Much like the old cilantro debate, people apparently have a lot of feelings about the way papaya tastes and smells. While some love the tropical fruit and experience no issues, others claim it smells like a myriad of unpleasant things (including vomit, rotten salmon, or dirty feet.)
But, why are some people able to enjoy the fruit as-is, while others can’t stand to be around the smell? Turns out, there’s a scientific reason for why papaya stinks.
Papaya is chock-full of an enzyme called papain, which according to the Enzyme Education Institute has a “pungent, somewhat offensive” smell and “unpleasant” taste. Though the colorful description doesn’t exactly make you want to run out and eat it, papain has some amazing interesting benefits, including the fact that it helps our stomachs break down tough-to-digest proteins, like meat and eggs. In many cultures, papaya is even used as a salt-free meat tenderizer.
Another reason to give the stinky fruit a chance? Papaya is really nutritious—according to Nutrition Data, one cup of the fruit has 55 calories, 14g carbs, 2.5g of fiber, and only 8.3g of natural sugar. Not to mention, it’s loaded with vitamins. It packs 31% of your daily value for vitamin A, 144% of your vitamin C, 13% of your daily folate, and 10% of your daily calcium. It even has some Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
If you can’t stand the smell, but still want to reap the health benefits, don’t lose hope. Turns out, a squeeze of lime juice over the top of papaya can help get rid of its unpleasant stink and taste. Bonus: According to the National Cancer Institute, citrus foods may help alleviate nausea without drastically changing the taste of the fruit or wrecking your stomach.
So, there you have it. The next time you want to enjoy a Papaya Breakfast Boat, a Papaya-Noodle Bowl, or just some fresh fruit salad, squeeze a bit of lime to mask the smell and taste—and enjoy all of the wonderful health benefits this tropical fruit provides.
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