Papaya is a tropical fruit that thrives in abundance in the Philippines, it is available all year round.
The wild variety usually sprouts from droppings of bats and birds on a newly open cleared upland or rolling terrain farm.
They are those variety common locally, whose fruits are oblong shape, in clusters and smaller in sizes (5″ long and 3″ in diameter) compared to the domesticated variety but it is very sweet when ripe.
Some farmers propagate them commercially for market and domestic consumption. The unripe fruit is used as vegetables in Filipino cuisine like tinola (chicken soup) and delicacy like achara (salad).
When ripe, its flesh can be served or eaten directly or it can be scraped and mixed it with ground ice with milk to form a milk shake or as fruit juice in a blender which can be a very refreshing treat during summer time.
According to Food and Nutrition Institute (FNRI) of The Department Science and Technology (DoST), papaya is rich in nutrients as well as a good source of antioxidants such as folic acid, fiber, carotenes, vitamin C and E.
Antioxidants promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer.
It contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is widely used in tenderizing meat. This knowledge has been applied in the Filipino practice of cooking meat with raw papaya to make it tender and digestible. Papain is also used as a digestive aid and is assumed to have an anti-inflammatory benefits.
It is also a good source of fiber which lowers cholesterol levels and helps in easing the discomforts of constipation. This fiber is able to bind cancer toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells.
Papaya helps in the prevention of atherosclerosis, diabetes and heart disease. Folic acid found in papaya is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine, an amino acid.
If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and if levels get too high, it is considered a significant risk factor to heart attack and strokes.
Vitamins C and E found in papaya are all associated with reduced risk of colon cancer. The pigment in the fruit called carotene, is similar to that of carrots and squash.
Carotene in food is converted into vitamin A which promotes good eyesight. Papaya is also an ideal food for those with difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
The papaya has a low glycemic index (GI) of 49 making it good for diabetics. Glycemic index is classified as low (<55), medium (56-70) and high (>70).
Low-GI foods have been shown to have reduced postprandial blood glucose and insulin responses and improve the overall blood glucose and lipid concentration in non-diabetics and diabetic patients. One small slice of ripe papaya or three-fourths (3/4) cup contains 40 kilocalories.