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Health Benefits of Tropical Fruits; Tamarind and Papaya

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.


The nutritional and Health Benefits of Tropical Fruits; Tamarind and Papaya

Our supermarkets are gradually waking up to the fact that the once difficult to acquire tropical fruits are not only delicious to eat; they are also packed with nutritious vitamins and minerals with numerous health benefits.

The exotic guavas, avocado, mango papaya and Tamarind are all good sources of fibre and phytochemicals. These fruits are available at most local supermarkets, and we are only now beginning to realise how beneficial they are to our health.

For this article, I will look at Tamarind and Papaya (Paw Paw).


One of my most enduring memories as a young child in the Caribbean is the large spreading Tamarind tree. The Tamarind tree is an evergreen tree, with long drooping branches and thick, dense foliage. A full grown tree can reach a height of 80 feet.

Tamarind tree belongs to the botanical family of Fabaceae, of the genus Tamarindus. Scientific name Tamarindus indica

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The Tamarind fruits are irregularly shaped curved pods that grow abundantly along the branches.

The pods consist of an outer shell that encases a creamy brown pulp that covers between 2 to 10 hard dark mahogany seeds. When dried, the Tamarind shell becomes brittle, and the seeds and pulp can be easily removed. However, when buying this fruit, the shells should be intact.

Tamarind is widely used in Indian and Asian cooking; the tangy lemony flavour enhances soups, curries, chutneys and marinades. The pulp makes great jams and syrups; Tamarind also provides the sweet-and-sour whiff of exoticism that is present in the great Worcestershire sauce.

Tamarind pulp mixed with sugar and spices rolled into balls; makes a tasty treat for children and adult alike. But incredibly, the versatile tamarind that grows widely throughout the tropics and sub-tropical regions also have a list of health benefits that are much too long to go into in detail but include -:

  • The Tamarind leaves, used in herbal tea for reducing malaria fever

  • Tamarind lowers cholesterol and can help to maintain a healthy heart

  • An excellent source of vitamins, minerals like copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium and zinc, contains dietary fibre·

  • Diluted Tamarind pulp can be used to help a sore throat when gargled and can also contribute to destroying stomach worms in children

  • Protects from Vitamin C deficiency

  • Tamarind seeds are used in preparation of eye drops for dry eye syndrome

  • An excellent source of antioxidant for fighting free radicals and help to fight against cancer

  • Juice extract from tamarind flowers is used to the treat haemorrhoids

  • Tamarind works as a blood purifier

  • Use to treat pregnancy-related vomiting and nausea

  • The pulp makes a mild laxative

  • Used to treat bilious disorder

Papaya or (Pawpaw)

If there are such things as super fruits then the Papaya most certainly qualifies to be placed at the top of the list; I read somewhere, if you could only eat one fruit, this should be it. Papaya is valued for its nutritional, digestive, and medicinal properties

Christopher Columbus referred to the Papaya as “The Fruit of the Angels.” Papaya belongs to the group of sought-after yellow and orange fruits containing vital antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids and bioflavonoids.

Scientific studies are increasingly showing the role this group of fruits and vegetable are playing in the prevention of cataract formation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulosis and possible even hypertension.

The Papaya is right up there with the antioxidant-rich yellow and orange fruits and vegetables that are so highly valued. There are many good reasons for eating this fruit, with its high enzyme content, the papaya is particularly good at aiding digestion.

Papaya for breakfast is a cleansing and refreshing way to start the day, or as a dessert after lunch or dinner, it is particularly beneficial after any meal containing meat. It is not necessary to consume a whole fruit after a meal; one-quarter of the fruit is enough to provide the desired digestive benefits. Try some yummy Papaya recipes.

Although there are many benefits to eating papaya, there are also some side effects to be aware of when using unripe fruit and papain based enzyme supplements. The green papaya latex is rich in the papaya enzyme papain, which is traditionally used in various cultures to induce miscarriage during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should avoid supplements containing papain; however, a fully ripe fruit contains lower levels of papain and is believed to be healthy for pregnant women, providing a rich source of antioxidant and vitamins.

Some experts advise against using papaya enzymes, unripe papaya or even the ripe fruit during breastfeeding. Although there is no research to support this, it is always best to err on the side of caution, contrary to this; Asian women are known to eat green papaya salads and soups as a galactagogue, a substance that can bring about, or increase the volume of milk produced.

The Papaya is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, in the genus Carica. And is a member of the plant family Caricaceae.

Scientifically named Carica

The papaya is a large tree-like plant, which grows in the tropical regions where it is cultivated for its fruits and latex papain, an enzyme used in the food industry. The papaya grows from a single stem, 5 to 10 m tall with spiral like arrangement of leaves at the top of the trunk

More Health Benefits from Papaya


Papaya helps to protect the skin. Ripe papaya is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, the high level of these nutrients in papaya contribute to protecting the skin against free radicals that are known to damage the skin causing wrinkles and signs of ageing.

The enzyme papain contained in the flesh and skin of the papaya fruit can break down dead skin cells and encourages skin renewal when applied topically on the face and body. Papaya facial is a good way to improve skin texture and elasticity. It can also help wound healing, burns, acne, blemishes and age spots.


In addition to the beta-carotene content that can be converted into vitamin A, and is vital for healthy eyes and vision, papaya also contains carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, known as xanthophylls. Xanthophylls are concentrated in the macular region of the eyes and protect against the high-energy blue light that can cause damage to the eye’s retinas.

A regular intake of both lutein and zeaxanthin is believed to reduce significantly, the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). ARMD is the most common cause of blindness in the developed world in people aged of 65 and over.

Researchers have estimated that ARMD has already caused visual impairment in approximately 1.7 million of the 34 million Americans over the age of 65. The number is predicted to increase to almost 3 million by 2020 in the U S.

In the U K; the 608,213 people with ARMD in 2010 will rise to 755,867 by 2020. More reasons to start stocking up on papaya. High levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in papaya may also protect against cataracts, glaucoma and other chronic eye diseases. Other good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are spinach, pumpkins, broccoli and the yoke from free range eggs.

Research studies show encouraging results of improved visual function with high doses of lutein and zeaxanthin in supplements from a natural source like marigold flowers.

Heart Disease

The high levels of vitamin C and E and other antioxidants in papaya help to reduce oxidisation of cholesterol in the arteries. Cholesterol oxidisation is a dangerous process that can lead to the formation of plaque build-up in the arteries and can potentially block the vessels causing heart attacks. Antioxidants in healthy foods such as papaya may help to improve the blood flow and reduce the risk of heart disease.


The enzymes contained in the papaya fruit, particularly in the green papaya fruit, papain, chymopapain, caricain and glycyl endopeptidase can improve digestion as mention above. It does this by breaking down proteins into their individual amino acids that are ready for use in the gut.

Undigested proteins can cause gastrointestinal problems and increased flatulence, increase the growth of bacteria in the colon, leaky gut, constipation and IBS. Some experts argue that the high levels of stomach acid will cause the papain to become inactive, but others believe that some of the papain will survive and pass through to the alkaline part of the small intestine to resume the job of protein breakdown. Green papaya supplements are available.

Papaya helping the fight against cancer

Papaya contains several important compounds that make this super-food beneficial for reducing the risk of developing particular types of cancers. However, always be advised by your doctor and health care providers. We should be aware of the nutritious food source that can help to support and boost the body’s natural defences, especially in the case of the humble papaya, where the nutrients are so important in reducing the risk of certain cancers.

The proteolytic enzymes in papaya can digest the fibrin protein layer of cancer cells that usually surrounds and protects them. The papaya enzyme can leave the cancer cells more susceptible to the body’s immune response. The enzyme may also have the ability to undermine the cell growth and help to stop cancer from spreading.

The flesh and seeds of the papaya fruit also contain compounds known as benzyl isothiocyanates showed to contribute to the prevention of certain types of cancer. The rich source of isothiocyanate found in papaya can help to eliminate potential carcinogens and enhances the action of tumour suppressing proteins. Broccoli is even higher in this compound.

Research by Doctor Nam Dang at the University of Florida found an extract made from dried papaya leaves kills cancer cells directly and slows the growth of tumour cells in cultures. Some reports suggest that people have been able to cure themselves of incurable cancer by using extracts made from papaya leaf.

A case in point; Stan Sheldon from the Gold Coast in Australia, was reported to be dying of cancer. He followed an old Aboriginal recipe and used the liquid from papaya leaves boiled and simmered in a pan and taken for two months. Mr Sheldon's subsequent test results showed that both lungs were cleared of cancer. Stan's disease had not reappeared several decades later. Stan has apparently passed on his remedy to others; many were also miraculously cured. However, that was some time ago.

More recently, cancer research in the United States has isolated a chemical compound in the papaya tree that is a million times stronger than the most widely used cancer drug, Adriamycin. The compound is in the papaya twigs and small branches.

Once again discuss with your doctor before taking medical treatment.

However, the consensus is, do not hesitate to add the papaya leaf extract to your arsenal of health-boosting foods.

For more information do your research.

Papaya seed is also edible with nutritional benefits; it can help to eradicate intestinal parasites and detoxify the liver. Dried papaya seeds can be put through a pepper grinder and use as a spice to sprinkle over food.

Research shows that extracts may protect the kidneys from toxin-induced renal failure.

These two tropical fruits contain many of the necessary nutrients needed for our health and well-being, so remember when next you pass a display of papaya or Tamarind on the supermarket shelf, just stop and say hi.

Try something different?


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 14, 2016:

Jo, I've seen the papaya and will be in the lookout for the tamarind at some time. Same here my friend!

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on March 14, 2016:

Hi, Kristen, lovely to see you! Thanks for taking the time, to read and comment. I'm glad you found the hub useful. We have underrated the Papaya for a long time, but the fruit is proving to be pretty special indeed. Do try it, the fruit can be bought in most supermarkets in the UK, it shouldn't be too difficult to find in the US.

My best to you. Jo.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 14, 2016:

Jo, this is a great hub. I'm planning to try some papaya next month for my smoothies and for a snack. I do see the Brazilian and another (larger) variety at my grocery stores. I'm not sure I have tamarinds. But I would love to try it, if it's at my local grocery stores or farmer's market someday. Very useful and handy.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on May 15, 2013:

Rajan, two of my childhood favourites, add a nice soft Soursop and I'm in food heaven :). Many thanks for taking another look at this.

Take care and my best to you.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 14, 2013:

Excellent hub, very eye pleasingly laid out and what awesome benefits these fruits offer us. We make tamarind chutney which is a very common accompaniment to our snacks. I love eating papaya as well and try to eat it first thing in the morning. The pulp makes a great facial agent too.

Voted up, useful and interesting, Jo.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 13, 2013:

Gypsy, nice to see you, many thanks for the visit and comment, stay fit healthy now.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 13, 2013:

Voted up and interesting. Thanks for sharing this informative hub. Lots I didn't know. So many great health benefits. Passing this on.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 13, 2013:

Mhatter, tamarind or not, you are way ahead with the papaya; keep up the good work.

Thank you for checking this out, always appreciated. Take care my friend.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 13, 2013:

tsadjatko, lovely to see you, looks like you have some very healthy turtles!.. and you obviously love them to bits. I agree, it is time to save a little papaya for yourself.

Thank you for the visit and great comment. Take care and my best to you.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 13, 2013:

rajan, good to see you, thanks for the wonderful comment, very much appreciated.

Best wishes to you

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on February 13, 2013:

Thank you for this information. Tamarind-sorry. Papaya-all the time!

The Logician from then to now on on February 12, 2013:

Awesome hub my friend...I'm buying more papaya! I feed it to box turtles and they love it. I chose it mainly because the calcium to phosphorus ratio is 4/1 and turtles really need food that has a 2/1 calcium to phosphorus ratio or better for optimal calcium absorption necessary for shell growth and a healthy immune system. I think I'll start feeding it to myself a lot more! Thanks for the great infornmation.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 12, 2013:

Very well laid out hub on 2 very healthy foods that are much used in Asia. The photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing Jo.

Voted up, useful and beautiful.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Hi Laurinzo, how nice to see you!...thank you for taking a look and for the great comment,hope you'll find this useful in your new health regime, these fruits are awesome!

take care and my best to you.


LJ Scott from Phoenix, Az. on February 12, 2013:

Very good information, and a really well done hub

It is inspiring; especially when trying a new health regimine...

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Billy, go on... be brave, try them both, it will do you good :). Thanks for stopping, always great to see you.

My best.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Hi Doc, looked like you and Debbie had a great time at the book signing, I certainly enjoyed the read.

Thank you for stopping by and for the wonderful comment, always appreciated. Take care, and my best to you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 12, 2013:

I have never eaten either of them, Jo. Great job of detailing the benefits. I just might have to pick up some papaya to start with and work my way to the tamarind. Thank you for the info.

blessings my friend


Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Hi Faith, I hope all is well with you, thanks for stopping by and for the comment and share. I'm always surprised when I look at seemingly ordinary fruits and vegetables how nutritious they are, so don't forget your five a day. :).

All the best to you.

Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Hi anuramkumar, many thanks for the visit and lovely comment. Now we know, Indian food is not only delicious, but good for us also. :). Best wishes to you.


Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Hi joym7, welcome to HP, I know you will love it here. Thank you for choosing this hub, I hope the information prove to be useful for you. Best wishes.


Jo Alexis-Hagues (author) from Lincolnshire, U.K on February 12, 2013:

Hi DDE, Tamarind is my favourite also, great memories from my childhood.

We returned to the Caribbean for 4 years in the late 1990s I grew my own fruits, the papaya trees were everywhere, I would just lean out of the window to get my breakfast; I wonder if I would've enjoyed it more if I knew of all the benefits then. Better late than never :). Thank you so much for reading this and for the wonderful comment, always appreciated.

My best.

lovedoctor926 on February 12, 2013:

Excellent presentation and well-researched. There are many health benefits in papaya. I've read it's good for digestion like you stated. It's good to know that it has other beneficial properties. I didn't know about tamarind prior to reading this hub. voted up useful! thanks for your wonderful comment on debbie's hub the sweet love dr.

anuramkumar from Chennai, India on February 12, 2013:

A very interesting and useful hub. We in India use tamarind almost daily in our cooking. I include papayas too in my food, but occasionally; looks like I need to eat a lot of papayas.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on February 12, 2013:

Excellent hub. These tropical fruits look so delicious and an added bonus of very nutritious! Thanks for sharing all of this information.

Voted up +++ and sharing.

God bless, Faith Reaper

Joy from United States on February 12, 2013:

Yes DDE, this is really a beautiful hub. I am new on hub pages and found this is most interesting so far.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 12, 2013:

Wow! What an interesting Hub filled with so many good benefits and tmy favorite of the two is tamarind simply love it in foods, the tangy flavor it gives to foods and had no idea of the many benefits, the papaya is incredible too, very helpful for many ailments thanks for this well researched hub.

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