Health from your Gardens, IX – Papaya Fruit

Papaya is an exotic fruit with numerous health benefiting macro and micro nutrients. It is loved by one and all not only for its taste but also for many nutritive, digestive and medicinal properties. It originated in Central America, but now grown extensively all over the globe. Botanically it belongs to “Caricaceae” family in genus “Carica” and botanically called “carica papaya”.

Papaya is a large tree-like plant with a single stem 5-10 m tall; has spirally arranged palmately lobed leaves, 50-70 cm long and on a long stem. As the trunk grows, the lower leaves fall off leaving a scarred stem. Trees are unbranched unless lopped. Flowers form at the junction of stem of leaves with the tree trunk, looking similar to “plumeria” flowers and mature into large fruit 15-45 cm long and 10-30 cm in diameter. The green fruit is ready for picking when areas of amber to orange patches appear and yields to finger pressure. Inside the fruit, the flesh has yellow or pink hues, is soft and has a delicious sweet musky taste and rich flavour. In the hollow of the fruit are numerous black pepper like seeds encased in a mucinous coating

Papaya plant with fruits

Ripe papaya cut open

Papaya plants come in three sexes: “male,” “female,” and “hermaphrodite.” The male produces only pollen, no fruit. The female produces small, inedible fruits unless pollinated. The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowers contain both male stamens and female ovaries. Almost all commercial papaya orchards contain only hermaphrodites

Nutritional profile:
Raw papaya fruit per 100 g:

Energy – 43 kcal’s
Carbohydrates – 10.82 g
Sugar – 7.82 g
Proteins – 0.47 g
Dietary Fibre – 1.7 g
cholesterol – 0
Vitamins : A (1094 IU), C (61.8 mg, 103% DRI)& Folates and traces of many others like B1,2,3,5,6,9 and E ,K etc

Minerals : Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium etc
Lycopene – 1828 microgm.

Health benefits:

  • Papaya fruit is low in calories and cholesterol free, but is a rich source of Vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients.
  • Ripe fruit is soft, easily digestible and rich in fibres and hence helps in good bowel movement and avoids constipation if taken regularly.
  • The fruit has one of the highest Vitamin C content,(more than in orange and lime) which has several health benefits like as anti-oxidant, immune booster and anti-inflammatory action.
  • It is a very good source of Vit. A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, lutein and cryptoxanthin. Vitamin A is needed for healthy linings in body and also for good vision. All these have anti-oxidant and anti-ageing and some anti-cancer (lungs and mouth) properties too.
  • The fruit also contains many B-complex group of vitamins and potassium having many beneficial effects on body metabolism and cardio protective action.
  • Papaya seeds are used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic and analgesic properties and used to treat stomach-aches and ringworm infections.


  • Unripe papaya is not to be eaten raw as it contains toxic alkaloids in its milky latex.
  • The milky latex can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
  • Though ripened fruit can be safely and beneficially used by pregnant women, unripe papaya should be avoided as it contains high levels of “papain”, a proteolytic enzyme.
  • The unripe fruit, seeds, latex and leaves also contain an alkaloid “carpaine”, which could be very harmful in high doses.
  • Unripe papaya, however, can be safely consumed as a cooked vegetable.

  • In some Asian countries the papaya leaves are steamed and eaten like spinach.

Culinary & other uses:

  • The green papaya fruit and the tree’s latex, rich in papain are used for tenderizing meat and other proteins. It is a component of commercially available meat tenderizers.
  • The ripe papaya fruit is eaten raw without its seeds and skin. Eating this fruit daily along with 2-4 other fruit varieties is highly beneficial for maintaining good health.
  • Unripe green fruit can be cooked and used in a variety of dishes like curries, sambars, salads and stews.
  • In South-east Asian cooking the unripe fruits, leaves and flower buds are used in Thai and Indonesian cuisine.
  • The black papaya seeds are edible and has a sharp spicy taste; they are dried and ground and used instead of pepper powder.
  • In some Asian countries the papaya leaves are steamed and eaten like spinach.

Papaya salad

Papaya Badam Burfi

Summary :
Papaya is an all season delicious fruit and packed with various micro nutrients promoting good digestion, smooth bowel movements and various other health benefits. It is easily grown in any back yard or even in a terrace. One or two plants generally yield sufficient fruits for the whole family all through the year. It is recommended to be eaten with 2-3 other varieties of fruits twice daily ideally an hour before meals.
Eat fruits and raw vegetables as salads with your meals, up to 50% of your entire meal.

Be knowledgeable, follow healthy life style and enjoy good health,

Best Wishes,
Compiled by Dr M Mohan Rao,
Managing Director and Chief Surgeon (Retired),
Dr U Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital, Chennai.
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