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Papaya is a sweet, melon-like fruit. Each juicy bite is an escape to a tropical paradise. But is it as sweet for weight loss?
With 22 different varieties, papayas (which are actually berries 🙀) range in color and size. Most are squash-shaped with yellow or green skin, salmon-colored flesh, and loads of black seeds.
And with fancy cocktail-esque names like Hawaiian Sunrise or Strawberry Papaya, you’ll want to try them all.
Recently, some members of the health and wellness world have suggested that papayas are more than just a feast for the senses. The humble but colorful papaya could be a weight-loss superstar.
But what’s the science saying? Well, those lab coat-wearing fruit enthusiasts maintain that there’s a lot to love about papayas, even if they’re not a magic bullet for weight loss.
Why are papayas good for weight loss?
Papayas won’t directly cause you to lose weight. But, they can support weight loss because they’re:
- high in fiber
- high in water content
- low in calories
- rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
- good for digestion
Consuming papayas can yield some serious health benefits. They’re amaze-balls for your brain, heart, and gut. And they can help with your weight loss.
The operative word in that last sentence is help. Papayas are nutritional powerhouses with lots of wellness perks. But they aren’t a diet wonder-fruit. (Yeah, you’ve gotta keep doing all the hard work yourself — typical.)
So, how can they help? Papaya’s nutrient profile is the key. Let’s crack this fruit open and take a look.
Papayas are bursting with healthy-for-you stuff! One cup (145 grams) of raw papaya provides the following vitamin and mineral goodness:
|water||128 grams (g)|
|beta carotene||397 micrograms (mcg)|
|copper||0.045 milligrams (mg)|
|pantothenic acid||0.191 mg|
|vitamin A||1380 international units (IU)|
Let’s break it down into meaningful bites for ya.
Weight loss regimens can make you feel like you’re in the ninth circle of Hell. (Raise your hand if ya know what we mean. 🙋) That’s often the sense of deprivation kicking in.
The beauty of papaya is that you can enjoy a sizable portion without much of a dent in your daily food budget. With a high water content and only about 62 calories for a cup of fruit, it’s a smart choice.
Sweet, fresh, satisfying — diet-busting cravings be gone!
Benefits of eating papaya on an empty stomach? Nope
Don’t succumb to the rumors. According to available evidence, it makes no difference to your weight loss goals if you eat papaya on a full or empty stomach.
Incorporating papaya into a well-balanced diet is the key. Nothing more, nothing less.
Fiber provides all sorts of benefits that make your heart, gut, and more do a happy little hula dance. It’s also great for weight management gold. Fiber also helps you:
- feel fuller sooner and longer
- reduce your urge to eat when you’re not hungry
- increase your likelihood of weight loss success
Only about 5 percent of people in the U.S. get the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber — between 25 and 34 grams depending on your sex, age, and pregnancy/lactation status. (If you’re an adult, check page 137 of the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans for a clearer picture of what your fiber intake should look like).
The average adult consumes less than half of this amount. (Yikes — and it’s even worse for those following low carb diets.) Papayas, weighing in at 2.5 grams of fiber per cup, can help you hit that daily target.
Antioxidants, powerful compounds
Papayas also contain a bunch of other health-promoting substances like antioxidants.
These guys are like little warriors in your bod. They fight cell damage and help ward off or combat conditions such as diabetes, thyroid, liver disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The main antioxidant playas in your papaya are:
Papain: papaya enzyme benefits for weight loss
Papain is an enzyme that’s unique to papayas (woah — exclusive!). It’s got a rep for helping digestion, burning fat, and promoting weight loss. However, the proof’s just not in the papaya.
This enzyme breaks down dietary proteins. Because of this, meat processors actually use papain as a tenderizer.
It could also do the same in your GI tract. In one study, researchers tested a papaya preparation’s ability to relieve digestive probs in people with IBS —and found that it worked.
Papain’s available as a digestive support supplement.
Papaya seeds for weight loss? Meh, not so much.
But don’t chuck the seeds into the trash. While papaya seeds won’t really help with weight loss, they could have other benefits (although studies have so far been test tube or small rodent studies — so not really evidence of the human-sized health kick we were after).
On top of being nutrient-dense, papaya seeds could:
- help fight infections, according to one test tube study
- protect your kidneys, as found in another study on rats
- reduce your risk of cancer, according to a study on mice
- improve digestion (because they provide fiber, too)
Eating the sweet flesh of the fruit probably tastes better and also provides a bunch of nutrients. But don’t shrug off papaya seeds just yet. Unless…
Papaya don’t preach: The risks of papaya seeds
Be careful with papaya seeds — they may mess with fertility. Some earlier studies on both monkeys and rats found they reduced sperm count (although up-to-date human studies would help confirm this).
They also provide a compound called benzyl isothiocyanate. It’s fine and even healthful in moderation, but early test-tube and animal studies found that it can damage cells and DNA in excess.
There’s no confirmation these harmful effects translate to human bodies — just go easy on the seeds and you likely won’t have a problem.
Papayas are more versatile than you might think. Many world cuisines use papayas — and not just in smoothies or tropical ambrosia salads. You can whip up a delish sweet or savory dish.
Here are some tasty recipes to get you started. Feel free to tweak the recipes to suit your needs. For example:
Papaya weight loss smoothie recipes
For a refreshing, fruity kick, you can’t do much better than a papaya smoothie.
- Papaya smoothie (with coconut water)
- Papaya banana smoothie (with kefir)
- Carrot papaya detox smoothie
- Papaya power green smoothie
- Guava papaya smoothie (with parsley)
- Papaya & passionfruit smoothie (with fresh mint)
Fruity meals, too!
- Halibut steaks with papaya mint salsa
- Salmon with green papaya & pink grapefruit salad
- Green papaya curry
- Jerk chicken salad with papaya
- Hawaiian papaya ceviche
- Papaya stew
Salads & Sides
There aren’t really any disadvantages of eating papaya. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the fruit is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
However, some people have reported allergic reactions to papaya, such as asthma or rashes. Doctors have also observed cross-reactions to latex and kiwi have also been observed.
If you have sensitivities to either of these, you should consider avoiding papayas.
Is papaya a miracle fruit for dieters? Not likely.
But papayas can support healthy weight loss and management. They provide good levels of compounds that could help you shed the unwanted pounds and keep them off as part of a balanced, nutritious overall diet.
Raw papayas are:
- low calorie
- high fiber
- nutrient rich
- low carb
- tasty and satisfying
You can eat both the flesh and seeds. This makes papayas fairly versatile: They’re good for smoothies, salads, and straight-up snacking.