What is dragon fruit?
Another name for the dragon fruit is pitaya. It is a native of South American and Asian countries. It is sourced from some types of cactus trees. Depending on the species, the fruit can have yellow or red skin. While the name could be intimidating, this fruit has been proven to be one of the most valuable nutritionally.
What are the health benefits of dragon fruit?
According to authoritynutrition.com, the pitaya is a nutritionally dense fruit. It is low in calories at only 52 in every 100 grams. Other values per 100 grams include:
- A high percentage of water. Good for people living in the hot climates where it grows
- 1 grams – proteins
- 4 grams – fat
- 11 grams carbohydrates
- 3 grams fiber
- 34% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) amounts of vitamin C
- 6% – iron RDI
- 7% – vitamin B1 (thiamine) RDI
- 9% – vitamin B2 (riboflavin) RDI
- 8% – vitamin B3 (niacin) RDI
Calcium, phosphorus and the trace element zinc are other mineral nutrients found in the fruit.
This low-calories, low fat, high vitamin C and high fiber fruit is considered among other high value foods such as salmon, eggs, kale and seaweed.
Dragon fruit use in folklore
Long before science proved the benefits of this fruit through research, traditional health practice already used it for the following health reasons.
- Improved wound healing
- Better digestive health and healthy appetite
- Healthy weight
- Improve memory
What has science proved about the benefits of dragon fruit?
The following are scientifically proven benefits of pitaya fruit.
- Supports the immune system
- Supports good digestion. This is partly due to the high amounts of fiber. This support good bowel emptying. Studies also suggest that this fruit offers good prebiotic effects. These provide food for the good bacteria in the gut.
- Supports good blood sugar control in healthy and diabetes type 2 people. Studies suggest that it lowers the incidence of insulin resistance. It also reduces the risk of fatty liver issues that promote chances of developing type 2 diabetes
- Have anticancer properties. The fruit contains high levels of antioxidants that keep harmful free radicals within healthy levels. High and uncontrolled levels of free radicals are associated with degenerative diseases such as cancer and premature aging. Identified antioxidants include:
- Vitamin C
- Betalains which have protective effects against low density lipoproteins oxidation
- Hydroxycinnamates demonstrated to have anti-cancer effects
- They protect the brain and the heart in addition to many other cell-protecting properties.
- Helps to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels
- Dragon Fruit Promotes good cardiovascular health.
- Pitaya or dragon fruit has anti-inflammatory effects which support good joint health
Cosmetic uses of the dragon fruit
- Making face mask for reducing signs of aging
- The fruit’s juice help to maintain colored hair
- Helps to heal sunburnt skin irritation
- Reduces risk of acne
How to eat dragon fruit
Don’t be scared by its look. It’s easy and safe to eat the fruit. Follow these steps.
- Get a ripe fruit. It is usually evenly red and gives way slightly when you press it.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the fruit in half or into many slices as you like.
- Scoop the fruit with a spoon or cut it further and remove the skin for easy eating
- You can eat it with yogurt, avocado, mangoes pineapples or chia. You can also be creative and make your own recipes or salads.
Does the dragon fruit have any side effects?
The fruit is very safe. There are only two recorded cases of people who developed a severe reaction after eating it. Science-backed dragon fruit benefits suggest that this fruit is a must inclusion in your diet.
- Anand Swarup KRL, Sattar MA, Abdullah NA, et al. Effect of dragon fruit extract on oxidative stress and aortic stiffness in streptozotocin-induced diabetes in rats. Pharmacognosy Research. 2010;2(1):31-35. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.60582.
- Song H, Zheng Z, Wu J, Lai J, Chu Q, Zheng X. White Pitaya (Hylocereus undatus) Juice Attenuates Insulin Resistance and Hepatic Steatosis in Diet-Induced Obese Mice. Peterson J, ed. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(2):e0149670. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149670.
- Song, H., Chu, Q., Yan, F., Yang, Y., Han, W., and Zheng, X. (2016) Red pitaya betacyanins protects from diet-induced obesity, liver steatosis and insulin resistance in association with modulation of gut microbiota in mice. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 31: 1462–1469. doi: 10.1111/jgh.13278.
- Ames BN, Shigenaga MK, Hagen TM. Oxidants, antioxidants, and the degenerative diseases of aging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1993;90(17):7915-7922.
- Andreas Kleinheinz, Ute Lepp, Björn M. Hausen, Arnd Petersen, Wolf-Meinhard Becker, Anaphylactic reaction to (mixed) fruit juice containing dragon fruit, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2009, 124, 4, 841