Papaya is a spherical, tropical fruit. It’s native to southern Mexico and Central America. Its bright orange flesh has the texture of a melon. The black seeds inside, which are also edible, are bitter. Besides its deliciously sweet taste, there are many other reasons to enjoy a serving of papaya.

Read on to discover 13 health benefits of this fruit.

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One cup of papaya cut into 1-inch pieces contains:

  • 2.5 grams of fiber
  • 264 milligrams (mg) of potassium
  • 88.3 mg of vitamin C
  • 54 ug of folate
  • 30 mg magnesium
  • 0.068 mg of vitamin A

Antioxidants prevent or delay cell damage from free radicals, which are the chemicals responsible for these harmful effects. Among the list of familiar antioxidants are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene. All of these are found in substantial amounts in papaya.

Compared to higher sugar fruits like bananas, cherries, and grapes, papaya is a better choice for those watching their carbohydrate or sugar intake. One cup of cubed papaya contains about 11 grams of sugar.

There are about 60 calories in 1 cup of cubed papaya, making it a perfect snack or addition to a meal. Try these Tropical Papaya Boats or this Papaya Banana Smoothie recipe to get your fix.

Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which helps to break down protein like meat, as well as other foods. If you struggle with digestive issues, or have overindulged in meat, enjoying a slice of papaya may calm your stomach. You can buy papain supplements on their own, but with all of papaya’s other benefits, why not just eat the fruit?

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The enzyme papain also helps soften and revitalize skin. It contains vitamins A and C, which can help reduce wrinkles and fade spots. Specifically, vitamin C helps the body make collagen, which aids in diminishing wrinkles. Whip up this homemade papaya face scrub to start reaping these benefits.

Vitamins like A, C, and E, all present in papaya, help to strengthen the immune system. This can help prevent colds and other infections.

Papaya’s vitamin A promotes good vision. Vitamin A’s eye benefits are important: Without it, certain pigments required to see the full spectrum of light will not be produced. Vitamin A is also needed to nourish the cornea. Without an adequate supply in your diet, your eyes cannot produce enough moisture to keep them properly lubricated.

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Papaya contains lycopene, which has been shown to keep cholesterol from oxidizing, therefore lowering levels. In one study, people who took a fermented papaya supplement for 14 weeks had less inflammation and a better LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio than people who were given a placebo. An improved ratio is linked to reduced risk of heart disease.

An anti-inflammatory diet helps reduce the painful symptoms of arthritis. Papaya contains many anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals, so it’s a good choice for those with this condition.

It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, so consuming papaya will help promote hair and nail growth as part of a balanced diet. You can even make a papaya hair mask at home to nourish hair.

Research has suggested that papaya leaf tea promotes “anticancer activity.” In a 2010 study, researchers noted that the tea, made from dried papaya leaves, boosted production of molecules called Th1-type cytokines. These regulated the immune system in lab-grown tumors, including cancers of the:

  • cervix
  • breast
  • liver
  • lung
  • pancreas

In one study, researchers gave 60 children either a mixture of air-dried papaya seeds and honey, or just honey alone. Of the group who ate the papaya seeds and honey, 76 percent of them were clear of parasites. Of the group who had honey alone, only about 17 percent of them were cured.

Exercise caution when eating papaya seeds, though. Large quantities can cause stomach upset.

Papaya has many amazing health benefits to take advantage of. However, there are a few words of caution. Remember to consume papaya in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet. Though the odor from fresh, ripe papaya may be offending to some people, it does not indicate that the papaya is bad. Most papaya available in the United States is genetically modified and grown in Hawaii. If this concerns you, purchase organic papaya.

If you’re allergic to latex, don’t eat unripe papaya because you may be allergic to it. If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of papaya.