Updated: May 26
The papaya is a tropical fruit with a wide variety of health benefits for our bodies.
Among its benefits are a slowdown of aging and risk of developing cancer and asthma, inflammation reduction, a boost to the immune system to fight against infections and aiding digestive tract health and heart health.
Papaya originated in Central America and Southern Mexico. It grows naturally in the Carribean. Papayas are pear-shaped orange fruits with orange, red or yellow flesh. Within the fruit there are a lot of black edible seeds but they taste bitter.
Although the United States is the world's largest papaya importer, India is a world leader of papaya production followed by Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Here are the main health benefits of papaya.
Nutritious and tasty
Apart from fiber that all fruits contain, papaya is also extremely rich in vitamin C. Just 100 grams of papaya will provide you with 60 mg of vitamin C. A recommended daily intake of vitamin C for adults is 65-95mg, so only a bit over 100 grams of papaya a day can supply you with all the ended amount of vitamin C that your body needs.
Apart from being a rich source of vitamin C, 100 grams of papaya will also provide you with 152 micrograms of vitamin A, bearing in mind that a recommended daily intake of vitamin A for adults is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men.
In addition, papaya is also a good source of folate (vitamin B), magnesium, copper and potassium. You can read more about why potassium is so essential for our bodies in my free guide “The Importance of Fluid and Electrolyte Balance in Our Bodies” here.
Slow down aging, reducing the risk of developing cancer and asthma
Papaya is rich in lycopene which is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals produced as a result of metabolism in our bodies. This can slow down aging.
Papaya also contains beta-carotene, another antioxidant, which has been linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer and a decreased risk of developing asthma.
Great for heart health
Research indicates that the fruits rich in vitamin C and lycopene may prevent heart disease. As the papaya is extremely rich in vitamin C, it has a very beneficial effect on heart health.
As papaya is a good source of fiber, its consumption can help you lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Vitamin A and vitamin C prevent cholesterol oxidation which makes it sticky and it then sticks to the walls of the blood vessels. Cholesterol build-up in blood vessel walls leads to strokes and heart attacks.
Papaya’s content of potassium is also very beneficial for our heart. You can read more about the roles of potassium and sodium in our diet as well as why potassium is so important for reducing the risk of heart disease in this free guide here.
Reduces constipation and other symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
Studies suggest that the enzyme, papain, within the papaya fruit eases protein digestion.
Due to papaya’s high content in water and fiber, it aids digestion, prevents bloating, constipation and other symptoms of IBS.
Good for skin health and wound healing
As mentioned above, our bodies produce free radicals during metabolism, and excessive radicals have been linked to inflammation and aging. Antioxidants in papaya slow down aging and protect our skin.
Studies have even shown that there is a measurable reduction in the facial wrinkles depth in women who consume fruits rich in vitamin C, lycopene and other antioxidants.
Research suggests that papain enzyme in papaya also aids wound healing apart from aiding digestion.
Papaya’s high content in vitamin A aids hair health as vitamin A is required for sebum production to keep hair moisturised.
Important to fight against infections
As papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A as well as antioxidants and choline, its consumption reduces inflammation and is essential in fighting against infections including a cold and flu.
Choline is also vital for nerve impulse transmission, muscle movement, learning and sleep too.
Reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
There is some research suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with increased oxidative stress and that extracts of fermented papaya powder could counteract free radical overproduction in such patients. Therefore, papaya is a healthy and beneficial fruit for patients already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or those who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Papaya and pregnancy
People with a latex allergy may be allergic to papaya because it contains chitanases enzymes that could lead to a cross-reaction between latex and latex-containing foods.
Latex is a milky sap containing water, sugar and proteins. It is produced by some plants to defend themselves against insects. Less than 1 % of the population is allergic to it.
Research also indicates that pregnant women should avoid consuming unripe or semi-ripe papaya because it contains high latex concentration that causes significant uterine contractions.
Apart from containing valuable nutrients and antioxidants, it is one of the best fruits to aid digestion and heart health, strengthen the immune system, reduce the risk of developing cancer and help your body fight various infections. It is a vital tool to keep our skin youthful.
So are you ready to try adding papaya in your diet?
You can eat papaya in salads or incorporate it into your smoothies and cocktails. You can make a salsa with papaya or simply enjoy it with yoghurt!