13 Surprising Benefits of Papaya (Pawpaw)

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of papaya are many and include better digestion, regulated menstruation, stronger immunity, weight loss, improved skin, and better heart health. Papaya, also known as Carica Papaya, pawpaw or papaw is believed to prevent cancer. It’s no wonder that this fruit is quite popular for its high nutritive and medicinal value!

What is Papaya?

Papaya or pawpaw is a cerise-orange colored juicy fruit, which is not only fragrant and delicious but also very healthy. It has been famous for hundreds of years and was once referred to as the “fruit of the angels” by explorer Christopher Columbus. Papaya is a natural source of vitamins and minerals essential for the normal functioning of the body. It is famous for its luscious taste and sunlit color of the tropics and can be eaten by itself, incorporated into a meal or consumed in a smoothie or milkshake.

Latex derived from the raw papaya fruit is used as a meat tenderizer. Papaya is also used in the manufacturing of several cosmetic, skin, and beauty products, as well as certain chewing gums. They are available for consumption throughout the year.

The whole fruit, including other parts of the tree, are beneficial to health in several ways. Papaya in its raw form contains enzymes, which are used in the preparation of dietary supplements and chewing gums.

Papaya Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, papaya is rich in antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, flavonoids, and vitamin C, as well as some B vitamins (folate and pantothenic acid). It is also a good source of fiber and minerals such as magnesium. Together, these nutrients help improve cardiovascular health and protect against colon cancer.

Watch Video: 4 Surprising Benefits Of Papaya

Health Benefits of Papaya

Let us look into the amazing benefits of papaya below.

Nutrition Facts

Papayas, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]88.06
Energy [kcal]43
Protein [g]0.47
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.26
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]10.82
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.7
Sugars, total [g]7.82
Calcium, Ca [mg]20
Iron, Fe [mg]0.25
Magnesium, Mg [mg]21
Phosphorus, P [mg]10
Potassium, K [mg]182
Sodium, Na [mg]8
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.08
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]60.9
Thiamin [mg]0.02
Riboflavin [mg]0.03
Niacin [mg]0.36
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.04
Folate, DFE [µg]37
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]47
Vitamin A, IU [IU]950
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.3
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]2.6
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.08
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.07
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.06
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Aids in Digestion

Papayas are commonly consumed for proper digestion. They possess anti-ulcerative properties. Also, the presence of papain, a digestive super-enzyme and improves digestion by breaking down proteins. This ensures a reduced conversion of protein into body fat. If the protein in our diet is not digested properly, it may cause arthritis, constipation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other related health conditions.

Weight Loss

Papayas are also good for people who are trying to lose weight naturally given the fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals that it contains. Having a bowl of papaya as a mid-evening or mid-morning snack is good for health.

Prevents Infections

Papayas are effective for killing intestinal worms, thereby avoiding infections and complications associated with them.

Relieves Toothache

A paste of fresh papaya roots can be rubbed onto the teeth and gums as a home remedy for toothache relief. The bark of the tree, primarily the inner bark, is also an excellent remedy for tooth problems.

Anticancer Properties

Researchers have discovered that papayas are effective in the fight against breast, pancreatic, and other cancers. A papaya leaf extract obtained from dried leaves produced anti-carcinogenic effects against tumor cells that were grown in the laboratory. It was observed in a 2010 study that the effects were stronger when the cells were given larger doses of papaya leaf tea. The scientists exposed different types of cancer-affected cells to different papaya leaf extracts and found that the growth of tumors slowed down

Another study suggests that the lycopene found in papaya is a strong antioxidant that helps to relieve the effects of cancer radiotherapy. According to research in the journal Mutation Research, the use of fermented papaya preparation may help reduce oxidative stress and cancer risk in type 2 diabetics.

The fruit has gained credibility and has been used in many medicines for its anticancer powers.

A whole papaya and a half ripe papaya with leaves on a table

Skin Care

Papayas can be great revitalizing agents, which is why they are used in many cosmetics and are even used in homemade face masks by many women. The papain kills dead cells and purifies the skin. The beneficial properties and the healing enzymes present in papaya help treat sunburn and irritated skin. Lycopene present in papayas reduces wrinkle formation in post-menopausal women, according to a 2014 study.

A good facial massage using papaya is a fabulous remedy to remove dead cells. If you are a person who spends most of the time outdoors, then papayas can be a great help, as papayas fight free radicals that age your skin. The peels of papayas are also used to rub on the face and hands for healthy skin. Papayas are also used to treat skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, and others.

Improves Heart Health

The seeds of papayas are good for keeping your heart healthy. Having three powerful antioxidant vitamins – namely vitamin A, C, and E, means papayas are helpful in preventing problems such as atherosclerosis and diabetic heart diseases. The presence of pro-carotenoid phytonutrients helps prevent oxidation of cholesterol in the body. When oxidation of cholesterol takes place, it sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and forming plaque that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin E and vitamin C contained in papayas help in preventing the cholesterol from sticking to the walls, thereby keeping your heart healthy. As a good source of fiber, papayas also help reduce the LDL cholesterol levels in the body. Include papayas in your daily diet as a snack to keep your heart young.

Reduces Acne & Burns

The latex obtained from papayas is used to treat the areas on the skin affected by acne. The fleshy side of the papaya skin can be used as a mask to cure acne. A diet which includes papayas will help cure the condition internally, making the skin clear. Got a burn? Use papaya. When the latex from the fruit is applied to a burnt area, it helps in reducing the marks caused due to the burn, making it effective in helping in treating sores, wounds, and ulcers.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

The enzymes present in papayas, especially the papain and chymopapain, reduce the inflammation in different parts of the body, according to research published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Helps Prevent Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an age-related eye disorder in which the ocular cells degenerate, resulting in blurred vision and can cause blindness. An antioxidant named beta-carotene gives papaya its orange color. Just as carrots help improve the eyesight due to the presence of beta-carotene, papayas are also known to be effective in reducing the effect of macular degeneration.

According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, consumption of 3 or more servings of this fruit on a daily basis may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).

Relieves Constipation

The presence of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E in papayas may reduce motion sickness by producing a tonic effect in the stomach and in the intestines. Papaya juice and the ripened form of papaya also aid in digestion. The fiber obtained from the fruit helps to increase bowel movements, says a study by a group of researchers from Austria. Improved bowel movements help ease the passage of stool, thereby reducing the effects of constipation.

Regulates Menstruation

Papaya juice can be of great help for women with irregular menses. Consumption of green, unripe papayas can normalize the irregularity in one’s periodic cycle. Papayas are considered as a “hot food”, meaning that they produce heat in the body. This excessive production of heat in the body is thought to stimulate the estrogen hormone, inducing periods in the females. Hence, papayas can be beneficial in handling difficult menses.

Prevents Arthritis

Papayas have been known to be effective against rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties discussed above, one of the enzymes found in papayas, called chymopapain, has a significant effect on controlling rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Quick Tips to Enjoy Papayas:

  • Pieces of papaya, when soaked with a bit of lemon juice and honey, are an absolute treat for the taste buds.
  • Blend papayas, strawberries, and yogurt for a cold soup treat.
  • Add a slice of papaya to a fresh fruit salad and have it as a snack.
  • Have a bowl of fresh, ripe papaya along with your breakfast to add calories that you require for the day.

Side Effects of Papaya

Consumption of papaya in normal amounts is recognized safe by FDA. However, there are certain side effects of consuming papaya.

  • Pregnant Women: Papaya is classified as being harmful during pregnancy. Latex, present in high concentrations in raw and semi-ripe papayas, causes uterine contractions which might lead to miscarriage. Avoid eating raw papaya if you are pregnant.
  • Gastrointestinal Irritation: Consuming too many papayas can cause a powerful laxative effect in the intestines. Avoid eating large quantities of papaya, especially if it is in its raw form. Unripe or raw papaya can cause pain in the intestines or stomach and can sometimes cause esophageal perforations.
  • Seeds: The black seeds of the papaya contain traces of an enzyme called carpine, which is a potentially toxic substance. According to the International BioPark Foundation’s information about medicinal plants of the Peruvian Amazon, this enzyme can make the nerve centers numb, which could lead to paralysis or cardiac depression. In some cases, the narrowing of blood vessels is also seen, which is caused due to carpine.
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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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