Papaya Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Papaya, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Papayas are a mildly sweet, soft, greenish/yellow fruit shaped like a large pear, weighing in at about 1 to 2 pounds. Due to their sweetness, you may be confused as to whether or not papayas are a healthy choice. Luckily, papayas are high in fiber and loaded with key nutrients like vitamin C and A.

Papayas add versatility to recipes and can be puréed for sweet and savory sauces, soups, or sorbets. Papayas also make for a good marinade, as they have an enzyme called papain which breaks down for tenderizing meat.

Papaya Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (145g) of raw papaya sliced into one-inch cubes.

  • Calories: 62
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 11.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 16g
  • Fiber: 2.5g
  • Sugars: 11g
  • Protein: 0.7g

Carbs

Papaya is a low-calorie fruit containing just 62 calories per cup. Most of the calories in papaya come from carbohydrates. There are almost 16 grams of carbohydrate in a serving of papaya including fiber (2.5 grams) and naturally-occurring sugars (about 11 grams). The glycemic index of papaya is 60 and the glycemic load is 9.

Fats

There is almost no fat in papaya, with each 1-cup serving containing less than 1 gram.

Protein

Papayas provide less than 1 gram of protein per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Papaya is rich in vitamin C, providing 88.3 milligrams per serving. For most adults, the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C is between 75–90 milligrams, so 1 cup of papaya just about covers 100% of vitamin C requirements. Papayas are also an excellent source of vitamin A and more specifically, the carotenoid lycopene.

Health Benefits

Due to their high nutrient content, papayas offer health benefits for the whole body. Keep your cells healthy and protected from damage with papaya's potent antioxidant vitamins.

Improves Skin

Vitamin C is a precursor that our bodies use to manufacture collagen. Because collagen is a critical component required for skin integrity, getting enough vitamin C improves your skin's ability to repair itself. To build strong connective tissues and heal properly from wounds, our bodies depend on vitamin C. Luckily, papaya is an easy way to reach your daily goals.

Protects Vision

Vitamin A is critical for good vision, and papayas are an excellent source. Beta carotene is the form of vitamin A that we consume in fruits, vegetables, and some protein foods. You may have heard that carrots are good for your eyes, but studies show the beta-carotene in papayas is three-times more bioavailable (i.e., easy to absorb) than the beta carotene in carrots or tomatoes.

For people with the beginning stages of age-related macular degeneration, adequate beta carotene intake has been associated with reducing the risk and severity of disease progression. Because vitamin A supplements have the potential to cause toxicity (since vitamin A is stored in the body and can build up to unsafe levels), food sources, like papaya, are a safe, healthy way to get this beneficial micronutrient.

Aids Digestion

Like most fruits and vegetables, papayas are rich in fiber which is essential for good digestion. Beyond this fundamental benefit, papayas also contain the enzyme papain. Papain helps break down proteins. If you have difficulty chewing or digesting meat, tenderizing it with papain before cooking makes it easier to eat.

Papain has also been studied for its ability to assist with gluten digestion in people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. When provided an enzyme mixture derived from papayas and microorganisms, symptoms of gluten intolerance were shown to improve with no negative side effects of note.

Supports Heart Health

The fiber in papayas helps pull toxins and cholesterol out of the body. Fiber also increases satiety, which can help with healthy weight management. Eating enough fiber (especially through fruits and vegetables) decreases the risk of heart disease. Papayas also provide potassium, magnesium, and pantothenic acid. All of which contribute to cardiovascular health.

Helps Prevent Cancer

The consumption of plant-based foods that are high in fiber is a well-established dietary pattern associated with cancer prevention. Furthermore, the combination of vitamins A, C, and E in papayas provide powerful antioxidant effects that work to decrease free radicals and reduce overall cancer risk.

Allergies

Papaya allergies are possible. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI) reports that if you are allergic to mango, pistachios, or cashew, you may also react when exposed to papaya. Latex allergies may also be associated with papaya allergies.

If you suspect an allergy to papaya or one of the other substances noted, speak to your healthcare provider for a personalized medical diagnosis.

When It's Best

Papayas are available all year long with their peak season from April to June. They're grown in warm climates and most often imported from tropical and subtropical locations.

Papaya has a taste that is unlike most fruits, with a creamy mouthfeel and a mild flavor. Papaya's taste is often compared to that of a melon, but less sweet and with a softer texture. Sometimes papaya can have a distinct smell described as a feet smell, with little to no flavor. Typically this means that the fruit is not ripe. To get the full flavor of papaya, it must be very ripe.

Storage and Food Safety

Papayas can be stored at room temperature until completely ripe and then refrigerated for up to one week. The best determinant of ripeness is color, not softness. Select papayas that have a greater proportion of yellow to green skin color. The greener the papaya the less ripe it is. Avoid papayas that contain blemishes and choose those that are plump and smooth.

If you'd like to ripen your papayas more quickly, place the whole fruit in a paper bag with a ripe banana. Ripe bananas naturally release ethylene gas which helps fruit to ripen faster.

Before cutting into fresh papaya, be sure to wash your hands and rinse the papaya under running water to clean off any bacteria or dirt on the skin that can transfer onto the knife while cutting. Once cut, store papaya in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.

How to Prepare

You can incorporate papaya into your meal plan at any time of day. Papayas add flavor and color to meals while packing in a nutritional punch. Slice papaya, remove the skin and eat it plain or with a squirt of lemon or lime. Blend papaya to make smoothies, sweet and spicy sauces, chilled soups, or protein marinades. Dice papayas and add to fruit salads, salsas, or compote. Papaya's black-colored seeds are also edible and have a distinctly bitter flavor. These can be roasted or eaten raw. With so many health benefits to offer, papayas are certainly worth experimenting with.

Recipes

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Article Sources

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