“Eat Rainbow” is one of my mantras for a successful cancer-fighting diet, and the orange requirement can be met with a delectable, velvety smooth tropical fruit – the papaya, or “paw-paw” as I used to call it growing up in South Africa.
Grown on a tree similar to a palm tree, this elongated fruit with a green skin that turns yellow when ripe, is a soft, melt-in-the mouth sensation that needs to be peeled, and its gel-like seeds scooped out with a spoon, although they are actually edible.
Unlike most fruits, the papaya has an added benefit to flesh and seeds, more so when unripe, namely a high content of protein-digesting enzymes, papain and chrymopapain, that can be found isolated in enzyme supplements. This is particularly helpful for patients undergoing chemotherapy who have higher protein requirements, but are suffering from digestive challenges from drug-induced side effects.
Besides helping with digestion, the papaya contains a cancer-fighting compound called carpine, plus an array of anti-oxidants such as beta carotene, flavonoids, Vitamins C, A and E, as well as B vitamins and minerals calcium, potassium, iron and phosphorus.
A recently published study showed that papaya leaf juice can have selective anti-proliferative and anti-metastatic effects in vitro on prostate cancer cells. Further clinical research is required to substantiate these findings in humans or animals, but there are a number of in-vitro cell studies that show a definite cancer-growth reducing effect on cells.
I found papaya to be very cooling and soothing when I was suffering from a lingering, chemo-induced mouth sore. It’s slippery, soft texture can be easily squashed with the tongue, and needs to be added last to fruits salads when minimal stirring is required.
Take note: papaya has a compound called chitinase that is linked to latex-fruit allergy syndrome. Should you be allergic to latex, you may well be allergic to papaya as well, in addition to bananas and avocado too.
How to Use Papaya
- cut into cubes in fruit or spinach salads
- as a single fruit dish sprinkled with lemon or lime juice
- in a smoothie
- in home-made ice cream sorbet
- in home-made salsa mixed with cilantro, green onion and goji berries
- finely sliced as a topping for freshly grilled fish, sprinkled with coconut flakes
- in a sweet and sour chicken casserole dish
- anywhere you would also consider using pineapple
Refreshing Papaya Smoothie
- 2 cups papaya, cubed
- 1 cup watermelon, cubed
- few sprigs of fresh mint leaves
- ½ cucumber, cubed
- handful flat parsley leaves
- few ice cubes
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or pumpkin seeds, already ground
- water to cover half the cut produce (watermelon and papaya are juicy in themselves)
Whizz away in blender, and enjoy!
Pandey S, Walpole C, Cabot PJ, Shaw PN, Batra J, Hewavitharana AK. “Selective anti-proliferative activities of Carica papaya leaf juice extracts against prostate cancer”, Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 May;89:515-523
Nguyen TT, Shaw PN, Parat MO, Hewavitharana AK, “Anticancer activity of Carica papaya: a review”, Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jan;57(1):153-64
Pathak N, Khan S, Bhargava A, Raghuram GV, Jain D, Panwar H, Samarth RM, Jain SK, Maudar KK, Mishra DK, Mishra PK, “Cancer chemoprotective effects of the flavonoid-rich fraction isolated from papaya seeds”, Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(5):857-71
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND