The only food source of papain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme that breaks down proteins, papaya aids digestion, eases stings, burns, and wounds, and slows clotting to improve circulation and hasten nutrient delivery to inflamed areas. Rich in folate and vitamins A and E, papayas have 33 percent more vitamin C than oranges. Carotenoids, antioxidants that give papaya its orange hue, combine with vitamin C to curb heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Papaya is also loaded with potassium and magnesium, which fight hypertension. Fiber-rich and just 59 calories each, papaya is an ally for weight-loss too.
Choose It & Use It
Papaya is available year-round. Reddish yellow fruit that yields to the touch is ripe and lasts a week in the fridge. Avoid fruit with bruises, shriveled skin, or soft spots. Green papaya will ripen at room temperature. Swap papaya for tomatoes in salsas, or for dried fruits in baked goods. Add it to yogurt, ice cream, or granola. Don't use it in dishes that must solidify, such as custards, or they won't set up.