Believed to be a native of Central America, the papaya tree held a revered place in the Mayan civilization for its medicinal properties. The great voyager Christopher Columbus is said to have named this, ‘the fruit of the angels’. What makes our unassuming papaya fruit so special? Let’s find out!
Benefits of Eating Papaya
- Digestion: An enzyme called papain in the papaya fruits helps digestion by breaking down proteins. A glass of papaya juice is often said to relieve constipation and digestion-related problems. The fruit is also high in water and fibres, two major elements that help prevent constipation and promotes smooth bowel movements.
- Heart disease: The fibre, vitamins and the potassium-rich flesh of the papaya fruit can help ward off heart diseases.
- Anti-inflammatory: The vitamins and antioxidants present in papaya eradicate chronic inflammation. The choline present in the fruit helps in muscle development and plays an important role in establishing strong memory pathways. The anti-inflammatory choline also protects our cell membrane integrity, fat absorption, quick nerve impulse transmission and good sleep.
- Healthy growth: The papaya fruit is a rich source of Vitamins A, B, C and K which promotes the growth of healthy skin, hair and tissues. A medium-sized papaya can fulfil your recommended daily vitamin intake levels twice.
- Anti-oxidant: The rich anti-oxidant content of the papaya fruit with its phytonutrients works against free radicals that can protect your body from oxidative damage. It can also be beneficial in preventing cancer.
- Diabetes: Raw papaya is especially good for diabetes. A study in Mauritius found that fermented papaya and green tea have the power to prevent diabetes. The bitter flowers of the papaya fruit are eaten lightly sautéed as a treatment for diabetes in many parts of northeast India. The high fibre, low GI and quality nutrients make it a good snack for suffering diabetics and those looking to prevent diabetes.
- Hair: The high Vitamin A is a useful agent for epithelial maturation, helping hair growth. The high Vitamin C content is also useful in synthesizing collagen, the basic building blocks of our hair.
- Immunity: A medium-sized papaya can fulfil your daily recommended vitamin c intake twice over – vitamin C is an important agent in helping your body fight infections and diseases. The fibres and nutrients of this tropical fruit can help keep your immunity in tip-top shape.
- Anti-bacterial: The flesh of the papaya fruit has wound-healing powers, thanks to the antibacterial papain and chymopapain enzymes found in abundance there. Clean flesh of papaya can be used as a skin dressing to treat burn wounds. Papain included ointments are good for treating bed sores and pressure sores (decubitus ulcers)
- Cholesterol: The rich antioxidants, vitamin C and fibre in the papaya fruit prevents the deposit of cholesterol in your arteries, thereby reducing the risk for stroke, heart attack and hypertension.
- Cravings: This fibre-rich fruit is low in calories and has a low glycaemic index. It can keep you feeling full for a long time, reducing cravings.
- Arthritis: The inflammation-reducing property of this angelic fruit can keep various types of arthritis at bay.
- Eyesight: The large doses of Vitamin A present in papaya helps keep your eyes healthy. The Zeaxanthin present in papaya is a powerful antioxidant that filters out harmful ultraviolet rays and protects our eye cells from damage, especially helping in macular degeneration that advances with age.
- Bones: The Vitamin K in papaya aids the absorption of calcium in our body for healthier bones. It also prevents the loss of calcium through urine, lowering the incidence of bone fractures on impact.
- Stress: The abundant Vitamin C in papayas regulates the levels of stress hormones circulating in the body to benefit your state of mind. A bowl of papaya every day can help you wind down from the stresses of the day.
- Wrinkles: Papaya is a favourite masking ingredient for many, but not without reason. Papayas help build collagen in your body, keeping away any signs of ageing or wrinkles from you.
- Cramps: Eating papaya regularly can help with the awful menstrual cramps. The enzyme papain present in the fruit helps in even contracting of the uterus muscles, easing the painful cramps. Also, the carotene content of papaya regulates the oestrogen hormone levels in our body, correcting irregular periods.
- Asthma: The beta carotene in papaya can help reduce asthma when taken in high quantities.
- Cancer: The regular intake of a fibre rich and nutrient-rich food like papaya is linked with reduced risk of cancer. Regular consumption of beta carotene from a very young age can help reduce the risk of prostate and colorectal cancer.
- Abortifacient: Raw, unripe papaya is said to be an abortifacient, promoting uterine contractions when consumed in large levels.
- Ringworm: The flesh of the papaya fruit is particularly helpful in healing ringworm lesions.
- Alzheimer’s: In a disease like Alzheimer’s where the exact causative factor is still unknown, finding a remedy to it is a challenge. Regular intake of extracts of fermented papaya powder by Alzheimer’s patients has been found to slow down the progression of the disease. It is not yet established if the regular papaya flesh would have the same effects.
- Kidneys: The potassium present in papayas is a huge supporter of healthy kidneys. This nutrient clears out the toxins deposited in our kidneys and lowers the accumulation of uric acid circulating in our bloodstream. The flavonoids present in the papaya seeds are also very useful in preventing the kidney cells from dysfunctioning.
Other parts of the Papaya Tree
The incredible list of health benefits does not stop with just the fruit – the whole tree is a host of amazing remedies! The papaya leaves are especially helpful in treating dengue fever, has anti-malarial properties, cures skin problems, lowers blood sugar, maintains liver health and eases menstrual pain. The flowers of this tropical plant are also rich in bioactive compounds that have anti-allergic, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. The seeds are micronutrient-rich as well, benefiting its users in many different ways.
The best time to eat papaya
Papayas suit themselves well into all courses of the day. A cup of papaya with a healthy breakfast can give you the boost to get your day running with fully recharged energy. On the other hand, papayas also can help you ward off that late evening hunger pangs that make you consume all sorts of junk food. If you are keen on weight loss, pairing papayas with a good source of protein can make the perfect pair that helps lose the unwanted extra pounds.
Side effects of eating papaya
Although this affordable little fruit is an explosion of health benefits, papaya might not be for all. You must not go near this tropical fruit in the following conditions:
- If you are allergic to latex, stay away from papaya. The chitinases in the papaya can cause a cross-reaction with latex, creating some trouble for you.
- Besides its umpteen health benefits, the root and seeds of the papaya plant are abortifacient agents. Unripe papayas can also encourage uterine contractions. Though fully ripe papayas are not as risky, be prepared to consume it only in teeny amounts if you are experiencing a risky pregnancy.
- The healthy enzyme papain can be not so healthy for growing foetuses. When taken in large amounts, papain can be toxic for babies and might even cause birth defects.
- The blood sugar lowering property of papaya can be detrimental to you if you are already on strong medications to keep your BP and blood sugar under control. It may cause sudden drops in BP and sugar if consumed in large quantities.
- The seeds of the papaya tree are potent male fertility demolishers. Taking papaya seed extract every day can bring sperm count to zero and reduce sperm motility. The effects can be reversed if the papaya seed intake is stopped for 45 days. This is an ancient method of fertility control that can be a benefit and bane. Keep an eye on your papaya intake if you are getting treatments for infertility.
- The papaya tree is a classified weak cyanogen, that is, it produces a tiny amount of cyanide, a lethal poison. If you are a human weighing 1 kg, eating 12,000 papaya leaves at a time can kill you via cyanide poisoning. You must ensure to stay away from eating that many papayas or papaya leave at a time.
Our humble papaya is not just delicious – it has many amazing health benefits too! We hope you loved this collection of the health benefits of a papaya! Keep watching this space for more health updates!