10 Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent
The amazing fruit is loaded with health benefits that can address various health conditions. Pexels
Dragon fruit not only has a beautiful look and bright hues, but it is also a powerhouse of multiple nutrients. The amazing fruit is loaded with health benefits that can address various health conditions. If you have already added this colorful and tasty fruit to your daily diet with other nutritious fruits and vegetables, pat your back for keeping excellent health.
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is receiving immense popularity among health enthusiasts and fruit lovers. The name and shape of the fruit indeed remind us of those fire-breathing creatures that appear in the folklore of many cultures and our all-time favorite Harry Potter series. The fruit has a unique, scaly appearance but is a hidden jewel.
If you are yet to try this fruit, we recommend you should. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss how to eat dragon fruit and its numerous health benefits. But before that, let us briefly discuss the characteristics of the colorful fruit.
What is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit, also known by names like pitaya and strawberry pear, is a low-calorie tropical fruit that grows on the Hylocereus cactus, a climbing cactus, also known as the Honolulu Queen. This fruit is native to Central and South America and Mexico, and the plant is exotic-looking. The dragon fruit plant is commercially grown globally, including in the US (Hawaii, California, and Florida), Australia, Israel, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Being a sprawling cactus, dragon fruit grows along nearby trees and rocks similar to a vine. The fruit starts to grow after the cactus flowers bloom. The large, white flowers open at night, which is why they are often called the "moonflowers" or "Lady of the Night".
How Does Dragon Fruit Taste?
If you have never had this fruit, you might wonder, "How does dragon fruit taste?" Well, it has a combined taste of a kiwi and a pear. Besides, it has a refreshing, refined, and subtle taste. When ripe, the fruit has a mildly sweet taste, and its soft texture is like the flesh of a ripe kiwi.
If you love eating the refreshing fruit, kiwi, you will also like the flavor of dragon fruit. However, under-ripe dragon fruit may seem tasteless. The taste also varies depending on the types of dragon fruit you consume. The white or yellow-skinned pitaya varieties may have milder flavors than the reddish or darker-pink varieties.
The fruit is known for its vivid and leathery outer skin texture, which is unique. When you cut the fruit for the first time, you will get a pleasant surprise. The inside of the fruit is a fresh white pulp filled with tiny black seeds. The seeds, too, have a nutty flavor and are home to many healthy fats.
The best time to eat dragon fruit is in the morning during breakfast. Having it in the morning hours can help the digestive system break down the fruit sugar faster. However, you can also have this superfruit with your midday meal or with dinner at night.
Types of Dragon Fruit
Among the three different types of dragon fruit, we have Hylocereus guatemalensis, Hylocereus undatus, Hylocereus polyrhizus, and Hylocereus megalanthus. We also have hybrids of these three dragon fruit species that are grown commercially. The taste and color vary depending on the dragon fruit variety. However, the yellow dragonfruit (Hylocereus megalanthus) is considered the sweetest of all species and is the most popular one.
Nutritional Value of Dragon Fruit
A single 6-ounce serving of this fruit can have the following nutritional value:
Protein: 2 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Sugars: 13 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Furthermore, talking of dragon fruit vitamins and minerals, we have the following nutritional values:
Vitamin A: 100 UI (international units)
Vitamin C: 4 mg (milligrams)
Magnesium: 68 mg
Calcium: 31 mg
Iron: 0.1 mg
Hence, we can see that dragon fruit calories are quite low while offering a high nutritional value. However, be cautious of the possible dragon fruit side effects, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, interference with medications, and allergic reactions, in some cases, if you eat too much of the fruit.
10 Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Now that we know some interesting facts about dragon fruit, let’s discuss the ten dragon fruit advantages for health and wellness.
1. Supports Gut Health
Dragon fruit has excellent prebiotic properties that are great for promoting gut health. It is also known to improve IBD or inflammatory bowel disease symptoms. Various studies have proven that including more prebiotics in your diet can reduce the risks of digestive tract infections and diarrhea. Prebiotics can also prevent or reduce the risks of colon cancer.
Our gut is home to nearly 100 trillion microorganisms, including over 400 bacteria species. Researchers believe that these microorganism communities may affect your health. Imbalances in the gut may give rise to heart disease and asthma.
Prebiotics are a specific category of fiber that supports the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Therefore, the prebiotics in pitaya can help improve the balance of healthy bacteria in our digestive system.
Our gut cannot digest fibers, but the good bacteria in our gut can break them down. These healthy bacteria use fiber as the food for growth, thus promoting the growth of good bacteria, including bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. According to a study, travelers who have consumed prebiotics before and during their travels are reported to experience fewer or less intense episodes of traveler's diarrhea.
2. Boosts Immune System
Your quality of diet is a crucial factor in strengthening your immunity, thus preparing your body to fight against infections. Dragon fruit is a rich source of vitamin C and carotenoids that can prevent infection by strengthening your immune system and protecting the white blood cells from damage.
Our immune system contains white blood cells that destroy and attack harmful foreign substances. However, white blood cells are prone to damage due to free radicals. It is where the antioxidants in dragon fruits, including carotenoids and vitamin C, come to their rescue.
These antioxidants can neutralize the free radicals, thus preventing the white blood cells from getting damaged. Just consuming 200 grams (1 cup) of dragon fruit every day can make you stay healthier with a stronger immune system.
3. Boosts Low Iron Levels
Pitaya is one of those few fresh fruits containing iron. If you have low iron levels, you can combat the issue by including sufficient amounts of dragon fruit in your daily diet. While nuts, cereals, fish, legumes, and meats are great sources of iron, dragon fruit can be a great option that adds to this list.
A single serving of dragon fruit cubes comprises 8% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron. Iron plays a vital role in transporting oxygen to various cells, tissues, and organs. Iron is also necessary to break down food and convert it into energy. Besides, as mentioned earlier, dragon fruit also contains vitamin C, which enables the body to absorb iron to make it usable for the body.
Sadly, many individuals don’t include enough iron in their daily diet. As a result, it is estimated that around 30% of the world’s population has iron deficiency. It is the most common type of nutrient deficiency globally. This is why it is necessary to include iron-rich foods in your diet. You can club dragon fruit along with other natural sources of iron to combat low iron levels in your body.
4. Flights Chronic Diseases
Dragon fruit can fight against chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Due to exposure to population, our body is prone to many free radicals, which are unstable molecules causing cell damage. Free radical damage may further cause various chronic diseases and inflammation.
A great way to address this issue is by consuming more food sources rich in antioxidants, such as dragon fruit. One of the many red dragon fruit benefits is its ability to fight free radical cell damage because it is a powerhouse of many kinds of potent antioxidants, such as:
Vitamin C: Studies have found good correlations between increased vitamin C intake and a decrease in the risks of developing cancer cells, especially neck and head cancer.
Carotenoids: Beta-carotene and lycopene are plant pigments that render dragon fruit its bright color. Again, having foods rich in carotenoids can reduce the risks of heart disease and cancer.
Betalains: Many studies have indicated that betalains can fight oxidative stress, thus suppressing or preventing the growth of cancer cells. The red color inside the fruit includes these betalains that help reduce bad cholesterol.
Antioxidants work best when eaten through foods rich in antioxidants rather than as a supplement. Even if you need more antioxidant intake through supplements for that added support, try choosing supplements made from natural sources with no harmful chemicals. Dragon fruit has good amounts of antioxidants, so we recommend you include the fruit in your daily diet.
Furthermore, the small dark seeds inside a dragon fruit are also rich in omega-9 and omega-3 fatty acids, which help support heart health, thus reducing the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases.
5. Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
Since dragon fruit houses high amounts of fiber, it helps to maintain our bodies’ sugar levels. Therefore, it is often recommended to have dragon fruit for sugar patients as it helps to control and prevent the increase in sugar levels in diabetic people. Including this superfruit in your everyday diet can help prevent further complications among diabetic patients by balancing the body’s blood sugar levels.
6. Fights Skin Aging
Stress, exposure to pollution, poor diet, and other factors can lead to faster aging. However, once more, antioxidants are here at your rescue. As mentioned above, dragon fruit is a rich source of antioxidants, which help treat dry skin, acne, and sunburns, which are the major causes of skin aging.
The vitamin C in dragon fruit can fight against skin damage caused by free radicals, thus leading to brighter, rejuvenated, and healthier skin. For higher dragon fruit benefits for skin, try preparing a healthy glass of dragon fruit juice and drink it once every day for the glowing and radiant skin you have always dreamt of.
7. Great for Hair
Similar to skin, dragon fruit benefits for hair are manifold. The high nutritional value of this red, low-calorie fruit can boost hair growth while making it shinier, softer, and thicker. The iron in dragon fruit plays a vital role in carrying oxygen to the roots of your hair. As a result, it promotes the growth of hair, rendering a thicker and voluminous look with a regular intake of iron.
Consider starting your day with a bowl of a full serving of dragon fruit to maximize results. Ensure that you are meeting the recommended daily intake of this vital nutrient to prevent iron deficiency, thus promoting hair growth. You can also prepare juice by mixing dragon fruit powder with 250 ml of milk. Such a high source of nutrients found in dragon fruit extract powder can treat damaged hair, especially after artificial coloring, improving hair texture and making it softer and shinier.
8. Supports Eye Health
Earlier, we mentioned that dragon fruit is a good source of beta-carotene, a pigment that renders beautiful colors in the fruit. Beta-carotene has excellent properties in preventing eye problems, including macular degeneration and cataracts. Having a single cup of dragon fruit slices (220 grams) each day can prevent numerous eye problems.
9. Build Stronger Bones
Bone health, too, is not left out when it comes to dragon fruit benefits. It contains 18% magnesium, which plays a huge role in building stronger bones. Good bone health is necessary to prevent many conditions, like joint pain or even injuries. To maintain good bone health, drink a glass of dragon fruit juice or smoothie daily, preferably with your breakfast.
10. Good for Pregnant Mothers
Nurturing mothers can reap the multiple benefits of dragon fruit, as it is good for both the mother and the child. The monounsaturated fats in this superfruit can promote the proper brain development of the fetus.
Besides, the fruit contains folate, iron, and vitamin B, thus making dragon fruit ideal for pregnant mothers. Folate and B vitamins can provide energy to the mother during pregnancy and also help prevent birth defects. Further, magnesium helps combat postmenopausal complications in women.
We hope this article answered your query, "Is dragon fruit good for health?" The above dragon fruit nutrition facts should have helped you make a positive decision to include more of this superfruit in your daily diet. This single fruit can help maintain optimal health, so try this tasty and healthy fruit and enjoy its nutritional value.