The Health Benefits and Risks of Eating Papaya
Is Papaya Healthy or Harmful?
There are few foods that can provide you with so much goodness as papaya. Rich in vitamin c and anti-oxidants this fruit is beneficial not just internally but also externally. The term superfood is thrown around a lot these days and it's difficult to know if we should eat copious quantities to ensure our good health or if it is just more useless media hype.
Before you go racing to the supermarket to stock up on this miracle of nature, you will want to know the whole truth. The papaya and/or parts of it, can lead to abortion and also lower a man's sperm count. Because of this, the FDA has requested the removal of certain products which contain derivatives of papaya.
As with so many natural products, science is still learning just how powerful they can be and how cultures, where the papaya is naturally grown, have been using them in their daily lives.
Papaya as a Digestive Aid
Where papaya is traditionally grown it is often eaten as a dessert. The reason for this is papaya contains the enzyme (papain), which breaks down meat fibers and helps the body digest meat more efficiently. For some people, their metabolism is slow to break down food, this often occurs as we age. Eating papaya will help with this, reducing that bloated feeling which sometimes happens after a meal when meat is consumed. It is a natural way to help the body's digestion work better.
Tenderize Meat With Papaya
It is said that wrapping meat in papaya leaves will tenderize it. If you check the ingredients on a jar of meat tenderizer, you will probably see papain, this is the enzyme in papaya that breaks down meat fibers. Papaya has been used for centuries in South America as a natural meat tenderizer.
Where I live in Brazil, cattle are often free-range and many are quite old before they are sent to market. Both of these contribute to beef which, although tasty, is fibrous and tough. The use of papaya leaves helps to relax and begin to break down the stringy meat. It is still a natural way to soften cheaper cuts of older beef in many parts of South America.
Papaya: Pregnancy and Abortion
The use of papaya, although healthy, should be consumed with care during pregnancy or if you are trying to become pregnant. " In India, it is applied on the uterus as an irritant to cause abortion. The unripe fruit is sometimes hazardously ingested to achieve abortion."¹
This is also used as birth control by spreading the latex from the skin of the papaya over the cervix. Moreover, eating large quantities of unripened raw fruit can lead to abortion. In the West Indies, the women who were slaves use to do this so their children would not be born into slavery.
In laboratory tests, the seeds have been found to lower a man's sperm count.
Using Papaya as a Hair Conditioner
Because of the rich moisturizing properties of papaya, it's often found as the main ingredient in hair products. Although they are available to buy, you can easily make a hair treatment at home.
Using one ripe papaya, and natural yogurt. Peel the papaya and remove seeds. Cut into cubes and place in blender. Add a small pot of yogurt and enough water to make it blend. Apply this to your hair and leave for 30 minutes. You may want to use a shower cap or plastic bag over your hair during this time. Rinse with warm water after the 30 minutes.
You will be left with shiny, well conditioned and enriched hair.
Using Papaya for Acne
Papaya has always been used on the skin. There are many people who claim it helps to clear acne. This would be from the enzyme papain which is sometimes used to heal wounds. Simply mash the papaya well and apply as a face mask. This should be left for 10 minutes. Rinse as normal.
There are also soaps made using papaya which are used for lightening the skin.These are a traditional type of soap that is used in many countries around the world where a lighter skin is preferred. This is something we see a lot here in Brazil as many women and men both prefer to look more European.
Although papaya can also be used on wounds to encourage them to heal more quickly, care should be taken, especially if you are sensitive to latex.*
*There are some products on the market that contain papain in topical ointments and creams. The latex is extracted from the skin of the papaya. These creams are used on open wounds to aid in the removal of dead tissue and help to clean the wound. The companies that make them have been asked by the FDA to stop as there are serious health concerns, read more about it on Wikipedia.
Your Use Of Papaya
How do you use papaya?
A Papaya Tree
Here in Brazil, which is the largest exporter of papaya, most people who have a small amount of land have at least one tree growing. The papaya is a popular fruit here in Brazil.The plant is well suited to this area and is quite easy to grow. In fact, you will often see them near the back door where seeds have fallen and sprouted. Brazilians love to have it in a drink with milk and it is called a vitamina. I also have done this and made it into a nutritional smoothie. The recipe is included below.
- 1/4 ripe papaya, cubed (no seeds)
- 1 teaspoon flax seed, ground
- 1/4 cup oatmeal or oat flour
- 450ml milk, Nonfat, lowfat, or whole
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1 teaspoon honey, optional
- Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix until papaya has broken down. The time will vary depending on how big you cut the pieces and how ripe it was.
Nutritional Value for Papaya
Serving size 140g ~Calories 55~ Daily value %
Total Fat 0%
total carbohydrate 14g ~ 5%
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A 31%
Vitamin C 144%
Eating Papaya Helps Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are a painful condition which is aggravated by trying to eliminate firm stools. Eating papaya will help as it creates a mucous lining making it easier on the body to pass hard stools. Also by increasing fruit in your diet, you will be getting more fiber which is also beneficial for elimination. Without the pressure of straining, you may find the hemorrhoids become less of a problem.
Papaya for Dogs
Although this article is about the benefits of papaya for human use and consumption, dogs also benefit from it.
Papaya can safely be given to dogs in small quantities. There are a few caveats here.
- Don't give dogs the seeds, just the peel fruit.
- Don't give papaya to dogs which are diabetic
- Don't give them dried papaya, only fresh. (Dried fruits have a higher sugar concentration and they could be sprayed with a fungicide much the same as raisins are.)
Questions & Answers
Is the skin of papaya edible?
No, don't eat the skin. It contains latex which could irritate the mouth. Always peel the papaya and discard the skin.
© 2012 Mary Wickison