12 evidence-based health benefits of papaya

Emily Hutchinson, SATI STAFF

Papaya is my all time favorite fruit. If you’ve never tried it, then you really should, because not only is it really delicious, but it also brings with it a huge amount of health benefits. The flavor of papaya is rather hard to describe as it’s unlike any other fruit. A little bit like melon, perhaps similar to a peach, a delicate and refreshing taste that is something rather special. For dieters, eating papaya is the perfect way to get that sweet fix without ruining your diet with cookies and chocolate. Papaya is easy to prepare and simple to eat so if you’ve never tried it before, don’t be put off by its exotic looks, it really is just like any other fruit. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and some powerful antioxidants, it’s no wonder papaya is well known for its health benefits. Read on and discover just how good for you papaya is. Once you’ve discovered the benefits of papaya I’m sure you’ll be adding it to your shopping list!

1. Papaya could protect you from cancer

Papaya contains lycopene and lycopene has been shown to reduce your chances of getting cancer [1]. It can also be of help to people who have cancer and are undergoing treatment for it. It is thought that lycopene helps to lower the amount of free radicals that can cause cancer and speed up the progression of cancer. Various fruits and vegetables have been studied for anti-cancer properties and only papaya has been found to aid in the reduction of breast cancer cells [2]. A healthy diet is a good start when you’re trying to keep yourself safe from cancer, and papaya is one of the most powerful fruits to eat when it comes to health benefits in the fight against cancer. It’s so worth adding it into your daily diet and making the most of these benefits.

2. Papaya can help to keep your skin looking young

Both lycopene, and vitamin C, which papaya has in abundance, can help to keep your skin looking younger [3]. They fight the free radicals that can cause age related skin damage such as saggy skin, fine lines and wrinkles. Studies have shown a reduction in the depth of wrinkles in older women who took a mixture of lycopene and vitamin C for a period of fourteen weeks [4]. Eat papaya and you could stay looking younger for longer! Research has shown that people who take a supplement of lycopene, the substance found in papaya, have skin that is less red when exposed to sun than people who have not taken lycopene [5]. Of course you mustn’t replace your sunscreen with papaya as it won’t protect you enough for that, but it really can help, especially on cooler days when you’re not applying sunscreen but those rays are still getting through and can still damage your skin.

3. Papaya is highly beneficial for your digestive system

There is an enzyme in papaya that aids your body is the digestion of protein. If you’re following a low carb, high protein diet, then eating papaya can really help you to get the most from your diet regime. It’s well known for helping to aid digestive ailments. People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and constipation often report that papaya has improved their symptoms. It’s a much more natural remedy than taking prescription medications and doesn’t come with the associated side effects that you may suffer when taking medication. It isn’t all anecdotal evidence either, one study involved giving people who suffered from bloating and constipation papaya for 40 days. The results showed a significant improvement in their symptoms [6].

4. Papaya is a great anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is often overlooked and not thought to be particularly worrying, but it can be the cause of many serious health issues. The foods we eat, and the life we lead can all contribute to increased inflammation. Papaya is high in antioxidants and it has been shown that these powerful antioxidants can help to reduce inflammation [7, 8]. It’s very important that we all do what we can to reduce inflammation. It’s something that creeps up on us, it’s not really obvious that we are suffering from it, so before we know it, inflammation has led on to some more serious condition. Keep inflammation at bay and you’re setting yourself in good stead for a long and healthy life. A good balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are all important for reducing inflammation. Eating papaya is a great way to get started.

5. Papaya is very nutritious

Many of us are lacking in vitamins and minerals. Papaya is a very good source of a huge range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants too. In one papaya you’ll be getting more than your daily requirements of vitamin C. You’ll also get good amounts of vitamin A and vitamin B9, commonly known as folate. Papaya is rich in potassium and you will also get some vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium. Papaya contains plenty of fiber and some protein too. Interestingly, our bodies can absorb the antioxidants from papaya more easily than those from other fruits and vegetables [9]. You get all this for just 59 calories, so you certainly won’t pile on the pounds when you’re eating papaya regularly!

6. Papaya is great for weight loss

Papaya is low in calories and being quite a dense fibrous fruit, it’s also rather filling. It’s so tasty, you feel as if you’re having a naughty sweet treat even when you’re not! By eating papaya you’re more likely to stick to your diet. Papaya is so versatile, it makes a tasty breakfast, a delicious dessert and it’s perfect for a snack. Papaya is really great if you’re dieting and it fits in with most diet types such as low-carb diets, vegan and vegetarian diets, the paleo diet and many more. Have some papaya slices to hand for when you feel hungry between meals and you’ll be far less likely to snack on high calorie, unhealthy foods such as candy, chocolate, chips and cookies. It is high in fiber so if you have papaya for breakfast, you shouldn’t feel hungry again until it’s lunchtime.

7. Papaya may help to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease

New research has even shown that papaya could be useful against Alzheimer’s disease. This terrible disease is traumatic for both the sufferer and those around them. Anything we can do to ease the symptoms is worth trying, and by eating papaya, you don’t have to worry about any adverse side effects adding to the discomfort of the patient. Papaya helps to reduce free radicals and it is thought that free radicals in the brain are a major contributory factor with Alzheimer’s disease [10]. One highly interesting study showed that when Alzheimer’s sufferers were given papaya extract for six months, their levels of a marker of oxidative DNA damage was reduced by forty percent [11].

8. Papaya is good for heart health

As I’ve mentioned, papaya is full of beneficial antioxidants, and they are easily absorbed by the body. It is thought that these antioxidants can boost the effect of HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is what we call ‘good cholesterol’. The HDL particles are not harmful to us, indeed they actually help to transform the ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol particles into a less harmful form [12]. So eating papaya can actually help to reduce your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and so can lower your risks of heart disease that could lead to a stroke, a heart attack or type 2 diabetes. Studies have confirmed this, with a reduction of inflammation and a more preferable LDL:HDL cholesterol ratio after subjects having taken a fermented papaya supplement over a period of 14 weeks. This was compared to a group that had taken a placebo [13].

9. Papaya may help to protect your eyesight

Papaya contains a particular antioxidant called beta-carotene. This has been shown to improve your eyesight and reduce your risks of the disease macular degeneration. This is a disease of the eye that causes the cells to degenerate. This can lead to blurred vision, and ultimately blindness. Macular degeneration is most common in older people. Studies have shown that eating 3 portions of fruit that contains beta-carotene on a daily basis, can help to lower your risks of age-related macular degeneration [14]. Currently there is not a huge amount of evidence to back up these claims, but it certainly can’t hurt to add some extra papaya into your diet anyway. There are plenty of other well proven health benefits.

10. Use papaya to get beautiful hair

Papaya is beneficial even without eating it! It has various benefits for your hair if you make a mask out of it. The papaya flesh is high in vitamin A which will condition your hair leaving it feeling soft and well moisturised, but don’t discard the seeds. The seeds of the papaya have antifungal properties [15]. This can really help to cure your dandruff and prevent it from returning. To make a papaya hair mask, cut a papaya in half. Store the other half for later, or simply eat it! Peel the skin from the papaya half, cut it into chunks, leaving the seeds intact, and them put it in a blender. Blend until it forms a smooth paste. Then simply massage this into your scalp and leave for an hour before washing it off with your usual shampoo.

11. Eating papaya can help to control menstruation

If you have irregular menstruation or suffer from menstrual pain then adding papaya into your diet could help you. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain. This enzyme is known to ease and regulate the flow of menstrual blood. Additionally, papaya has some natural painkilling properties, so it can ease those nasty stomach cramps that come along during your time of the month. Also, papaya is known to stimulate the release of estrogen which can further help to regulate an irregular menstrual cycle.

12. Papaya can help to reduce your stress levels

Finally, the enzymes and vitamin C in papaya can help to lower your stress levels! In our modern world it seems as if there is something stressful around every corner. With work commitments, family, relationships and the sheer pace of the world today, it’s easy to find it all too much and become stressed about things. Stress is a huge killer, there are link between high stress levels and a massive list of serious and life threatening conditions and diseases. Keeping stress levels down is perhaps the most important thing we can do for the benefit of our health and to give us the longest possible lifespan. Stress levels are reduced when we take 200 mg of vitamin C on a daily basis. You’ll be impressed to hear that one large papaya contains a massive 476 mg of vitamin C. That’s more than enough to keep your stress levels under control.

Choosing your papaya

Now you’ve discovered all the health benefits of papaya, you may be thinking about giving them a try. One mistake many people make is to eat an unripe papaya and these are just not as juicy and flavorsome as a ripe papaya. Many stores will stock green papaya. These are not yet ripe and are likely to take a few days to ripen. Eventually your papaya will turn to yellow, then orange. Once it is yellow, you can test to see if it is properly ripe by pressing your finger into it. It should sink in slightly. If it feels hard then it needs longer. If a papaya is already mushy in the store or looks shrivelled then this is over ripe and you should pick a different one.

Should anyone avoid eating papaya?

While for the majority of us, papaya is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, there are some groups of people who may need to avoid papaya. Papaya contains latex which can trigger contractions in pregnant women, so if you are pregnant you should hold off from eating large amounts papaya until after you have given birth, although when consumed in small quantities, it can help to stop morning sickness. However, if your baby is overdue and you’re getting sick of waiting, perhaps papaya will be helpful in getting baby into the world a little sooner?

Papaya is high in vitamin C and this can cause kidney stones. If you are prone to kidney stones then you shouldn’t eat papaya in excess. Papaya also contain Papain which is an allergen. Some people with respiratory ailments such as asthma and hay fever find that their symptoms become worse when they eat papaya.

Eating too much papaya can also be problematic. Eat your papaya in moderation and you’re fine but if you simply love it and eat it for every meal, you could find that you suffer from stomach cramps. Also, if you are trying to conceive, it’s important not to overindulge in papaya as it can cause a lowered sperm count.

The Sati line

Papaya is delicious, refreshing and incredibly good for you. It will keep you looking young, but perhaps more importantly it will keep your heart and brain healthy and could even protect you from cancer. It is full of essential nutrients while being low in calories. For such a little calorie intake, you’re getting a whole host of vitamins and minerals. It’s the perfect food to eat when you’re on a diet and can really help you to achieve your weight loss goals. Unless you are pregnant, most of us can safely eat papaya without any side effects. Just remember, as with all fruit, not to overdo it as you could suffer from digestive troubles such as stomach cramps and diarrhoea. This versatile fruit can be used for any meal including savory dishes. Search for recipes using papaya on the internet, you’ll find plenty of inspiration and ideas on how to incorporate papaya into your daily diet. Give it a try, you might find it’s your new favorite fruit too!


References
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  2. García-Solís P, Yahia EM et al “Screening of antiproliferative effect of aqueous extracts of plant foods consumed in México on the breast cancer cell line MCF-7” (2009) 32-46
  3. Kammerer A and Luiten RM “Oxidation events and skin aging” (2015): 16-29
  4. Jenkins G, Wainwright LJ et al “Wrinkle reduction in post-menopausal women consuming a novel oral supplement: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study” (2014): 22-31
  5. Stahl W, Heinrich U et al “Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection” (2006) 238-42
  6. Muss C, Mosgoeller W and Endler T “Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders” (2013): 38-46
  7. Abdullah M, Chai PS et al “Carica papaya increases regulatory T cells and reduces IFN-γ+ CD4+ T cells in healthy human subjects” (2011): 803-6
  8. Watzi B, Kulling SE et al “A 4-wk intervention with high intake of carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruit reduces plasma C-reactive protein in healthy, nonsmoking men” (2005): 1052-8
  9. Schweiggert RM, Kopec RE et al “Carotenoids are more bioavailable from papaya than from tomato and carrot in humans: a randomised cross-over study” (2014): 490-8
  10. Zhao Y and Zhao B “Oxidative stress and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease” (2013): 316523
  11. Barbagallo M, Marotta F and Dominguez LJ “Oxidative stress in patients with Alzheimer’s disease: effect of extracts of fermented papaya powder” (2015):624801
  12. Somanah J, Aruoma OI et al “Effects of a short term supplementation of a fermented papaya preparation on biomarkers of diabetes mellitus in a randomized Mauritian population” (2012):Suppl:S90-7
  13. Millán J, Pintó X et al “Lipoprotein ratios: Physiological significance and clinical usefulness in cardiovascular prevention” (2009): 757-65
  14. Li B, Vachali PP et al “Retinal accumulation of zeaxanthin, lutein, and β-carotene in mice deficient in carotenoid cleavage enzymes” (2007): 159:123-131
  15. Onkar Singh and M. Ali “Phytochemical and Antifungal Profiles of the Seeds of Carica Papaya L” (2011): 447-451