One health benefit of papaya is that it contains antioxidants in the form of carotene and flavonoids; these antioxidants help protect the body against destructive free radical molecules. The fruit also contains an enzyme called papain, which aids in digestion. Papaya is rich in vitamins C and A, folate, magnesium, potassium, copper, fiber and pantothenic acid (also known as vitamin B5).
The nutrients in papaya are known to protect against cardiovascular disease, especially the type of heart disease that is a complication of both diabetes and the build-up of plaque in the arteries. This is because the antioxidants found in papaya prevent cholesterol from oxidizing. This can prevent cholesterol from adhering to the inner walls of arteries and rendering them inflexible or too narrow for healthy circulation. Dietary fiber, such as that in papaya, is known for adding bulk to the stool and protecting against colon cancer.
Papain is not the only beneficial enzyme found in papaya, and it doesn't just aid in digestion. This enzyme and another called chymopapain play roles in reducing inflammation and healing burns. The carotene in papaya also supports the health of the eyes and may play a role in protecting against rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the joints and other systems.