Pumped for Papaya
Annie and LJ are a fictional couple introduced to the readers of the Healthy Healing Eats blog in January 2020. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.
They looked at each other, and their eyes got bigger, “Oh, LJ, this is so good. I want more.”
“Me too,” He bit into another piece of the fresh papaya Juan had just cut off his tree. “This is sweet. It has a creamy melon-like flavor.”
Juan smiled and nodded as he handed them more. “I grew up with papaya trees. We would go out to our backyard in the morning, pluck a papaya, cut it open, sprinkle with lime, and eat it for breakfast.” He pointed at two trees that were in various stages of growth. “They can get up to 30 feet tall. It is interesting how their shape resembles a palm tree, with a canopy of palmate leaves on the top and the fruit growing directly out of the trunk underneath. We planted these trees about three years ago. They do not have a long lifespan, but produce year-round, and begin bearing fruit in as little as 7 months after the tree has been planted.”
“Why did your family grow papaya trees?” asked Annie
“My parents and grandparents considered papayas to be medicinally-potent. Although Mexico is where papaya originated, it was locally grown food to eat in El Salvador, where my family is from and known for its healing properties. My grandparents, both doctors told me that papaya contains papain enzymes, which help reduce heartburn and improve poor digestion by breaking down inactive proteins. My grandfather said papaya helps lower cholesterol because it is rich in the vitamins and minerals that help protect against cell damage and increases blood flow in the arteries, which prevents plaque buildup. The beta-carotene found in papaya appears to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome. This chronic condition includes elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and extra fat around the waist.
Its vitamin C (anti-aging), antiviral (flu fighter) and antibacterial (combats infections) properties helps strengthen the immune system. My grandmother said, the women in our family had beautiful skin, which they attributed to papaya because of its rich vitamin A content. Pound for pound papaya has valuable nourishment and medical benefits, especially aiding in weight-loss due to its high fiber content. You can get 10% of your daily fiber from one cup of this fruit.”
Annie smiled, “Everything you told us about papaya’s nutritional profile is a good excuse to include it in our regular diet. Now how about some recipe suggestions?”
“Ripe papaya can be eaten raw, right out of the shell. Its skin is not edible, but the seeds can be ground up and used like pepper. I think you should try Green Papaya salad. It is a Thai-salad that uses an unripe papaya, a traditional way of eating papaya in Asian countries. It can be a refreshing meal on a hot day. You might also like a Papaya and Milk Smoothie. Maybelle makes it for our kids. It is filling, cooling, and calming,” laughed Juan.