3. Papaya Has Anti-Cancer Properties

Research suggests that the lycopene in papaya can reduce cancer risk (12).

It may also be beneficial for people who are being treated for cancer (14).

Papaya’s cancer-fighting ability appears to be due to its ability to reduce free radicals that contribute to cancer development and progression.

Additionally, papaya may have some unique effects that aren’t shared by other fruits.

Among 14 fruits and vegetables with known antioxidant properties, only papaya demonstrated anti-cancer activity in breast cancer cells (15).

In a small study of older people with inflammation and precancerous changes of the stomach, a fermented papaya preparation reduced oxidative damage (16).

However, a lot more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.

BOTTOM LINE:Early research suggests that the antioxidants in papaya may reduce cancer risk and perhaps even slow the progression of cancer.

4. The Antioxidants in Papaya May Improve Heart Health

Adding more papaya to your diet may be beneficial for your heart.

Studies show that lycopene- and vitamin C-rich fruits may help prevent heart disease (1718).

The antioxidants in papaya may protect your heart and enhance the protective effects of HDL, the “good” cholesterol (1920).

In one study, people who took a fermented papaya supplement for 14 weeks had less inflammation and a better LDL:HDL ratio than people who were given a placebo. An improved ratio is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease (2021).

BOTTOM LINE:Papaya’s high vitamin C and lycopene content can improve heart health and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

5. Papaya Fights Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases, and unhealthy foods and lifestyle choices can drive the inflammatory process (22).

Inflammation can be measured by testing several blood markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).

Studies have shown that antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like papaya help reduce these inflammatory markers (23242526).

For example, one study showed that men who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids had a significant decrease in CRP (26).

BOTTOM LINE:Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Papayas are very high in carotenoids that can reduce inflammation.

6. Papaya May Improve Digestion

The papain enzyme in the fruit can make protein easier to digest.

People in the tropics consider papaya a remedy for constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In one study, people who took a papaya-based formula for 40 days had significant improvement in constipation and bloating (27).

The seeds, leaves and roots have also been shown to be effective for treating ulcers in animal and human studies (2829).

BOTTOM LINE:Papaya has been shown to improve constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The seeds and other parts of the plant have also been used to treat ulcers.

7. It Protects Against Skin Damage

In addition to keeping your body healthy, papaya can also help your skin look more toned and youthful.

Excessive free radical activity is believed to be responsible for much of the wrinkling, sagging and other skin damage that occurs with age (30).

The vitamin C and lycopene in papaya protect your skin and may help reduce these signs of aging (31).

In one study, lycopene supplementation for 10–12 weeks decreased skin redness after sun exposure, which is a sign of skin injury (32).

In another, older women who consumed a mixture of lycopene, vitamin C and other antioxidants for 14 weeks had a visible and measurable reduction in depth of facial wrinkles (33).

BOTTOM LINE:The powerful antioxidants in papaya can help your skin recover from sun damage and may defend against wrinkling.

8. The Fruit Is Delicious and Versatile

Papaya has a unique taste that many people love. However, ripeness is key.

An unripe or overly ripe papaya can taste very different from one at its peak of ripeness.

When optimally ripe, papaya should be yellow to orange-red in color, although a few green spots are fine. It should yield to gentle pressure, similar to an avocado.

Like the mango, its flavor is best when cold, so it’s a good idea to keep it refrigerated whenever possible.

It’s also an incredibly versatile fruit.

After washing it well, you can cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and eat it out of the rind with a spoon, like cantaloupe or melon.

It can also be combined with other foods that complement its flavor.

Here are a few easy recipe ideas using 1 small papaya:

  • Breakfast: Cut it in half and fill each half with Greek yogurt, then top with a few blueberries and chopped nuts.
  • Appetizer: Cut it into strips and wrap a slice of ham or prosciutto around each strip.
  • Salsa: Chop papaya, tomatoes, onions and cilantro, then add lime juice and mix well.
  • Smoothie: Combine the diced fruit with coconut milk and ice in a blender, then blend until smooth.
  • Salad: Chop papaya and avocado into cubes, add diced cooked chicken and dress with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Dessert: Combine the chopped fruit with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 1 cup almond milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well and refrigerate before eating.

BOTTOM LINE:Papaya is a delicious fruit that is best when ripe. It can be eaten as is or combined with other foods in recipes.

Papaya is rich in valuable nutrients and has a delicious taste.

Its strong antioxidant properties may help reduce your risk of many diseases, especially the ones that tend to come with age, such as heart disease and cancer.

It may also defend against the visible signs of aging, helping your skin remain smooth and youthful.

To experience the many benefits of papaya, consider adding this healthy and delicious fruit to your diet.