Nutritional Benefits of Papaya Fruit, Seeds, Flowers, and Leaves

The papaya tree has more to offer than just the ripe fruit
The papaya tree has more to offer than just the ripe fruit | Source

More Than Just a Tropical Fruit

Papaya is a favourite fruit of mine. I love it's sweet, soft flesh and strong tropical fragrance. Growing up around papaya trees taught me more about the various uses of the fruit as well as the plant itself. I remember family coming around when my dad was sick and showing us how to boil down the leaves, sees and unripe fruit to assist with healing. It also became clear to me that while there are pockets of knowledge about papaya, many people are not aware of the wider benefits and myriad of uses of the papaya plant.

Various cultures around the world have turned to papaya in the past for healing from a range of ailments. In addition to this, at an industrial and commercial level a number of uses have been found for the various parts of the plant.

How to Tell When Papaya Is Ripe

Ripe papayas are best eaten when the skin is yellow orange and slightly soft to the touch with a distinctive fragrance. Although it is good enough to be eaten alone, by far the best way I have ever learnt to prepare papaya is by mashing it into a bowl and adding a little lime juice. Failing that, use papaya in fruit salads, smoothies, or add it to baked goods as a puree - the way you would add mashed bananas or pureed cooked apple to recipes. It is also used in India as the main ingredient in papaya halwa and is excellent dried.

Ripe papaya flesh is rich in antioxidants and has a high Vitamin A content and is high in dietary fiber. Meanwhile, the mashed flesh is popular as a skin exfoliant as it helps remove dead skin cells. While a number of parts of the papaya plant can be consumed it is clear from research that ripe papayas have the highest antioxidant activity (84.04%) followed by unripe papaya (81.35%) and then papaya leaves (78.03%) with the seeds having the least antioxidant activity at a still reasonably high 75.35% (Maisarah AM, Asmah R, Fauziah O, 2014).

Ripe papayas are rich in Vitamin C
Ripe papayas are rich in Vitamin C

Papaya Peel for the Skin

Use ripe papaya peel for skin care by rubbing the fleshy side of the peel on the skin and allowing to dry, then rinsing. Papaya vinegar can be prepared by soaking the peel in vinegar for a few weeks and then removing it. Apply the resulting liquid to the hardened skin on the feet to soften and remove dead skin.

Eat it Green

Green papaya can also be eaten and is most commonly used as the main ingredient in papaya salads. However, it also makes a good curry, and can be made into Indian and Asian pickles as well. Being exceptionally bland when cooked, it can be used to bulk out recipes like stews, in place of other less distinctive vegetables like swede.

Green papaya is a rich source of papain - an enzyme that breaks down proteins. It can be taken in pill form to assist with digestive issues, but it is also present in smaller amounts in the ripe fruit.

Green papaya is a popular ingredient in many savoury dishes
Green papaya is a popular ingredient in many savoury dishes | Source
Young papaya leaves are said to have medicinal properties
Young papaya leaves are said to have medicinal properties | Source

Young Leaves Have Medicinal Properties

Young papaya leaves can be made into a herbal tea that is said to have healing properties - some of which may even assist in the management of cancer.

Surprisingly, the use of papaya leaves has also been found to be a successful herbal remedy in the treatment of dengue fever. Papaya leaves are crushed till the juice is extracted then the mixture is strained. Then the juice is fed to sufferers every few hours. This has been a traditional remedy for dengue fever in some societies and studies carried out (Kala, 2012) in recent years have confirmed that the juice does actually assist the patients by increasing the platelet count.

Tea made from papaya leaves can also be used to relieve menstrual issues.

Papaya leaf can be bought in super concentrated liquid form for those not able to access fresh papaya leaves.

Studies Find Papaya Leaves Can Help Manage Cancer

Did you know that there are both male and female papaya flowers?

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Eat Papaya Flowers, But Just the Male Ones

People generally avoid eating the male papaya flowers or buds as they tend to have a bitter taste. However, there are techniques used to get rid of this. Some people simply blanch the flowers, but this is not considered the best method. In Malaysia they remove the bitterness by lightly cooking the flowers together with another plant before discarding that plant and cooking the flowers alone again with other flavourings.

Cassava leaves can also be used to remove the bitterness of papaya flowers, as shown in this Stir Friend Papaya Flowers with Cassava Leaf recipe.

Male papaya flowers can be eaten
Male papaya flowers can be eaten | Source

Papaya Seeds for Skin Care

If you have ever mistakenly eaten a papaya seed you will agree that it is not a pleasant experience. But regardless of this, papaya seeds can actually be used as a food. Dried, they can replace pepper and can even be used as an ingredient in salad dressings. Papaya seeds are also eaten as a natural remedy to fight parasitic infections. This anti-parasitic property is possibly due to the papain content in the seeds.

Papaya seeds can be used ground up as an an exfoliant in homemade face scrubs. Furthermore, Papaya oil is extracted from the seeds and used to treat skin conditions and even skin tone. This oil is used to make soaps and lotions that are purported to have acne fighting properties.

Papaya seeds can be used in place of pepper
Papaya seeds can be used in place of pepper | Source

Make Papaya Count

The papaya plant with it's myriad of uses is not widely understood. Research continues into the various benefits of the plant and fruit, and their healing properties, but in the meantime we can be sure of a good many benefits.

Even with our current knowledge of this plant it is clearly not taken advantage of by most people. We are accustomed to throwing away the peel and seeds out of habit, and never even utilise the leaves and fruit for their beneficial properties - even though these parts of the plant are often the most potent.

In a world where prescription pills, over-the counter medications and nutrient supplements are the norm, perhaps we are overlooking a powerful source of health and healing that we can find in our very kitchens.

Ways to Introduce More Papaya into Your Diet

  1. Experiment with using green papaya in your cooking. Try new recipes or use a little green papaya in stews and soups in addition to other ingredients
  2. Have some ripe papaya at breakfast with your cereal
  3. Make papaya juice
  4. Add papaya to fruit salads
  5. If you have room, grow your own papaya tree so you will have a good supply of different stages and parts of the papaya plant
  6. When papaya is in season buy the ripe fruit cheap, mash it and freeze in batches for additions to smoothies and to add to homemade ice cream
  7. Try using papaya seeds in salad dressings
  8. Experiment with recipes that include male papaya flowers
  9. Use ripe papaya in baking
  10. Eat dried papaya as a delicious sweet snack
  11. Make homemade papaya pickles

Comments 8 comments

Rota profile image

Rota 15 months ago Author

hi thumbi7, yes the papaya plant and fruit are so useful, im glad you learnt something from this article!

thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 15 months ago from India

We regularly eat raw and ripe papaya. But never heard about the uses of papaya leaves

Thanks for sharing

Rota profile image

Rota 21 months ago Author

Ahh papaya jam! Yes indeed, how cud I forget, one of my absolute favourites growing up. Never used it as a meat tenderizer though..have heard of that use through..Thanks for the comment!

sallybea profile image

sallybea 21 months ago from Norfolk


I love papaya though I don't eat it here in the UK because the fruit are so small here and so expensive. When I lived in Africa we used it to make jam and it was always the base for a glorious fruit salad mixed with passion fruit, lemon juice and any other available fruit. We also used the leaves to tenderize steak. We would put a leaf on top of the meat and hit it with a rolling pin or something similar.

Rota profile image

Rota 23 months ago Author

Thank you very much for your kind comment ChitrangadaSharan. Yes, I have always known that papaya was very nutritious but while researching this hub I learnt still more about it's amazing properties.

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 23 months ago from New Delhi, India

Very useful and informative hub about Papaya. Papaya is indeed very beneficial fruit and I always include this in our diet.

Voted up and welcome to HubPages!

Rota profile image

Rota 23 months ago Author

Thankyou amanthkr01, I have known that papaya was versatile and underestimated for its many properties, but researching this hub made me even more aware and glad I decided to share this information.

amanthkr01 profile image

amanthkr01 23 months ago from India

This is really a very informative hub. Although personally I dont like the fruit but after reading so many health benefits, I will change my opinion and will definitely give a try.

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