The papaya was the first fruit tree to have its genome mapped. Originally cultivated in Mexico and South America, papayas are now grown in almost all tropical countries.
Papayas are a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, including lutein, alpha- and beta-carotene, and vitamin C. They also provide folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
Papayas contain the enzyme papain, which breaks down protein fibers and is used to tenderize tough meats, and which may also help with digestion. This ability to break down proteins allows papain to help relieve the pain of insect and jellyfish stings and bites, because the toxins in these venoms are also proteins. But in November 2008, the FDA moved to ban topical (skin) treatments made with papain to avoid allergic reactions, which can be severe.
Papaya leaves were once brewed into a tea that was thought to prevent malaria, but there is no scientific evidence that the tea has the desired effect. Papaya has also played a role as a folk medicine contraceptive. In some animal studies, large amounts of green papaya fruit seem to negatively affect fertility in both males and females, possibly by suppressing the hormone progesterone.Nutritional Facts
One medium raw papaya provides 119 calories, 29.8 g carbohydrate, 1.9 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 5.5 g dietary fiber, 863 IU vitamin A, 188 mg vitamin C, 1 mg niacin, 116 mcg folic acid, 781 mg potassium, 9 mg sodium, 15 mg phosphorus, 73 mg calcium, and 30 mg magnesium.