Papaya is a fruit beloved for both its delicious flavor and exceptional nutrient profile.
Unfortunately, many people often discard its seeds and favor the fruit’s sweet flesh.
What they don’t realize is that the seeds are not only edible but also highly nutritious.
However, some side effects may need to be considered before eating them.
This article takes a closer look at the pros and cons of eating papaya seeds and how they can affect your health.
Papaya seeds contain a variety of essential micronutrients.
They’re especially high in polyphenols and flavonoids, two compounds that act as antioxidants to help promote better health (1).
Antioxidants fight disease-causing free radicals to prevent oxidative stress and ward off chronic diseases (2).
According to one study in people with type 2 diabetes, a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids could decrease triglyceride levels by 19% and harmful very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol levels by 22% (4).
Not to mention, papaya seeds supply a hearty dose of fiber as well.
Increasing your fiber intake can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Higher fiber consumption has also been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity (5).
Summary Papaya seeds are a good source of many important nutrients, including antioxidants, monounsaturated fats and fiber.
In addition to providing several key nutrients, papaya seeds are linked to a number of potential health benefits.
Can Help Fight Infections
Studies show that papaya seeds can destroy certain types of fungi and parasites.
According to one test-tube study, papaya seed extract was effective against three different strains of fungi, including the specific pathogen responsible for causing yeast infections (6).
However, further large-scale studies are needed to determine how eating papaya seeds may impact fungal and parasitic infections in humans.
May Protect Kidney Function
Your kidneys play an integral role in health, acting as a filter to remove waste and excess fluid from your body.
Research suggests that eating papaya seeds could protect and preserve the health and function of your kidneys.
One animal study found that papaya seed extract helped prevent kidney damage in rats given a medication to induce toxicity (8).
However, since research in this area is still limited to animal studies, more human-based studies are needed.
Could Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Thanks to their impressive nutrient and antioxidant profile, some studies show that papaya seeds could have anti-cancer properties.
One test-tube study found that papaya seed extract helped reduce inflammation and protect against cancer development (11).
Similarly, another test-tube study showed that black papaya seeds were effective in decreasing the growth of prostate cancer cells (12).
While these results are promising, additional studies are needed to evaluate the effects of papaya seeds on cancer growth in humans.
May Improve Digestive Health
Like other seeds, papaya seeds are a good source of fiber.
Fiber moves through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, adding bulk to your stool to promote regularity.
Upping your fiber intake may positively impact several other aspects of digestive health as well.
Summary Studies have found that papaya seeds could help fight infections, promote kidney health, protect against cancer and enhance digestive health.
Although papaya seeds have been associated with various health benefits, some potential health concerns surround them.
They May Decrease Fertility
Papaya seeds have also been shown to reduce fertility in some animal studies.
For example, one study found that administering large doses of papaya seed extract to monkeys caused a condition called azoospermia, which is characterized by a lack of sperm in the semen (17).
A rat study had similar findings, reporting that papaya seed extract reduced both sperm count and sperm motility. Interestingly, researchers found that these changes were reversed within 45 days after stopping treatment (18).
Note that these studies use a much higher dosage of papaya seeds than most people typically consume.
Human studies are needed to look at how papaya in regular amounts found in the diet may affect fertility.
Eating Too Many Could Be Harmful
Papaya seeds contain benzyl isothiocyanate, a compound also found in many types of cruciferous vegetables (19).
However, some research suggests that it could be harmful in large amounts.
For instance, one test-tube study showed that administrating benzyl isothiocyanate caused significant damage to DNA (23).
Meanwhile, a rat study found that it had a toxic effect on healthy cells (24).
Of course, these studies looked at the effects of very concentrated doses of benzyl isothiocyanate on animals and cells rather than in humans.
More research is needed to understand how the benzyl isothiocyanate found in a single serving of papaya seeds could affect human health.
Summary Animal and test-tube studies have found that compounds in papaya seeds may reduce fertility and could have toxic effects on cells and DNA when administered in concentrated amounts. Human studies are lacking.
Papaya seeds are highly nutritious, and their extracts have been associated with a number of health benefits, including cancer prevention and kidney protection.
They may have side effects in high doses, but these issues can easily be avoided by keeping your intake moderate and sticking to a few servings per day.
Next time you slice open a papaya, be sure to enjoy both the delicious flesh and the powerful seeds nestled inside to take advantage of the full range of health benefits they have to offer.