Dragon fruit has a number of health benefits including its ability to aid in weight loss, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, strengthen the immune system, and boost energy levels. It also helps prevent cancer and heart diseases, defend against bacteria and fungi, and helps in the overall functioning of the body.
What is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is an exotic and delicious fruit, which is also considered a tropical superfood because of its wealth of benefits. It is known as “pitaya or pitahaya” which comes from the genus Stenocereus and Hylocereus respectively. It has its origins in Mexico, South America, and Central America, but New World settlers probably brought it to Southeast Asian nations like Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where it remains an important part of the dietary fruit intake.
Dragon Fruit Taste
The taste of a dragon fruit is somewhat bland. It is usually mildly sweet and has a subtle taste. However, some varieties of dragon fruit, like the red one, have a tangy flavor profile.
Dragon Fruit Varieties
There are three types of dragon fruits, namely, red skin with red flesh, red skin with white flesh, and yellow skin with white flesh. There are both sweet and sour dragon fruits, depending on the species, shape, and size. In terms of the most common form of dragon fruit, it is slightly smaller than a cantaloupe, red in color, and covered in broad spiky growths.
When you open it, the texture is like a kiwi, and the meat is filled with small black seeds that help improve digestion. The meat of the fruit is used to make wine and can be strained into other beverages, while the leaves of dragon fruit can be steeped for a very healthy form of tea. The rough outer skin has little nutritional value and is rarely eaten.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition
Dragon fruit is a healthy fruit, which is low in calories and rich in antioxidants and can be added to any weight loss diet. It is rich in proteins, fiber, lycopene, and carbohydrates. It contains carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B, thiamine (vitamin B1), and riboflavin. The mineral wealth of this fruit includes calcium, phosphorus, iron, and sodium.
Dragon fruit is believed to contain phytonutrients that prevent various diseases. Also, there are polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the seeds of these fruits.
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
The health benefits of the dragon fruit are mainly attributed to its antioxidant, antibacterial, and nutritional properties. The benefits include boosted immunity, faster metabolism, and a smoother digestive process. Let us now look at the benefits in detail.
The high level of vitamin C found in dragon fruit helps boost immunity and it stimulates the activity of other antioxidants in the body as well. They actively seek out and eliminate free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cell metabolism, which have been directly linked to potentially fatal conditions like cancer and heart diseases. Also, these antioxidants work their way in increasing the platelet count, thus treat dengue and helping you recover fast.
Iron, present in dragon fruits, is great for boosting the hemoglobin levels in anemic individuals. It also aids in the production of red blood cells (RBCs), which then helps in proper oxygenation of vital organs.
Detoxifies the Body
Antioxidant-rich dragon fruits help in detoxification by flushing out the waste metals and toxins from the body. This, in turn, aids in weight loss.
Rich in Vitamins
Dragon fruit is also packed with many vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamin group. The B1, B2, and B3 vitamins improve everything from blood pressure, skin health, and cholesterol levels to thyroid function, fluctuating hemoglobin levels, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Aids in Digestion
Dragon fruits have a significantly high-fiber content, which means that they can help bulk up bowel movements, facilitating smooth passage through the digestive tract, stimulating peristaltic motion, and inducing a release of digestive juices. By regulating bowel function with dietary fiber, this fruit helps in preventing conditions like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and even colorectal cancer.
Along with the antioxidant quality of vitamin C that boosts the immune system, dragon fruits also contain other sources of natural antioxidants. Carotene and lycopene, found in these fruits, have been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities. They help in reducing the chances of prostate cancer as well as the size of tumors in the body. Basically, dragon fruits boost your immune system from every direction, so if you feel like you’re frequently getting sick, or even if you are at a high risk of developing cancer, dragon fruit might be the answer for you.
Regular consumption of dragon fruit is linked to a reduction in the blood sugar levels, which is great for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Also, this fruit aids in lowering oxidative stress and aortic stiffness, two major chronic diseases affecting people all over the globe.
The antioxidants in dragon fruit help fight the signs of aging by reducing the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. They also aid in treating sunburn, acne, and dry skin. Vitamin C in these fruits, especially, helps brighten the skin, thereby keeping it looking radiant.
Dragon fruit has antifungal and antibacterial properties. These can help increase the white blood cell count in the body, which defend against toxins and also inhibit the entrance or growth of fungal or bacterial infections in the organs. Dragon fruit also stimulates cell regeneration and speeds up healing, so wounds and bruises will heal at an increased rate.
Dietary intake of protein is essential for healthy functioning of our body and dragon fruit is a good source of protein. Proteins are metabolized by enzymes in our body and turned into usable proteins that can speed up cell repair, enhance strength and metabolism, and help in weight loss and increase muscle mass.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Dragon fruit contains no unhealthy saturated fats. This leads to higher levels of HDL or good cholesterol and lower levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body. Thus, the chances of developing plaque in the arteries and veins are less, thereby reducing your chances of suffering from atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Eating dragon fruit helps in keeping the hair nourished and healthy. It treats the damage done to hair by the chemicals present in artificial hair color. It also helps improve the texture and bring back the shine to your hair.
Dragon fruit is known to inhibit the growth of human cytochrome P450, a protein found in liver. This protein is often linked with the occurrence of congenital glaucoma. Also, the beta-carotene content in this fruit helps in preventing macular degeneration and cataract formation by keep the eyes protected from harmful free radicals.
Strong Bones and Teeth
The high- calcium content in dragon fruit keeps your bones healthy and improves the bone-mineral density. It also strengthens the gums and helps in keeping the teeth intact, preventing them from being fragile so you can flash that bright smile always!
Dragon fruit is very beneficial for pregnant women as it is rich in iron, B vitamins, and folate. Iron helps in keeping away hemoglobin deficiency and also in preventing the occurrence of anemia. The B vitamins and folate help prevent birth defects and boost energy. Also, the mild laxative properties of dragon fruit help loosen the stool and regulate bowel movements. Moreover, the calcium content in it aids in the bone development of the fetus, thereby ensuring a healthy pregnancy.
Dragon fruits contain trace amounts of B vitamins and are rich in vitamin C, both of which help in keeping the cell membranes healthy. This activity of the vitamins prevents the occurrence of cognitive disorders and keeps your brain functioning like Einstein!
It’s high time you add dragon fruit to your diet if you are suffering from respiratory disorders like asthma. The super-vitamin C aids in treating your lung problems and finally lets you inhale the sweet fragrance of lilies in your garden!
Dragon fruit is a healthy snack option for everyone, including adults and kids.
How to Select a Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is a seasonal fruit and while selecting one, look for a fresh and uniformly colored fruit that does not have too many spots on it. Before selecting, take the fruit in your palm, gently press its skin to examine and choose the one that is hard but moderately soft.
How to Cut a Dragon Fruit?
- Step 1: Cut a fresh dragon fruit into two halves.
- Step 2: Scoop out the flesh from each half with the help of a spoon by running the spoon around the edges. The flesh of a ripe dragon fruit will come out effortlessly.
- Step 3: You can slice or cut the flesh into cubes.
Note: The remaining skin or the core of the fruit can be used as a fancy serving bowl.
Dragon Fruit Recipes
Dragon fruit can be used in preparing many mouth-watering recipes that include salads, smoothies, and kebabs.
Dragon Fruit Smoothie
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
Chopped dragon fruit
Dry fruits or nuts for garnishing
Ice cubes (optional)
- Step 1: Mix all the ingredients and blend until you get a thick consistency.
- Step 2: Pour the mixture into a glass or a cup. Garnish with finely-chopped almonds or dry fruits as per taste.
Dragon Fruit Kebabs
Pepper powder to taste
Salt to taste
- Step 1: Cut all the above-mentioned fruits into cubes, brush them with oil and put them on a grill plate.
- Step 2: Grill them for 10 minutes.
- Step 3: Sprinkle some salt and pepper powder on the kebabs and serve hot.
Dragon Fruit Salad
Honey or Chocolate syrup
- Step 1: Cut all the fruits into small pieces and mix them in a bowl.
- Step 2: Refrigerate them for few minutes.
- Step 3: Garnish with honey or chocolate syrup, and enjoy your healthy dessert!
Word of Caution: There are no health risks associated with dragon fruits as such and studies have even shown that they are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women too. So go out to your nearest market and grab some fresh, exotic, and deliciously nutritious dragon fruits.