Pawpaw (Scientific name: Carica papaya) is a tasty, highly delicious and nutritious fruit grown extensively in the tropical regions. The typical ripe pawpaw fruit has a greenish yellow outer skin with an orange hue and yields to gentle thumb pressure. When cut open, you find the delicious orange pulp as well as several black seeds occupying the central hollow cavity. Among other fruits, pawpaw stands out for the numerous medicinal benefits ranging from reducing the risk of life-threatening medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes and cancer to aiding digestion and improving wound healing.
These vital benefits can be attributed to the high levels of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibres contained in pawpaw. Furthermore, even the seeds are not a waste because they are said to have antiparasitic, analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties, hence their use in the treatment of certain conditions like ringworm infestation and stomach ache.
Highlighted below are some of the amazing health benefits pawpaw has to offer:
Research has shown that pawpaw fruit enhances digestion and keeps your digestive tract healthy. One medium-sized pawpaw contains about 4.7g of fibre.Hence, the high fibre and water content helps you to move bowel regularly thereby reducing the likelihood of constipation. In addition, pawpaw contains a proteolytic enzyme, papain which helps to break down protein in ingested food and facilitates digestion. Understandably, papain has also been prepared in tablet form and is taken orally for the treatment of digestive problems like chronic indigestion and bloating.
Reduces Cancer Risk
Pawpaw is one fruit that is particularly rich in Vitamins C, E and beta-carotenes, all of which are good antioxidants that help to mop up harmful free radicals in the body and consequently reduce the chances of developing cancer. According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, beta carotene found in pawpaw was said to protect against prostate cancer. Similarly, a decrease in the incidence of colon cancer was observed among a Japanese population who consumed beta carotene in pawpaw.
Improves Wound Healing
One medium-sized pawpaw provides about 224% of the daily requirements of Vitamin C, which is needed in the formation of collagen, an extracellular matrix protein that provides structural integrity to the skin and enhances wound healing. Also, the proteolytic enzymes (papain and chymopapain) found in pawpaw have been shown to promote wound healing and prevent infection in patients with skin burns following topical application of mashed pawpaw.
Improves Eye Health
Research has revealed that sufficient intake of fruits tends to reduce the risk and progression of age-related macular degeneration. More still, zeaxanthin an antioxidant found in pawpaw protects from blue light rays which may harm the eyes. Furthermore, pawpaw is an excellent source of Vitamin A which is essential for healthy eyes and vision. Note that Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness.
Boosts Penile Erection
It has been discovered that an amino acid, Arginine found in pawpaw has its place in the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction. An important enzyme, Nitric Oxide Synthase acts on arginine to produce Nitric Oxide (NO) which then acts through complex pathways to dilate the blood vessels and relax the smooth muscles of the penis, thereby boosting blood flow to the reproductive organ. Sildenafil (Viagra), a common drug employed in the treatment of erectile dysfunction also acts along this pathway.
Reduces risk of Heart Diseases
Pawpaw is a good source of potassium which helps to control the heart rate, dilate blood vessels and regulate blood pressure, thereby offering some protection from cardiovascular complications. Also pawpaw is a rich source of powerful antioxidants like beta carotenes, Vitamins C and E, lycopene all of which help to protect against free radical injury to blood vessels. It’s been shown that free radical injury is involved in the process of atherosclerosis which leads to plaque buildup and eventual occlusion of vital blood vessels supplying the heart and brain resulting in heart attack and stroke respectively. Therefore, the more pawpaw you consume, the less your risk of these fatal disease conditions.
Reduces risk of Obesity and Diabetes
Being a high-fibre, low-calorie and nutrient-dense fruit, pawpaw makes you feel full and satisfied such that you are less likely to snack on junk fatty diets which predispose you to obesity and Type II Diabetes Mellitus. In the same vein, pawpaw has been shown to improve glycaemic control in diabetic individuals. Research has shown that individuals with good glycaemic control are less likely to develop diabetes complications such as retinopathy (leads to blindness) and nephropathy (leads to kidney injury).