Can you use papaya seeds in a smoothie?

Using papaya seeds in smoothies has become an increasingly popular health trend. Papaya seeds contain beneficial nutrients and compounds that may boost health in various ways. However, some people wonder if it’s safe to consume papaya seeds, as they have a strong, peppery taste.

Quick answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about using papaya seeds in smoothies:

  • Yes, you can use papaya seeds in smoothies. They are edible and safe to eat.
  • Papaya seeds have a strong, peppery, spicy flavor. Use small amounts at first to avoid overwhelming other smoothie ingredients.
  • Papaya seeds provide protein, healthy fats, fiber, minerals like calcium and magnesium, and beneficial plant compounds like carotenoids and glucosinolates.
  • Potential health benefits include anticancer effects, improved digestion, lower cholesterol, enhanced liver health, and increased antioxidant status.
  • The seeds also have antibacterial properties. Some research shows they may help treat infections by H. pylori bacteria.
  • Start with 1 teaspoon (about 4–5 seeds) per smoothie until you know how much you can tolerate. Adjust the amount to suit your tastes.
  • Grind seeds fully before adding to smoothies to make them easier to digest.

Are papaya seeds safe to eat?

Papaya seeds are generally recognized as safe for consumption by healthy individuals. There are currently no known cases of toxicity or adverse effects from eating papaya seeds in moderation.

People in many tropical regions, including areas of Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America regularly consume papaya seeds without any issues. They are an integral part of cuisine in these cultures.

Several animal studies have also demonstrated that consuming papaya seeds for 30–90 days did not cause toxicity or deaths in rats, even at doses of up to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight (1, 2).

However, it’s best to start with small amounts of around 1 teaspoon (4–5 seeds) to assess your tolerance, as some people may experience side effects like digestive discomfort if they consume too many at once.

Potential side effects

When consumed in moderation, most people do not experience negative effects from papaya seeds. However, possible side effects can include:

  • Digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Allergic reactions in those with latex allergy
  • Intestinal blockage if consumed whole in large amounts
  • Lower blood sugar levels

To reduce the risk of side effects, it’s best to start with small amounts of papaya seeds and increase slowly over time. You can also try grinding seeds fully before eating them.

Additionally, consult your healthcare provider before adding papaya seeds to your diet if you take any medications, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have concerns about side effects.

Nutrition profile

Here is an overview of the nutrition found in 1 teaspoon (4–5 seeds) of papaya seeds (3):

  • Calories: 13
  • Protein: 0.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0.7 grams
  • Fiber: 0.2 grams
  • Calcium: 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Magnesium: 3% of the DV
  • Potassium: 1% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 1% of the DV

Papaya seeds also contain other micronutrients like iron, zinc, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

In addition, they provide beneficial plant compounds like:

  • Carotenoids: These antioxidant compounds may reduce inflammation and promote eye and skin health (4).
  • Glucosinolates: They have anticancer properties and may inhibit tumor growth (5).
  • Flavonoids: These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
  • Alkaloids: These nitrogen-containing compounds may benefit liver health.
  • Saponins: These may have antioxidant and anticancer effects.

Potential benefits

Here are some of the top evidence-based health benefits of consuming papaya seeds:

1. High in antioxidants

Papaya seeds contain several antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids (6).

Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals that can damage cells and lead to illness. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants may help reduce oxidative stress in the body.

One study in 10 adults found that consuming honey mixed with papaya seeds increased antioxidant activity in the bloodstream within two hours, compared to a control honey solution (7).

2. May improve digestion

The fiber and papain enzyme in papaya seeds could help improve digestive health.

Papain helps break down proteins into amino acids. Some research indicates that consuming papaya and its seeds may aid protein digestion (8).

What’s more, the fiber can help add bulk to stools and may help prevent constipation.

One study found that rats fed diets containing 5% and 10% papaya seeds showed significantly increased stool frequency and had larger, more frequent stools than a control group (9).

3. Support liver health

Animal and test-tube studies indicate that compounds in papaya seeds may protect liver cells from damage while enhancing detoxification and improving enzyme levels (10, 11).

Additional research is needed, but current evidence suggests papaya seeds could aid liver health.

4. Reduce inflammation

Chronic inflammation is involved in the development of conditions like cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and heart disease.

Papaya seeds contain several compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, including flavonoids, alkaloids, carotenoids, and glucosinolates (12).

More human-based research is needed. However, animal studies indicate papaya seed extract may decrease inflammatory markers (13, 14).

5. Support heart health

Papaya seeds may benefit heart health in several ways.

Test-tube and animal studies show that papaya seed extract reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol (14, 15).

The seeds also contain an enzyme called arginase that helps produce nitric oxide, a compound that dilates blood vessels. In one study, rats that consumed papaya seed extract had reduced blood pressure (16).

Additionally, the antioxidants in papaya seeds can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.

6. May have anticancer effects

Research indicates that compounds in papaya seeds may inhibit tumor growth and cancer cell multiplication.

Test-tube studies show that papaya seed extract suppresses the growth of cancer cells affecting the liver, cervix, breast, and lungs (17, 18, 19).

One study also found that mice fed diets containing 10% papaya seeds had reduced tumor size and growth rate compared to a control group (20).

The anticancer effects are attributed to compounds like glucosinolates, benzyl isothiocyanate, lycopene, and flavonoids.

However, human studies are lacking.

7. Antibacterial effects

The black seeds of papaya contain benzyl isothiocyanate, which may fight bacteria and other infections.

Test-tube studies indicate papaya seed extract exhibits antibacterial activity against certain types of drug-resistant bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus (21).

Some research also shows it may combat Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacteria that grows in the stomach and is linked to gastritis, ulcers, and stomach cancer (22).

An older study in 30 people found that consuming papaya seeds for 7 days significantly reduced H. pylori infection compared to a placebo (23).

That said, more human research is necessary.

8. Reduce menstrual pain

Dysmenorrhea refers to pain felt during the menstrual period. It’s often accompanied by abdominal cramps.

Given papaya seeds’ anti-inflammatory effects, they may aid menstrual pain. An older study in 180 women found that taking 1.5 grams of powdered papaya seeds for three days at the beginning of menstruation reduced pain severity (24).

More studies are needed to confirm this benefit.

9. Support male fertility

Low sperm count and poor sperm quality are prevalent issues among men (25).

Test-tube research indicates that papaya seeds may protect sperm cells from damage related to oxidation, toxins, and inflammation (26).

Moreover, papaya seed extract improved sperm motility in rats. It also increased sperm count, testosterone levels, and fertility rates (27).

Despite these promising findings, human studies are lacking.

How to add them to smoothies

Here are some tips for incorporating papaya seeds into smoothies:

Adjust the amount

Start with just 1 teaspoon (4–5 seeds) and work your way up slowly to assess your tolerance.

Most people max out at around 1 tablespoon (9–12 seeds) per smoothie.

Grind them

Grind seeds fully in a spice grinder, blender, or with a mortar and pestle. This ruptures the tough seed coating so that you can digest them.

It also distributes the flavor throughout the smoothie.

Pair them with strong flavors

Smooth fruits like bananas, avocados, and mangos can balance out the intensity. Citrus fruits, vanilla, cocoa, ginger, mint, and coconut are other options.

Sweeten if needed

If bitterness is too strong, add a natural sweetener like honey, stevia, dates, or maple syrup.

Start with a basic recipe

Try this basic template for one serving:

  • 1 cup (240 mL) milk of your choice
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup (85 grams) mango chunks
  • 1 teaspoon (4-5 seeds) ground papaya seeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional)

Blend all ingredients until smooth and adjust sweetener or flavorings to taste.

Possible risks and precautions

Consuming small amounts of papaya seeds is likely safe for most people. However, some precautions apply:

  • Start slowly: Begin with 1 teaspoon (4-5 seeds) and work up to higher amounts.
  • Grind fully: Crush or grind seeds to ensure proper digestion.
  • Drink enough fluids: Stay well hydrated when eating seeds.
  • Monitor blood sugar: Papaya seeds may lower blood sugar levels.
  • Avoid gastrointestinal blockage: Don’t swallow large amounts of whole seeds, especially if you have digestive issues.
  • Allergy warning: Avoid if you have a latex allergy.

Additionally, consult your healthcare provider before eating papaya seeds if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Take any medications, as papaya seeds may interact with certain drugs.
  • Have a medical condition, such as diabetes or a gastrointestinal disorder.

Keep in mind that research on papaya seeds is still emerging. More studies are needed to understand any long-term effects of frequent consumption.

The bottom line

Papaya seeds are edible and provide small amounts of fiber, protein, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. They have a strong, spicy flavor.

Animal and test-tube studies indicate papaya seeds may improve digestion, liver health, heart health, inflammation, cancer, infections, pain, and male fertility.

However, human research is limited. Most people can safely eat a teaspoon (4-5 seeds) daily by adding them to smoothies, salads, salsas, and other dishes.

Start with a small amount to see how you tolerate them. Look for signs of digestive distress and discontinue use if any side effects occur.

Overall, papaya seeds are unique and nutritious additions to a balanced diet for most healthy individuals.

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