The perfect go-to snack: Papaya promises plenty of flavour and big benefits

Sep 09, 2020
There are a lot of delicious ways you can enjoy papaya's big health benefits. Source: Getty.

Papaya is a tropical fruit loaded with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and fight diseases, not to mention key vitamins and minerals. But despite its incredible health benefits, papaya isn’t the most common fruit in supermarkets, with tropical fruits like mango, pineapple and guava getting all the attention.

That’s why Starts at 60 spoke to leading dietician Jemma O’Hanlon and Gerard Kath, president of peak industry body Papaya Australia, to find out not only why papaya is so good for you, but also how to choose and store the tropical fruit correctly and how to easily include it in your diet.

Health benefits of papaya

Jemma says papaya contains a number of good-for-you nutrients like vitamins C and A, folate and fibre that are essential for many bodily functions. For example, Vitamin C keeps your skin glowing, while vitamin A can help maintain a strong immune system, as well as good eye health, folate can boost your mood and fibre keeps your gut happy and healthy.

“Papaya boasts a wealth of benefits and is a natural, tasty way to support immunity, gut health, glowing skin and hydration,” she says. “Just one serve (150 grams) contains a bundle of essential nutrients like vitamin C and A, folate, fibre.”

Not to mention, it’s super low in kilojoules and can help keep you full between meals, making it the perfect go-to snack when you’re feeling a little bit peckish.  “As an added bonus, papaya is also low in kilojoules and has a moderate glycaemic index (GI) so it can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer,” she says.

Adding more papaya to your diet may also boost your heart health. One study published in the National Library of Medicine found eating fruits high in vitamin C like papaya may help prevent heart disease.

How to choose and store papaya

When it comes to choosing fresh, flavoursome papaya, Gerard says to look out for fruit with slightly yellow skin. He also advises giving your papaya a gentle squeeze under the stem and if it’s ripe, it will give slightly.

And don’t shy away from a nicely freckled fruit either! According to Gerard spots on the skin are a sign of sweetness. “Fruit that is grown [in] inland regions of Australia gets this freckle across the skin, whereas coastal-grown fruit can be clean skinned and just as sweet,” he explains.

When selecting pre-cut papaya, opt for a vibrant-coloured one as this ensures that it will be tasty and ripe. “When the fruit is paler and lacking vibrancy your fruit will be less juicy and flavoursome,” he says.

If your papaya is a bit hard and partially yellow, Gerard says to pop it in the fruit bowl for a few days to ripen. To speed up the process, store your papaya in a brown paper bag with a banana. Why? Bananas release a gas called ethylene, which speeds up ripening. And if you’re quite not ready to eat your ripe papaya yet, pop it in the fridge to slow down the ripening process.

Ways to enjoy papaya

While fresh papaya with a squeeze of lime works a treat, this versatile fruit can be prepared in a number of ways. Use it to top off your breakfast bowl or add it to your baked goods like a muffin or tart. It also tastes amazing in a fresh salad with crunchy vegetables and nuts for an Asian-inspired dish, roasted in the oven with brown sugar sprinkled over the top or in a delicious curry.

Need more inspiration? Here’s a delicious french toast bake recipe from Papaya Australia to try.

Papaya French Toast Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 300g brioche
  • 1/2 medium papaya
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt or sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Method

  1. Smear the butter evenly across the base and sides of a 3-litre baking dish. Cut bread into 1.5 cm slices. Peel, de-seed and thinly slice the papaya. Toss pecans with 1 tbsp of the brown sugar.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and remaining sugar.
  3. Stand a row of bread slices along one end of the buttered baking dish. Arrange papaya and remaining bread in overlapping layers, then top with blueberries. Pour egg mixture evenly over the bread and fruit and press gently with the back of a large spoon to submerge.
  4. Let the baking dish stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while the bread absorbs the egg mixture.
  5. Preheat oven to 180°C. Top the bread and fruit with the sugared pecans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and puffed in the centre. If the top is browning too quickly, tent with foil for the last half of baking. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Papaya french toast bake. Source: Supplied.

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