Papaya, also known as pawpaw is a dominant fruit in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. A native of tropical America (first grown in Mexico), this sweet tasting fruit was introduced in India by the Portuguese. 

It is believed that almost 40 types of papaya are cultivated throughout the world. They are pear-shaped fruits that can grow up to 20 inches long. Each piece can weigh between 0.49 kg to 1 kg. The ones commonly found in the market are usually about 7 inches long and weigh about 1 kg.

This refreshing and delicious fruit is full of vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten raw, made into a smoothie, salad or even a milkshake. Unripe fruit can be eaten as a vegetable

Papaya fruit also has a wide variety of health benefits. It contains natural fiber, carotene, vitamin C and other essential minerals that make this fruit beneficial for the skin, gut, and heart. Papaya is also indicated to have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, papaya fruit contains an enzyme called papain, which is used in cosmetics, manufacture of chewing gums, pharmaceutical industries, and adhesives. 

The best part? papaya can be easily grown in kitchen gardens and backyards. It grows quickly and starts bearing fruits within 8 to 10 months after it is planted and is available throughout the year.

Here are some facts about papaya that you may like to know:

  • Botanical name: Carica papaya.
  • Family: Caricaceae
  • Common name: Papaya is popularly called papaw or pawpaw. It is also sometimes referred to as “tree melon”
  • Sanskrit name: Erand karkati
  • Parts used: The fruit, leaves, flowers, stems, roots, and seeds can all be used for different purposes.
  • Origin: It is native to Mexico and northern South America. But now papaya is grown in almost all tropical areas of the world. In India, papaya is grown in many parts of the country. Major producers of this fruit in the country include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala in the south, West Bengal, Assam and Orissa in the east Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in the west and central India. 
  • Interesting Facts: India is the largest producer of papaya in the world. It produces about 3 million tonnes of papaya which is half of the world's total papaya production. India also exports papaya to its neighbouring countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and the Netherlands.
  1. Papaya nutrition facts
  2. Papaya health benefits
  3. Papaya side effects
  4. Takeaway

Papaya is rich in water content. This, along with the fiber present in papaya fruit, can be very helpful in reducing constipation. Papaya is also rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium and is low in sodium. The high potassium, low sodium content in papaya makes it ideal for people who suffer from cardiovascular diseases.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of raw papaya contains the following nutrients:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 88.06 g
Energy 43 kcal
Protein 0.47 g
Fat 0.26 g
Carbohydrate 10.82 g
Fiber 1.7 g
Sugars 7.82 g
Minerals  
Calcium 20 mg
Iron 0.25 mg
Magnesium 21 mg
Phosphorus 10 mg
Potassium 182 mg
Sodium 8 mg
Zinc 0.08 mg
Vitamins  
Vitamin A 47 µg
Vitamin B1 0.023 mg
Vitamin B2 0.027 mg
Vitamin B3 0.357 mg
Vitamin B6 0.038 mg
Vitamin B9 37 µg
Vitamin C 60.9 mg
Vitamin E 0.3 mg
Vitamin K 2.6 µg
Fats  
Saturated 0.081 g
Monounsaturated 0.072 g
Polyunsaturated 0.058 g

Papaya is enriched with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. This fruit is highly beneficial for the digestive system and is also effective in promoting skin health. 

Let's discuss some of the evidence-based health benefits of papaya plant.

Papaya benefits for skin

Papaya is loaded with vitamins, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that make it highly beneficial for the skin. 

First, the antioxidants present in papaya plant help fight free radical damage, which, may, in turn, aid in delaying skin ageing. Free radicals are singlet oxygen or hydroxyl molecules that are formed in the body as a result of normal metabolism. However, factors like poor diet, lifestyle and ageing may increase the accumulation of free radicals in the body. 

(Read more: Anti-ageing treatments)

Second, the anti-inflammatory effect of papaya may be helpful in the management of redness and swelling associated with acne.

Then, papaya contains a good amount of vitamin C and lycopene. Vitamin C is needed for the formation of collagen and elastin, two proteins that are responsible for providing shape and elasticity to the skin. So, consumption of papaya or application of papaya mask may aid in skin tightening.  

A research study showed that the consumption of a mixture of lycopene, vitamin C, and other antioxidants can help reduce wrinkles. Another study indicated that the use of lycopene supplement for 10-12 weeks showed a remarkable reduction in skin redness caused by overexposure to the sun.

(Read more: Age spots prevention)

Papaya is also indicated to have antifungal and antibacterial properties. A study conducted on papaya showed that papaya seeds have the ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and can be used to effectively treat chronic skin ulcers.

(Read more: Skincare routine for a flawless skin)

Papaya for asthma

Beta-carotene is a red-orange pigment that is essential to prevent asthma. This pigment is abundantly present in certain vegetables and fruits. One among those fruits is papaya. Togo, a place in West Africa continues to use plant-based medicine to treat many conditions. A study was conducted to see if this plant-based medicine of Togo can be used to treat asthma. Out of the 98 plants that were used for the study, one of the most important plants was papaya. Through this study, researchers were able to see initial evidence of using these plants to treat asthma.

(Read more: Exercises for asthma control)

Papaya for malaria treatment

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that affects millions of people worldwide every year. Antimalarial drug resistance is a big problem that keeps on recurring, posing a threat to the control and elimination of this disease. To avoid this, researchers keep on looking for new antimalarial drugs. In one such study, a group of researchers used a few traditional plants that people from southwest India use to treat malaria. Among these plants was papaya. Specific plant parts of these plants have shown a significant effect in preventing malaria.

In an animal based study done on mice, administration of papaya was found to be helpful in reducing the parasite load. Another preclinical study done on mice showed the antimalarial effects of the solvent extracts of papaya fruit and roots. 

(Read more: 10 most frequently asked questions about malaria)

Papaya benefits for dengue

Dengue fever is a viral disease that spreads mainly through mosquito bites. This disease affects many people in the world and in some cases, leads to death. Papaya leaves are one of the most popular herbal remedies used for the management of dengue fever and is believed to improve platelet count. Reduction in platelet count is one of the symptoms of dengue fever.

(Read more: Ayurvedic treatment for dengue fever)

Researchers have been trying to check if this belief holds true. Several studies have been done to assess the effects of papaya administration on dengue fever. A study shows that the juice of the papaya plant can help increase the platelet count of the affected patient. Another study shows that extract from the leaves of papaya can help reduce the fever.

A meta-analysis published in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies suggested that therapy with papaya may help reduce hospital stay and improve platelet count but due to the absence of good quality evidence, nothing could be said for sure as of yet.  

(Read more: What to eat and avoid in Dengue)

Papaya benefits for heart

Too much cholesterol build up can lead to a number of heart diseases such as heart attack, hypertension etc. The fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C present in papaya can help prevent the accumulation and oxidation of cholesterol in the arteries. So the chances of all these conditions are considerably reduced by adding more papaya to your diet.

(Read more: Best cardio exercises for heart health)

Papaya for Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease that causes dementia in the elderly. Patients with AD suffer a gradual deterioration of memory and other cognitive functions, which eventually leads to complete incapacity and death. Research shows that being rich in antioxidants, papaya (especially fermented papaya powder) may help in the management of Alzheimer’s disease. Free radical (reactive oxygen species) accumulation is one of the causes of Alzheimer's.

(Read more: Exercises and activities to prevent dementia)

Papaya for diabetes

Diabetes can be controlled by making a few changes to your diet. This includes increased intake of fiber, weight reducing strategies, and adding fruits, vegetables, and legumes that have a greater effect on forcing the action of insulin. Recent studies indicate that intake of fermented papaya preparation (FPP) supplements may cater to this problem. It has been inferred that the oral administration of FPP has the ability to produce a considerable decline in the level of plasma sugar in healthy persons as well as in patients with type-II diabetes.

However, if you are a diabetes patient, it is best that you talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.

(Read more: What not to eat in diabetes)

Papaya for inflammation

Inflammation is our body's natural response to injury. However, chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases. Unhealthy foods and lifestyle can further aggravate it. Papaya is a rich source of beta-carotene and other antioxidants. A research study found that a high intake of carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruits in healthy, nonsmoking men may lead to a decrease in inflammation.

Both in vitro (lab) and in vivo (animal) studies indicate that papaya contains active compounds that can help modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. However, there is no clinical evidence so far to prove the same.

(Read more: Inflammatory disease symptoms)

 

Papaya for digestion

An enzyme called papain is present in Papaya aids in digestion. From a therapeutic point of view, papain is held in high esteem for its digestive properties, which help to digest the proteins in the food. Being rich in water and loaded with dietary fiber, papaya helps prevent conditions like constipation, bloating, heartburn, painful bowel movements, and promotes overall digestive health.

(Read more: How to improve digestion)

The following are some of the side effects of papaya:

  1. Causes allergy and irritation
    Papaya may possibly cause allergic reactions in some people. The latex of papaya may irritate the skin. When a large number of papaya leaves are taken, they tend to irritate the stomach. It is also believed that papaya juice and papaya leaves tend to have adverse effects when taken orally. The papain in it tends to cause swelling, dizziness, headache, rashes, and itching.

  2. Papaya may cause miscarriage
    Papaya may be harmful to pregnant women. It can cause abortion. Traditionally, papaya is considered a ‘hot’ fruit. Raw and semi-ripe papayas have latex in high concentrations, which can cause uterine contractions and lead to abortions. Research says that abortion can be induced by eating unripe papaya for three consecutive days. Further, research also states that papain in papaya suppresses progesterone (a sex hormone) that is needed to prepare the uterus for conception. Papain may also damage certain membranes in the woman’s body that are essential for fetal development. When it comes to the side effects of papaya during breastfeeding, the evidence is not very clear.  If you are pregnant or nursing, it is advisable to consult your physician before consuming papaya.

  1. Papaya may damage the food pipe
    Overconsumption of papaya may possibly result in the damage of the esophagus, the food pipe that connects your throat to the stomach.

  1. Papaya may cause low blood sugar
    There is limited research on this but, some sources suggest that people suffering from low blood sugar may experience a further fall in their blood glucose levels with the consumption of fermented papaya. It may also drastically reduce the blood pressure of persons who already suffer from low blood pressure.

  1. Papaya seeds may lower male fertility
    Papaya seeds extracts are believed to have a negative effect on male fertility. It reduces the mobility of sperms in males. Research conducted on male rats showed that reversible sterility could be induced in male rats using papaya seeds’ aqueous extract treatment without adverse effects on libido and toxicological profile. Fertility and other associated changes returned to normal within 30 - 45 days after the consumption of papaya seeds was stopped. However, due to the absence of conclusive evidence, nothing could be said for sure.

Papaya possesses potential anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antioxidant effects. Papaya leaves are specially suggested to have great medicinal value in dengue due to their potential platelet improving effects. Although papaya has potential side effects including a possible allergic reaction, and reduction in blood glucose and blood sugar levels, moderate consumption is said to be beneficial and may help keep you healthy.


Medicines / Products that contain Papaya

References

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