Papaya: The Fruit Salma Hayek Swears By and One You Should Not Overlook

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

I’m all ears when it comes to the gorgeous Salma Hayek giving beauty advice. The ageless 50-year-old actress, who was born in Mexico, recently launched a line of smoothies that are not only meant for drinking but also for use as face masks. Hayek was inspired to create this line of edible smoothies by her grandmother, who would crush up papaya and apply it to her face as a mask.

Even though there are several reports out there celebrating the effectiveness of applying fruit directly to your skin for anti-aging benefits and a clearer complexion, I am still somewhat skeptical. However, looking at Hayek’s flawless complexion I think maybe there is some truth to this.

What I do know is what you eat has an invaluable effect on the health of your skin and your overall health in general. And papaya, which is commonly called one of the healthiest fruits in the world, is definitely a fruit you may want to consider eating regularly.

The papaya, called papaw or paw paw in Australia and mamao in Brazil, is believed to be native to southern Mexico and Central America. You can get papaya year-round, but the peak seasons are usually early summer and fall.

This fruit is uniquely delicious with a sweet taste and musky undertones and a soft, creamy texture. It is also fat-free!

If you need more incentive to eat papaya other than Salma Hayek, take a look at some of the health benefits of this delicious fruit.

Papayas may help fight cancer.

Red papayas, along with tomatoes, red carrots and watermelons contain lycopene, which is a plant pigment that gives these foods their bright red color. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lycopene “demonstrates antioxidant activity and chemopreventive effects in many studies, especially for prostate cancer.” The NIH also says lycopene has inhibitory effects on breast, endometrial and colon cancer cells. Papaya is also rich in an enzyme called papain, which according to the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry is effective against cancer because it breaks down the fibrin cancer cell wall.

Papayas may help soothe your tummy issues.

The papain enzyme in papaya reportedly also makes it easier to digest protein. Some people in the tropics use papaya to relieve constipation and alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In a study published by the NIH, people who consumed a papaya-based formula for 40 days showed improvement in digestive issues like constipation, bloating and heartburn. Papaya is definitely a swimsuit friendly snack. Perfect for summer!

Papayas may help prevent Alzheimer's.

The NIH says one of the biggest causes of Alzheimer’s may be due to oxidative stress (OS) on the brain tissue, which is particularly susceptible to OS. In a study with fermented papaya, the NIH found supporting evidence that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of papaya may greatly reduce OS on brain tissue.

Papayas may help better manage diabetes.

Diabetes causes the body to experience oxidative stress. A study by the NIH provided evidence that just after 14 weeks papaya “could improve the general health status of several organs targeted by oxidative stress during diabetes.”

Papayas may be good for your eyes.

Papayas may help protect your eyesight and reduce your risk for macular degeneration. One cup of raw papaya contains 397 mcg of beta-carotene, which is a pigment the human body converts to vitamin A. Some studies show consuming adequate amounts of vitamin A may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, which is one of the greatest causes of vision loss.

One cup of raw papaya also contains:

  • Calcium, 29 mg. You probably know that this mineral is essential for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Did you know this mineral may also decrease your risk for colorectal cancer? Recent studies confirm that high calcium intake is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer among both men and women. Maintaining the correct levels of calcium in your system could also reduce your risk of breast cancer as well.
  • Magnesium, 30 mg. This mineral is needed by more than 300 human body enzymes to facilitate biochemical reactions. It helps create energy for the body and activates muscle and nerve tissues by enabling potassium and calcium transfer through your cell membranes. If magnesium levels in the body are too low, whole body systems don’t work properly, resulting in fatigue and cramps.
  • Phosphorus, 14 mg. This mineral works with calcium to help build strong bones and teeth. It is also needed to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium and zinc.
  • Potassium, 264 mg. This critical mineral helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Potassium can also help with muscle cramps. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, and the loss of potassium can cause cramping.
  • Vitamin C, 88.3 mg. This fulfills most people’s daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C has numerous benefits. It helps boost the immune system, prevent scurvy, promote healthy hair and collagen growth (which keeps your skin youthful and beautiful) and may help you recover faster from wounds, even wounds after surgery.
  • Folate, 54 mcg. Folate (also called vitamin B9) is a very important nutrient, especially for pregnant women, whose RDA is 400 mg. Folate may help prevent cancer and heart disease and improve mental health.   
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin, 854 mcg. “Beta-cryptoxanthin has several functions that are important for human health, including roles in antioxidant defense and cell-to-cell communication. Most importantly, beta-cryptoxanthin is a precursor of vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient needed for eyesight, growth, development and immune response,” reports the National Institutes OF Health (NIH).

To see some healthy ways you can incorporate papaya into your diet, click here. My favorite is the Thai-inspired green papaya salad. Perfect for summer.

Well, Salma Hayek definitely accomplished making me look at my morning smoothies differently. I love drinking them, but I just may have to put them on my face!

Healthy food is medicine and, as we are discovering every day, so much more.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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