19 Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit (Pitaya)

by John Staughton last updated -

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Dragon fruit, rich in nutrients and low in calories, helps fight chronic illnesses, improve gut health, and boost immunity. It is high in fiber, manganese, iron, and various vitamins and minerals. Health benefits of dragon fruit include its ability to aid in weight loss, control diabetes, improve digestion, lower cholesterol, 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 also known as pitaya or pitahaya, and some call it a strawberry pear. However, pitaya technically differs from dragon fruit (pitahaya) as the former comes from genus Stenocereus while the latter comes from Hylocereus. 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. Now, not just the fruit but also nutrient-rich pitaya powder is available worldwide.

Apart from the fruit, the peel of the dragon fruit is found to be useful in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and nutraceutical applications as per a research published in the Journal of Food Science

Watch Video: 7 Amazing Benefits Of Dragon Fruit

Nutrition Facts

DRAGON FRUIT, UPC: 609207618690
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Energy [kcal]264
Protein [g]3.57
Total lipid (fat) [g]0
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]82.14
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.8
Sugars, total [g]82.14
Calcium, Ca [mg]107
Iron, Fe [mg]0
Sodium, Na [mg]39
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]6.4
Vitamin A, IU [IU]0
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

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. According to the USDA, the fruit is rich in protein, fiber, lycopene, and carbohydrates. It contains carotene, vitamin C and B vitamins like niacin and riboflavin. The mineral wealth of this fruit includes magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and sodium.

Dragon fruit is believed to contain phytonutrients that prevent various diseases. Also, research published in Food Chemistry suggests that there are polyunsaturated fatty acids like linoleic acid and linolenic acid, 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.

Prevents Cancer

A recent study on dragon fruit showed that this fruit may help in preventing cancers such as colon cancer. Along with the antioxidant quality of vitamin C that boosts the immune system, dragon fruits also contain other sources of natural antioxidants.

According to research, carotene and lycopene, found in these fruits, are potent antioxidants that 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, 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.

Boosts Immune System

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. According to a 2011 research study, the flesh and the peel of the white and red pitayas have high polyphenol and flavonoid content which helps eliminate free radicals. This has been directly linked to preventing the proliferation of cancer cells. Also, these antioxidants work their way in increasing the platelet count, thus treat dengue and helping you recover fast.

High in Fiber & Aids in Digestion

Research published in Food Chemistry journal also suggests that dragon fruits are rich in oligosaccharides that help promote the growth of gut bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. This study on natural prebiotics in Thailand showed that the fruit helped increase healthy gut flora, which is important for smooth 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.

Controls Diabetes

Regular consumption of dragon fruit is linked to a reduction in blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for type 2 diabetics and prediabetics. In a 2017 study, it was found that prediabetics showed a noticeable reduction in blood sugar levels as compared to people who had not eaten dragon fruit. Furthermore, prediabetics with higher consumption of dragon fruit showed greater blood glucose reduction.

Rich in Iron & Prevents Anemia

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 the proper oxygenation of vital organs.

Good Source of Antioxidants

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. Research published in the Journal of Food Science indicates that due to a high polyphenol and flavonoid content, and antioxidant activity it can be used for cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications both.

Rich in Magnesium & B Vitamins

Dragon fruit is also packed with minerals such as magnesium and vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamin group. Benefits of magnesium include improving bone health and heart health. 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.

Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants

Skin Care

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. Try adding dried dragon fruit powder to your daily juices and watch your skin become radiant.

Antibacterial Properties

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. The fruit also stimulates cell regeneration and speeds up healing, so wounds and bruises will heal at an increased rate.

Boosts Metabolism

Dietary intake of protein is essential for the 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 is rich in magnesium and 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. The chances of developing plaque in the arteries and veins are less, thereby reducing your chances of suffering from atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

Hair Care

Eating dragon fruit or adding dragon fruit extract powder to your daily diet 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.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Dragon fruit powder is rich in anti-inflammatory properties, which help in reducing the pain caused by arthritis.

Eye Care

Dragon fruit is known to inhibit the growth of human cytochrome P450, a protein found in the liver. This protein is often linked with the occurrence of congenital glaucoma. Also, according to research published in Food Chemistry, 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, improves the bone mineral density, and prevents osteoporosis. A study done by Tufts University showed that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables offers the right mix of nutrients, protein, and calcium boosts bone density. Thus eating dragon fruit can help strengthen your gums and keeping your teeth intact, preventing them from being fragile so you can flash that bright smile always!

Pregnancy

Dragon fruit is very beneficial for pregnant women as it is rich in iron, B vitamins, and folate. Studies show that 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. High levels of calcium and magnesium also help fight osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

Boosts Cognition

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!

Benefits of Dragon Fruit

Improves Respiration

It’s high time you add dragon fruit to your diet if you are suffering from respiratory disorders like asthma. Dragon fruit extract capsules are also available, which help provide vitamin C and antioxidants.

Buying Dragon Fruit

Fresh dragon fruit can be bought at the local supermarket and it is even available online. Make sure the skin does not have brown spots. If the fruit is soft, it has probably gone bad. Even red dragon fruit chips are a healthy snack option for everyone, including adults and kids. Since the fruit is seasonal, you can also use freeze-dried dragon fruit powder, packed with antioxidants, in your smoothie, granola, yogurt, and raw desserts.

Dragon Fruit Varieties

There are three types of dragon fruits, namely,

  • Red skin with red flesh
  • Red skin with white flesh
  • 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 cut it open, the texture of the meat is like a kiwi, and it 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.

References
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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