There are a few natural solutions for bloating and digestive issues that should get more attention, though: pineapple and papaya. Pineapple helps because of its secret weapon, bromelain, but papaya has its own gut-healing superpowers that shouldn't be overlooked. Here, registered dietitian Malena Perdomo, RD, shares the low-down on all of the many papaya benefits for your health. Check them out before you stock up on the tropical fruit, which is in season in early summer and fall.
What are the benefits of papaya for your health?
1. Papaya relieves bloating and constipation. "The reason papaya is good for gut health is mainly due to the enzyme papain that helps with digestion, [particularly] digestion of proteins," Perdomo explains, adding that it works so well that papain is often sold as a supplement for digestion to help with bloating and heartburn. "I grew up eating fresh papaya all the time in Panama and find that it helps with staying regular and preventing constipation," she says.
2. Papaya has fiber. Another reason why papaya is so great for gut health is because of all its glorious fiber. Half of a large papaya has about 7 grams of it, which is nearly 30 percent of what you should be eating every day. Getting enough fiber is crucial for keeping your digestive tract running properly. It's also good for metabolism and fighting inflammation.
3. It's an anti-inflammatory fruit. Perdomo also points out that, like most fruits, papaya is full of antioxidants, which protect the body from free radicals to fight inflammation. One study performed on rats found that papaya extract helped decrease oxidative stress in the liver, stomach, and kidneys.
4. Papaya is hydrating. "Papaya is full of water," Perdomo says, acknowledging the fruit's hydrating benefits. In fact, papayas are 85 to 89 percent water, which is especially handy in the summer when hydration is extra important.
5. It's good for immunity. "Papaya is a rich source in vitamin C, ranking as one of the highest per 100 grams—it has 60 milligrams per 100 grams," Perdomo says, adding that women should aim to get 75 milligrams a day. "Vitamin C is involved in reactions needed for collagen, iron absorption, and it helps the immune system," she says. "Comparing the vitamin C of papayas with other fruits such as oranges and strawberries, papayas are near the top of the list." Her pro tip: go for super ripe yellow-orange papaya because vitamin C content increases as papaya ripens.
6. It's good for eye health. Besides vitamin C, papaya is high in beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. "This is a vital nutrient that is needed for night vision, healthy skin, immune system and to have a healthy gut and is related with prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer," Perdomo says.
7. It's great for your skin. There's a good reason why you'll see papaya or papaya extract in a lot of natural beauty products. The vitamin C helps minimize premature aging while the b-carotene reduces damage from the sun. Perdomo adds that the vitamin A and antioxidants could be more reasons why it's so great for the skin, too. Bird Bakery owner and Cupcake Wars judge Elizabeth Chambers Hammer even uses papaya as an exfoliant. “The way you take papa enzymes for digestion, it kind of works the same way on your face,” she previously told Well+Good. “It loosens dead skin cells and really just gives you a clean glow,” she says.
Not many foods are as beneficial on your body as they are in, but that's part of what makes papaya so great. Incorporate this summer fruit into your life more and chances are you'll look and feel pretty darn good.
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