead to a number of heart issues, including heart attacks and hypertension.

Helps in Weight Management

Papaya is a low-calorie fruit that can be used in anyone’s diet that wishes to lose weight. Papaya’s high fiber content keeps you feeling full and lets you lose weight by clearing your bowel movements.

Boosts Immunity

Your immune system protects you from a number of diseases that can make you very ill. A single papaya contains more than 200 percent of your daily Vitamin C need, making it an outstanding immune booster.

Good Option for Diabetics

Even if it has a sweet flavor, papaya is an excellent food choice for diabetics because it has a low sugar content. People who do not have diabetes also should eat papaya to delay having it.

Improves Eyesight

Vitamin A in papaya helps to protect the eyes from degeneration. Nobody needs to lose their vision due to conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, and eating papayas will guarantee that you never lose your vision.

Guards against Arthritis

Arthritis may be a very painful condition, and those who suffer from it can see a noticeable reduction in their quality of life. Papayas are safe for the bones because they contain anti-inflammatory agents as well as Vitamin C, which helps to prevent arthritis. According to a report published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, individuals who ate low-vitamin C diets were three times more likely to develop arthritis than someone who didn’t.

Boost Digestion

It is virtually difficult to resist consuming foods that are harmful for the digestive system in today’s world. We often consume junk food or restaurant food cooked with disproportionate amounts of oil. Eating a papaya every day can help make up for those blunders because it contains papain, a digestive enzyme, as well as fiber, which can help improve your digestive health.

Reduces Menstrual Pain

Women who are suffering from menstrual pain should consume many servings of papaya, since an enzyme called papain aids in calming and relaxing menstrual pains.

Reduces Aging Rate

We just wish we could remain young indefinitely, but no one has ever been able to do that. Good habits, such as eating a papaya every day, will help to slow down the aging process and make you seem 5 years younger. Papaya is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, both of which help to shield the skin from free radical degradation and avoid wrinkles and other symptoms of aging.

Prevents cancer

Papaya is high in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and flavonoids, all of which protect your cells from free radical impact. Papaya use has also been associated with a lower risk of colon and prostate cancer in some studies.

Reduces Stress

It’s a good thing to come home to a plate of papayas after a long day of hard work. The wonder fruit is high in nutrients such as Vitamin C, which will help you stay stress-free. According to a study conducted at the University of Alabama, Vitamin C can aid in the regulation of stress hormones.

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