No, Papaya Seeds Won't Kill Parasites (But Here's What They Can Help With)
While papayas might be most well known for their vibrant flesh and fruity flavor, their seeds also pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. But can they cure cancer and kill parasites? Probably not.
We dove into the science and reached out to a few experts to determine which health benefits of papaya seeds are real and which ones are just social media hype.
Papaya seeds' nutritional value
Papaya seeds are the dark, round seeds found nestled in the center of the papaya fruit. They have a crunchy texture and a bitter, peppery flavor that's often compared to wasabi.
They've recently been in the spotlight on social media, with some claiming that they can help kill off intestinal parasites and boost gut health. (But more on that later.)
Benefits of papaya seeds
Not only are they rich in fiber and antioxidants, but papaya seeds might also be linked to a few health benefits. Note that most research on them has been done in animal or cell models, though, so take the findings with a grain of salt.
They might have cancer-fighting properties (but we need more research to be sure).
"Papaya seed extract has been researched for anticancer effects," says Amanda Sauceda, M.S., RDN, a registered dietitian that specializes in gut health.
However, most research is currently limited to studies conducted in test tubes. Therefore, more high-quality studies are needed to understand how papaya seeds might affect cancer growth in humans.
They contain digestion-supporting fiber.
Upping your intake of fiber4 offers a host of health benefits, including increased regularity, better blood sugar control, and even lower cholesterol levels. What's more, adding fiber to your diet can enhance the health5 of your gut microbiome, which is comprised of the trillions of microorganisms housed in your digestive tract.
They could benefit brain function.
According to Sauceda, papaya seeds might be beneficial for brain health. Again, research in humans is lacking here, but Sauceda tells mindbodygreen that one animal study did find promising results.
They may prevent organ damage.
For example, one 2021 animal study found that administering papaya seed extract to rats for 12 weeks was able to protect against liver damage9 by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, and liver scarring. In another study, papaya seed extract helped preserve kidney function10 in rats by reversing damage induced by paracetamol, a type of pain reliever.
Do they work against parasites?
Papaya seeds have become a trendy topic on TikTok lately, with some users claiming that filling up on these tiny seeds can prevent or even help kill off intestinal parasites. But is there actually any truth to back this up?
Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH, a gastroenterologist, emphasizes that it's important to rely on scientific evidence rather than social media trends for medical advice. "Although some studies suggest the anthelmintic (antiparasitic) potential of papaya seeds, the available research is limited and inconclusive," says Sethi.
If you're concerned about intestinal parasites, checking in with a doctor is your best bet. "Health care professionals can conduct diagnostic tests, such as stool sample analysis, to detect parasite eggs, larvae, or other indicators," says Sethi. He also points out that adhering to recommendations from a doctor can ensure that you get an accurate diagnosis and can start the appropriate treatment.
Incorporating papaya seeds into your diet
Papaya seeds are safe to eat as is, with no soaking, cooking, or drying required. However, they can be slightly bitter, so they may work best paired with other ingredients to help balance the flavor.
Consider adding them to salad dressings, sauces, and marinades or throwing them into your favorite smoothie recipes, like our calming papaya smoothie. You can also try baking and grinding them for an easy swap for black pepper that packs some fiber.
The best way to get your hands on them is by simply slicing open a papaya and scooping out the seeds. Store your seeds in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge to help maximize their shelf life. Be sure to enjoy in moderation and stick to a few servings of papaya seeds per day, or around 2 to 3 ounces total.
Saving your papaya seeds instead of tossing them is a great way to cut back on food waste, as they make up around 15% to 20%12 of the total weight of each fruit. Besides papaya seeds, there are many other edible seeds that are also often discarded. In fact, the seeds of watermelon, squash blossoms, and pomegranates can all work well as tasty, nutritious, and sustainable snacks.
Are papaya seeds safe to eat raw?
You can eat papaya seeds raw, roasted, or dried. However, keep in mind that they have a bitter, peppery flavor, so eating a handful scooped straight from the fruit might not be the tastiest way to enjoy them. Consider adding them to smoothies or salads instead.
What does eating too many papaya seeds do?
According to Sethi, while enjoying papaya seeds in moderation is likely safe, going overboard might have some negative effects on health. "Excessive consumption could lead to gastrointestinal disturbances, including stomach irritation, nausea, or diarrhea," he says. Stick to 2 to 3 ounces a day to be safe.
Do papaya seeds have benefits for skin?
Papaya seeds can bring a peppery zip of flavor to many recipes, such as sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. They also provide several important nutrients, including antioxidants, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. While you shouldn't expect your papaya seeds to have any parasite-busting properties, feel free to eat them the next time you cut open a papaya and want to minimize food waste and maximize fiber intake.
Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and writer based in San Francisco. She holds a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and an undergraduate degree in Dietetics.
Rachael works as a freelance writer and editor for several health and wellness publications. She is passionate about sharing evidence-based information on nutrition and health and breaking down complex topics into content that is engaging and easy to understand.
When she's not writing, Rachael enjoys experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, reading, gardening, and spending time with her husband and dogs.