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Is papaya good for managing diabetes and heart health?

How many of us have grown up seeing our parents eat a serving of papaya every day? Most of us, right? That fruit was a constant, while the others eaten during the course of a day would keep changing with the season. Papaya has been held in very high esteem, all thanks to the multiple benefits that it delivers.

I heard my grandmother often say that one doesn’t need anything else to keep one’s digestion in good shape. And yes, she used to eat it every single day. In fact, this universal and extremely versatile fruit, native to southern Mexico, is loved all over the world for its sweet taste with a musky undertone. It is also one of the most nutritionally loaded and healthy foods around—a fact that its sweetness often does not give away.

It’s the perfect nutrition punch

Did you know that 150 gm of papaya will give you only 60 calories and that’s a steal for the nutrients it provides—fibre, potassium, and vitamins A, C, E, K and the B-family, including folate (vitamin B9)? It also provides minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and manganese, as well as a number of phytochemicals, carotenoids and other antioxidant compounds that help prevent ageing and the onset of lifestyle diseases. It is one of the most nutritionally loaded foods around, per-calorie.

It has a low glycemic index

It’s a safe food for diabetics in moderation because of its moderate glycemic index. This means it doesn’t lead to a sudden sugar rush. Plus, it’s good for the gut, rich in anti-oxidants, fibres and delivers multiple nutrients that help diabetics get their health quotient up.

Hearty power fruit

The folate present in papaya helps control homocysteine in the bloodstream (a high level of homocysteine damages blood vessels and leads to heart disease), while the fibre in it inhibits the absorption of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Also, potassium — the legendary vasodilator — helps relieve the strain on the cardiovascular system by easing the tension in blood vessels and promoting better circulation, helping to keep blood pressure in check.

A good immunity booster

Vitamins A, C and E in papaya will keep your immune system really pumped up. It is a big help if one wants to keep recurring ear infections, colds and flus away. While many people know that papayas deliver a lot of vitamin C, not many know that they also contain substantial amounts of folic acid and a generous portion of iron, both of which help combat anaemia and keep fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches away. So, you just feel and function better with a daily dose of papaya.

It’s a digestive agent

My grandma knew it instinctively but now we also know that it is the enzymes—papain and chymopapain—in papaya that help break the protein we eat into amino acids. This helps prevent gastro distress and constipation. It also does a bigger job, as undigested protein not just leads to overgrowth of bad bacteria in our intestines, but also a shortfall of essential amino acids that our body needs a regular supply of. In fact, if the protein in our diet is not digested properly, it may in the long run even lead to arthritis, chronic constipation, piles, high blood pressure and multiple other health issues.

There’s more. The presence of folate and vitamins C and E in papayas also reduces motion sickness naturally. So, those who face this issue, now you know what to eat before you embark on long journeys.

It’s anti-inflammatory

Papain and chymopapain also help reduce inflammation in different parts of the body. That makes papaya great for our bones too, as its anti-inflammatory properties, along with the vitamin C it has, helps in keeping various forms of arthritis at bay. The reduction of inflammation reduces pain at the joints. In fact, chymopapain has been found to have a significant effect on controlling both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Papaya also contains potassium, which helps keep the bones strong. The presence of Vitamin K helps bones to get calcium directly. Those with a family history of arthritis and other bone-related issues must include this superfruit in their diet without a second thought.

Strengthens the lungs

In today’s polluted times, this fruit can be a saviour. That’s because papaya promotes lung health, thanks to the presence of vitamin A. Smokers and even those exposed to second-hand smoke tend to be extremely deficient in Vitamin A, and prone to lung inflammation too. So they will specifically benefit by eating platefuls of this delicious fruit.

Your beauty aid

Vitamins C, E, and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene in papaya protect the skin from free radical damage, keeping wrinkles and other signs of ageing at bay. They also act as a natural sunscreen, protecting the skin from harmful rays and, therefore, preventing premature wrinkling. So, eating papaya is the secret to great skin. Thanks to being an incredible source of minerals and
vitamins, papaya also promotes hair growth and prevents hair fall. Vitamin A helps to enhance the production of sebum and as a result, also promotes hair growth, moisturises your
hair and keeps it looking great.

It’s an eye tonic

Carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin found in papaya protect the retina of the eye. The orange colour of papaya is due to its beta-carotene content, which gets converted into Vitamin A in the body, and helps prevent macular degeneration (age-related vision problems).

Strengthens the nerves
A high level of copper is important to help our nervous system to effectively communicate with other parts of the body. And a significant level of copper is found in papaya.

Did you know?

The enzyme papain found in papaya boosts the digestive process and increases nutrient absorption from protein-based foods. Not many know that the small black seeds located at the centre of the papaya, with a very distinct spicy, peppery taste, are edible too. You can grind or just boil them to treat respiratory problems and purge intestinal worms. Papaya leaves are also helpful in treating the symptoms of dengue fever.

Easy tips to eat papayas

You can, of course, have a raw, ripe papaya or make a smoothie with it. You can cook a subzi out of the slightly unripe ones. Papayas are so versatile that you can incorporate them in your breakfast, lunch, snacks, or even have them for dessert! For a quick breakfast, just blend Greek yoghurt (or regular yoghurt), vanilla extract or cocoa powder, a frozen banana and a sliced, ripe papaya. For lunch, make this salad: Mix raw papayas, diced pineapple, garlic, lime juice, salt and black pepper.

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