A Papaya Packs A Healthy Punch

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - July 13, 2005
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The Williams family recently arrived in Hawaii and settled in the growing community of Ewa Beach.

Ian ,22, is a student at UH West Oahu, where he is specializing in justice administration. Ian’s goal is to work as a special agent for the FBI after he graduates.

Ian’s father, Dennis, has an important job as commander in charge of Naval Exercise Planning for the Northern Pacific Fleet of the U.S. Navy. His mother, Allison, is a popblues- country music songwriter and will be releasing her first album this summer. She is also an excellent cook, and has taught Ian to make many of her healthy dishes using customized recipes.

The family loves Hawaii and expects to be here for some time to come.

This column is dedicated to the Williams family for their appreciation of the aloha spirit and the special beauty of Hawaii.

Papaya is plentiful in Hawaii, and makes a nice sweet addition to this tangy salad.

Papaya is believed to be native to Mexico and Central America. The Spanish and Portuguese were instrumental in advancing its cultivation, and it is now cultivated in most tropical and subtropical climates.

Choose papayas that have reddish-orange or yellow skin and yield slightly to soft pressure from the fingers. Avoid papayas that are totally green or overly hard, as they have been picked too soon, and most likely will not ripen properly. A few black or moldy spots on the surface will not affect the flavor, but pass up those that are bruised or overly soft. Papayas that are partially yellow should be left at room temperature where they will ripen in a few days. If you want to hasten ripening, place them in a paper bag with a banana.

Ripe papayas should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within one or two days for maximum flavor and texture. Most people discard the seeds, but they are actually edible and have a peppery flavor. They can be chewed whole or blended into a creamy salad dressing, giving it a peppery tang.

Papaya is tasty, versatile and good for you

Papayas are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium and magnesium; and fiber. In addition, papaya contains the digestive enzyme papain, which is extracted from the papaya skin and used in the meat industry as a tenderizer. Papayas are also a good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels, and folic acid found in papayas is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine into benign amino acids such as cysteine or methionine. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and, if levels get too high, is considered a significant risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.

The nutrients in papaya have also been shown to be helpful in the prevention of colon cancer. Papaya’s fiber is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells. In addition, papaya’s folate, vitamin C, betacarotene and vitamin E have each been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. The vitamin A and C found in papaya are both needed for the proper function of a healthy immune system.

• 2 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
• 1/2 cup low-sodium shoyu
• 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
• 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
• 2 firm vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
• 1/2 cup chopped Maui onion
• 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno pepper
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
• 1 pound bag of fresh salad greens
• 1 large firm papaya, cut into thin slices
fat-free honey-mustard dressing

In small bowl or shallow pan, mix shoyu, ginger, garlic, brown sugar and green onion until combined. Add chicken, cover and marinate for at least 3 hours in refrigerator. Mix tomatoes, onion, pepper and basil until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to meld flavors.

Preheat grill to high heat and brush with oil so chicken won’t stick. Place chicken breasts on grill and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear. Slice into thin strips. Place salad greens on four plates, and divide tomato mixture over each salad. Divide chicken strips and place on top. Top with papaya slices and drizzle with dressing.

Makes four servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 320
Fat: 4 grams
Cholesterol: 35 milligrams
Sodium: 300 milligrams

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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