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 Dragonfruit?
Dragon fruit is an exotic and delicious fruit, which is often considered a tropical “superfood” because of its wealth of benefits. This fruit has somewhat “under the radar” quality that makes it less well known than many mainstream fruits and health foods. It is also 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 comes in three varieties, 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.
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 a boost to immunity, body metabolism, and a smoother digestive process. Let us now look at the benefits in detail:
One of the most beneficial aspects of dragon fruit is its ability to give a serious boost to your body’s defense system. The high level of vitamin C found in dragon fruit is one of the strongest assets to your body’s immune system, 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.
Rich in Vitamins
Dragon fruit is also packed with other vitamins besides vitamin C, including the B vitamin group. The B1, B2, and B3 vitamins present in dragon fruit improve everything from blood pressure, skin health, and cholesterol levels to thyroid function 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 various conditions like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and even serious diseases like 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, found in dragon fruits has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities. It helps in reducing the size of tumors as well. Basically, dragon fruits boost your immune system from every direction, so if you feel like you’re frequently getting sick, feeling under the weather, or even if you are at a high risk of developing cancer, dragon fruit might be the answer for you.
The final boost to your immune system from dragon fruit comes from its antifungal and antibacterial qualities. 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 organ systems. You will also find that it 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 an unusually good source of protein. Many of the proteins we gain from fruits, vegetables, and meat are metabolized by enzymes in our body and turned into usable proteins that can speed up cell repair, enhance strength and metabolism, and help us lose weight and increase muscle mass.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Dragon fruit is quite an exotic fruit with a number of unique properties, one being that they contain no LDL or bad cholesterol and almost no unhealthy saturated fats. By reducing the amount of cholesterol in the blood, the chances of developing plaque in the arteries and veins are less, thereby reducing the likelihood that you’ll suffer from atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. By using dragon fruit as a source of many other nutrients, you are not negatively impacting your body in any way, hence, the fruit’s reputation as a “superfood” is true. Fat is beneficial for your body and the seeds of dragon fruit contain this good fat, which can increase the HDL or good cholesterol. HDL cholesterol actively decreases the amount of LDL cholesterol by inhibiting the receptors that it binds to, on the walls of arteries.
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, delicious and wildly nutritious dragon fruits.