• The Papaya: A Little Taste of Paradise

    IMAGE Whenever I bite into a silky smooth papaya, I can almost hear the rustling of the palms in the balmy trade winds and feel the warm sun on my shoulders. Mmmmm… The papaya brings a little taste of paradise to us all, wherever we live.
    Once considered rather “exotic” in many parts of the world, including the US, this sweet, tropical, melon-like fruit has become an increasingly common dessert or accompaniment to breakfasts, salads, and spicy foods. However, in spite of its ever-increasing presence, there is still much to learn about this versatile fruit.

    From the Tropics to Your Table

    Grown in tropical and subtropical areas around the world, the papaya (also called papaw, pawpaw, mamao, or tree melon) is a pear-shaped fruit with skin that turns from green to a bright orange-yellow as it ripens. It is about 6 inches long and can range from 1-20 pounds in weight, depending on the variety. Inside, the papaya has silky smooth, orange-yellow flesh and a large center cavity full of shiny grayish-black seeds. The flesh is juicy and has a subtle, sweet-tart or musky taste, somewhat like a cantaloupe. A properly ripened papaya is juicy and sweet.
    It is believed that the papaya originated in southern Mexico, Central America, or the West Indies. Now widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries, there are about 45 species of papaya. The most common variety in the US is the Solo papaya, which is grown in Hawaii and Florida. Mexican papayas are much larger than the Hawaiian types and may be more than 15 inches long.

    Using the Pulp of the Papaya

    The papaya is not only delicious, but it is a remarkably versatile fruit. In addition, it can be prepared ahead of time since it does not discolor when exposed to air. Here are some of the many ways that papaya can be served:
    • Fresh, stewed, baked, sautéed, barbecued, or as a garnish
    • With bananas, pineapple, strawberries, oranges, limes, and coconuts
    • Cut into a variety of shapes and served as a breakfast food, in salads, or as a complement to spicy food
    • When unripe (green), tossed in salsa or added to soups and stews
    • Slightly warmed, cubed, and added, along with cubed mango and pineapple, to fish and poultry
    • Added to a fruit smoothie
    • Pureed for dressings and marinades
    Papaya juice (or nectar) is sold in many supermarkets and health food stores.

    Enzymes and Seeds of the Papaya Are Useful Too

    Papaya has other uses, as well. It contains papain, which is a digestive enzyme used primarily in meat tenderizers. The peppery seeds of the papaya are also edible and make a delicious salad dressing.

    Nutritional Value

    The papaya is a good source of vitamins A and C , as well as folate and fiber. In addition, it is fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in sodium. And an average serving (½ papaya) has only 70 calories. It is hard to believe that such a delicious food could have all that going for it! Take a look:

    Nutrition Facts

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size: ½ papaya (140 g)
    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 55        Calories from Fat 2
      % Daily
    Total Fat 0 g 0%
    Saturated Fat 0 g 0%
    Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
    Sodium 4 mg 0%
    Total Carbohydrate 14 g 5%
    Dietary fiber 3 g 10%
    Sugars 8 g  
    Protein 1 g  
    Vitamin A 31%
    Vitamin C 144%
    Calcium 3%
    Iron 1%

    Selection and Storage

    When choosing a papaya, look for one that is fairly large, half yellow or more, and slightly soft. It should yield to gentle palm pressure. Avoid papayas that are too soft or those that have scars or blemishes.
    If the skin has no yellow, the papaya will ripen if left at room temperature for a few days. If a papaya is less than half ripe, do not store it in the refrigerator. Cool temperatures shut off the ripening process. A papaya that is ¼ to ½ ripe should keep for 1-2 weeks. Completely ripe papayas should be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible.


    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/

    Food and Nutrition Information Center http://www.nal.usda.gov/


    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/


    California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. website. Available at: http://www.crfg.org/ .

    Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing; 1998.

    Epicurious website. Available at: http://www.epicurious.com/ .

    Papaya: general crop information. University of Hawaii website. Available at: http://www.extento.hawaii.edu/kbase/crop/crops/i%5Fpapa.htm. Accessed June 15, 2010.

    Papaya, raw. Nutrition Data website. Available at: http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1985/2. Accessed June 21, 2010.

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.