Papaya is a fruit beloved for both its delicious flavor and exceptional nutrient profile. Unfortunately, many people often discard its seeds and favor the fruit’s sweet flesh. What they don’t realize is that the seeds are not only edible but also highly nutritious. However, some side effects may need to be considered before eating them.
This article takes a closer look at the pros and cons of eating papaya seeds and how they can affect your health.
They’re highly nutritious
Papaya seeds contain a variety of essential micronutrients. They’re especially high in polyphenols and flavonoids, two compounds that act as antioxidants to help promote your health. Antioxidants fight disease-causing free radicals to prevent oxidative stress and ward off chronic diseases. What’s more, papaya seeds pack a good amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid. According to one study in people with type 2 diabetes, a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids could decrease triglyceride and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol levels by 19% and 22%, respectively
What’s more, papaya seeds supply a hearty dose of fiber. Increasing your fiber intake can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Higher fiber consumption has also been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity
Potential health benefits
In addition to providing several key nutrients, papaya seeds are linked to a number of potential health benefits.
Can help fight infections
Studies show that papaya seeds can destroy certain types of fungi and parasites. According to one test-tube study, papaya seed extract was effective against three strains of fungi, including the specific pathogen responsible for causing yeast infections.
Another small study found that drinking an elixir made from dried papaya seeds and honey was significantly more effective at killing intestinal parasites than a placebo. However, further large-scale studies are needed to determine how eating papaya seeds may affect fungal and parasitic infections in humans.
May protect kidney function
Your kidneys play an integral role in your health, acting as a filter to remove waste and excess fluid from your body. Research suggests that eating papaya seeds could protect and preserve the health and function of your kidneys.
One study in rats given a medication to induce toxicity found that papaya seed extract helped prevent kidney damage. Papaya seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which can block oxidative damage to your cells and protect kidney health.
However, since research in this area is still limited to animal studies, more human-based studies are needed.
Could have anticancer properties
Due to their impressive nutrient and antioxidant profile, some studies show that papaya seeds could have anticancer properties. One test-tube study found that papaya seed extract helped reduce inflammation and protect against cancer development. Similarly, another test-tube study showed that black papaya seeds decreased the growth of prostate cancer cells.
While these results are promising, additional studies are needed to evaluate the effects of papaya seeds on cancer growth in humans.
May improve digestive health
Like other seeds, papaya seeds are a good source of fiber.
Fiber moves through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, adding bulk to your stools to promote regularity. In fact, a review of five studies found that increasing fiber intake increased stool frequency in people with constipation.
Upping your fiber intake may improve several other aspects of digestive health as well. Studies show that dietary fiber may protect against inflammatory bowel disease, relieve symptoms of hemorrhoids, and prevent the formation of intestinal ulcers
Possible health concerns
Although papaya seeds have been associated with various health benefits, some potential health concerns surround them.
May decrease fertility
Some animal studies have shown that papaya seeds may reduce fertility. For example, one study found that administering large doses of papaya seed extract to monkeys caused a condition called azoospermia, which is characterized by a lack of sperm in the semen.
A rat study observed similar findings, reporting that papaya seed extract reduced both sperm count and sperm motility. Interestingly, researchers found that these changes were reversed within 45 days after stopping treatment. Note that these studies use a much higher dosage of papaya seeds than most people typically consume. Human studies are needed to look at how consuming papaya in the amounts typically found in the diet may affect fertility.
Could be harmful in high amounts
Papaya seeds contain benzyl isothiocyanate, a compound also found in many types of cruciferous vegetables. In test-tube studies, this compound has been associated with a number of health benefits, especially when it comes to cancer prevention. However, some research suggests that it could be harmful in large amounts.
For instance, one test-tube study showed that administrating benzyl isothiocyanate directly onto individual cells caused significant damage to DNA. However, the authors noted that administering benzyl isothiocyanate to live rats did not have the same effect. Meanwhile, a rat study found that it had a toxic effect on healthy cells.
Notably, these were animal and cell studies looking at the effects of very concentrated doses of benzyl isothiocyanate. More research is needed to understand how the benzyl isothiocyanate found in a single serving of papaya seeds could affect human health.
The bottom line
Papaya seeds are highly nutritious, and their extracts have been associated with a number of health benefits, including cancer prevention and kidney protection. High doses may cause side effects, but these issues can easily be avoided by moderating your intake and sticking to a few servings per day.
Next time you slice open a papaya, be sure to enjoy both the delicious flesh and powerful seeds nestled inside to take advantage of the full range of health benefits this fruit has to offer.
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Source: Health Line