Papayas the fruit
- An excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.
- High in folate and beta carotene.
- An extract is used to tenderize meat.
- Can cause dermatitis in some people.
Native to Central America, papayas are now grown in tropical climates around the world.
Like most yellow-orange fruits, papayas are high in vitamin C and beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. One medium-size papaya supplies more than twice the adult Recommended Dietary Allowancw ( RDA ) of vitamin C, almost 30 percent of the RDA of folate, and 800 mgs of potassium. Beta-carotene helps prevent Vitamin A deficiency in the body and thus prevents night-blindness.
Papayas contain papain, and enzyme that is similar to the digestive juice pepsin. Because this enzyme breaks down protein, papain extract from papayas is marketed as a meat tenderizer. It has also been used medically to treat ruptured spinal disks, but this treatment has fallen out of favour in most places. Topical ointments containing papain are sometimes applied to promote the shedding of dead tissue. It also lightens and sometimes removes fresh scars from face and arms when rubbed on them daily. Papain causes the dermatitis that some people experience when handling papayas. This irritation is not necessarily an allergic reaction.
Usually eaten raw, the fruit should be washed, split open, and the black seeds scooped out.
You can also use papayas in cooking. They impart a sweet Carribean flavor to chicken or fish dishes. A few pieces of papaya added to a stew tenderizes the meat, while its pectin serves as a natural thickener.
Papaya nectar is a popular beverage, but many bottled varieties are mostly water and sugar. A product that contains only 33 percent papaya juice can still be sold as papaya nectar.