Healthy eating is a challenge in our busy world. However, it’s crucial to have a balanced diet to keep stress and diseases at check. And here is where papaya comes into play.

I’m sure that you’ve heard at least a dozen times that papaya is one of the healthiest fruit you can include in your diet. Your friends might have even tried to convince you of the amazing quality of this fruit.

But you are still suspicious, and you want to know more about the possible benefits of eating papaya.

Well, keep on reading, and you’ll discover 7 fantastic benefits of papaya that will change the way you think about this tasty fruit.

Papaya Fast Facts

Let’s begin by learning some interesting facts about papaya. After all, you’ll want to amaze your friends with your in-depth knowledge when you gather for a papaya party next time.

  • Papaya is also known as pawpaw or papaw in some countries.
  • The tree that bears the papaya fruits is called Carica Papaya, and it’s a fast-growing one – you can pick up papaya fruits after 6-12 of planting the tree.
  • People regarded papaya as an exotic fruit because it was native to Mexico and Central America. However, today it’s grown in many tropical regions, and you will likely find it in your local supermarket. 
  • Two varieties of papaya exist and are cultivated throughout the world - Mexican and Hawaiian papayas.
  • Mexican papaya can weigh up to 10 pounds, while Hawaiian ones are around one pound. So, the papaya you are most likely to find in the supermarket is the Hawaiian variety. 
  • Hawaii started producing papayas commercially after the 1800s when the fruit was first introduced in the state. Hawaii was also the first state to grow genetically modified papaya in the 1990s. 
  • The papaya seeds are edible. You can crush them and use them instead of pepper because they have a similar taste. 
  • Unripe papaya and papaya leaves contain an enzyme called papain, which has been used as a natural meat tenderizer for centuries.
  • Women have used unripe papaya as natural contraception and as a means to induce abortion. 
  • The white sap that oozes when you cut unripe papaya is latex. The more unripe a fruit is, the more latex it contains. 

What is the Nutrition Profile of Papaya?

raw papaya

To understand why papaya is an excellent choice as a snack, I’m going to tell you all about its nutrition content.

One cup of papaya (145g) has the following nutrition profile:

  • Calories – 62
  • Total fat content of 0.4 grams, which is 1% of the DRI
  • Carbohydrates – 15.7 g
  • Sugar – 11.3 g (5% of DRI)
  • Sodium – 12 mg
  • Fiber 2.5 g (10% of DRI)
  • Cholesterol – 0 mg
  • Protein – 0.68 mg

In addition to this, 145 grams of papaya contains the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Calcium – 29 mg
  • Vitamin C – 88.3 mg, which is around 100% of the RDA
  • Iron – 0.36 mg
  • Magnesium – 30.45 mg
  • Potassium – 264 mg (8% of RDA)
  • Zinc – 0.12 mg
  • Folate – 53.65 mcg

All these numbers mean that papaya has a low calorie and fat count, which makes it ideal for people who want to lose weight. And it’s a good source of fiber, which is important for proper digestion.

Moreover, it’s rich in vitamin C, which makes it perfect for boosting the immune system and fighting inflammation.

However, as you can see, on a cup of papaya has 11.3 grams of sugar, so it scores higher than most fruits and vegetables on the glycemic index. Nevertheless, fermented papaya has shown some potential to lower blood sugar levels.

7 Health Benefits of Papaya

Health Benefits of Papaya

As you see, papaya contains many minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that our body needs. But besides these, it’s an excellent source of antioxidants and powerful enzymes that have amazing benefits for the human organism.

So, let’s see why you should include papaya in your diet.

#1 Papaya aids digestion

First and foremost, papaya might be just the thing you need when you have constipation or other digestive issues. It’s a natural remedy for dealing with heartburn and symptoms of IBS in some tropical countries. Do you want to know why?

If you remember, I already mentioned that papaya contains an enzyme called papain. It’s a natural meat tenderizer. But more importantly, papain breaks down proteins into building blocks, so it aids digestions.

Studies focused on people with digestion problems such as IBS found out that papain-based formulas help the digestive tract. Scientists also discovered that papaya relieves symptoms of discomfort such as constipation and bloating.

In addition to this, papaya is rich in fiber. I’m sure that those with digestive issues are familiar with how important fiber is for the normal function of the gastrointestinal tract. So, a piece of papaya might be all you need when you’re constipated.

And if that’s not enough, papaya has high water content, so it’s perfect if you want to keep your digestive tract working smoothly.

#2 Papaya protects your eyesight

Do you know what age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is? It’s an illness affecting your retina and your ability to see the world around you.

As the disease progresses, your central vision gets worse and worse with dark spots appearing before your eyes. You might not be able to write, read, recognize faces, or do your everyday chores.

You already know that carrots contain essential nutrients not only for your body but also for the health of your eyes. Well, papaya is another orange-colored fruit that might protect your eyesight according to some studies.

First, papaya is a source of beta-carotene. If you don’t know it, beta-carotene is a pigment found in many fruits and vegetables responsible for their bright orange color. Our bodies need beta-carotene to convert it to vitamin A.

And why is vitamin A so important? It’s essential for preserving your eyesight and the normal function of your immune system. It’s also required for proper bone growth and healthy reproductive system.

In addition to this, beta-carotene is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help our bodies destroy free radicals that damage cells and lead to inflammation. A study confirmed that three or more servings a day of fruits rich in beta-carotene lower the risk of developing AMD.

Besides, beta-carotene, papayas contain another important element that plays a significant role in proper eyesight - zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is one of two carotenoids found in the macula part of your retina.

As such, eating fruits like papaya, which is rich in zeaxanthin, might protect your macula from damage. And according to one study, a diet rich in carotenoids seems beneficial for the protection of the retina.

The study does point out that more research is needed on the matter. But since papaya is tasty and safe, you have nothing to lose if you add papaya to your fruit salad.

#3 Papaya has possible anti-cancer properties


In the fight against cancer, papaya might hold a piece of the answer. For once, papaya is rich in antioxidants, which our body needs to repair its damaged cells so that they don’t grow out of control and spread.

To support this claim, one study found out that a diet rich in beta-carotene might protect against prostate cancer in young men.

A 2010 study also discovered that papaya leaves seem to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by boosting the producing of Th1-type cytokines. These cytokines are important for the proper immune response of the organism.

The scientists used dried papaya leaves to make an extract and expose different types of cancer cells to it. In all of the cultures, the papaya extract slowed down the growth of the tumors.

In addition to this, some studies have looked into the possible anticancer effect of papaya’s black seeds. In clinical trials focused on prostate cancer, black seeds have shown a potential to impede the growth of the cancer cells.

But the study also discovered that the while seeds from unripe papayas might stimulate the development of cancer cells.

So, more tests are needed to determine how effective papayas and its components are for cancer prevention. But it’s promising.

#4 Improve your heart health with papaya


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If you’re worried about your cholesterol, you should really consider adding papaya to your diet. Why? Because one of the health benefits of papaya is improving your heart health.

First, papayas are rich in fiber, folate, and potassium. If you don’t know it, scientists connect low levels of potassium with heart problems, stroke, and high blood pressure. So, papaya might help you bring your potassium level back in check.

Moreover, papaya is rich in vitamin C, A, and E which are necessary for the proper function of your heart. They are also powerful antioxidants, which will boost your immune system and help your cells fight inflammation.

According to one study, fermented papaya shows potential for reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress on organs.

Furthermore, another study found out that food rich in vitamin C might play a protective role against carotid atherosclerosis. And I have already established, a single papaya serving contains more than your recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

In addition to this, thanks to its rich vitamin content papaya might have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. It could prevent the oxidation of cholesterol so that it can’t stick to the walls of the blood vessels and clog them.

# 5 Papaya is beneficial for wound healing


Next time you cut yourself accidentally, you should remember that papaya is an excellent natural remedy for wounds.

One group of scientists compared the efficacy of papaya to hydrogen peroxide when it comes to postoperative wound care.

The results are going to amaze you. It turned out that papaya was more effective than hydrogen peroxide in speeding up the healing of wounds and reducing the length of hospitalization after surgery.

The research also concluded that papaya is as safe as hydrogen peroxide to use on open wounds.

In addition to this, papaya is great for burns as well because it contains papain. As a result, papaya promotes healing and keeps infection away.

Some also recommend papaya for acne because of its exfoliating properties. However, I would urge you to be careful if you ever use papaya on your skin because papain is a meat tenderizer. As such, it might not be harmful to sensitive skin.

# 6 Papaya for regular menstruation


Papaya has one more extra health benefit for women. It can regulate their menstrual cycle if they have short or irregular period. But why is that?

Papaya contains latex, which causes uterine contractions and other substances that stimulate the production of estrogen.

When your body doesn’t produce enough estrogen, your cycle gets irregular. Not to mention that you might get depressed, gain weight or have problems conceiving. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your estrogen level and keep them in check.

Another reason why papaya can help regulate your period is that it can increase the blood flow during menstruation and stimulate the uterus.

However, keep in mind ripe papaya doesn’t have the same menstrual regulating qualities as unripe ones. So, if you want to regulate your cycle, you’ll have to stick to unripe ones.

#7 Papaya for intestinal worms

Intestinal parasites are not a topic anyone wants to bring up to the table. However, you can get infected with worms easily from water and food. What would you do then?

Fortunately, the black seeds of papaya have shown some remarkable qualities in dealing with parasites inside the human body. A study proved that the seeds have antihelminthic and anti-amoebic properties.

Moreover, it didn’t have any unwanted side effects and proves to be very effective in getting rid of most human parasites.

What are the possible side effects of papaya?

As you see, papaya has many health benefits, and it’s safe to eat. However, there are a couple of think you have to keep in mind if you plan on including papaya in your diet:

  • Eat papaya in moderation. Too much papaya has a laxative effect.
  • Consuming raw or unripe papaya might lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and pain.
  • As I already mentioned before, papaya contains latex. So, avoid papaya if you’re allergic to latex.
  • High amounts of green papaya are not recommended for pregnant women because it can lead to uterine contractions and miscarriage. Moreover, some studies indicate that papain might be harmful to unborn babies. However, results are still inconclusive. 
  • Avoid taking papaya medicine when breastfeeding since there are not enough studies on the matter.
  • Papaya seeds affect fertility in some animal’s studies, but it’s not clear if and how they affect humans.
  • Since fermented papaya can lower blood sugar, you shouldn’t eat it if you already have low blood sugar.
  • Underactive thyroid might also be affected by overeating papaya.
  • Papaya might increase the effects of some medications like Warfarin, which affect the blood clotting ability of the body.

Papaya is not only delicious, but it can help you control your weight, lower your cholesterol levels, and protect your heart and eyes from age-related diseases. So, next time you pass along the fruit aisle in the supermarket, don’t forget to pick up a few papayas.

What do you think about papaya and its health benefits? Do you eat papaya regularly and would you recommend it? Tell us your option in the comment section.

Annalise O'Conner is a Registered Dietitian and Personalized Nutritionist. She is a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, teaching nutrition in the School of Public Health and APAN (Asian Pacific Islander American Network) Email: [email protected]

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