Dragon fruit is a favorite exotic fruit of many because it is delicious and offers many health benefits.
Also known as pitaya, this fruit of the tropics looks just as mystical as it sounds: dragon-like fiery red skin with pinkish hues and green spikey overgrowths enveloping a sweet-flavored white or red pulp specked with numerous edible black seeds.
Indigenous to Central and South America, dragon fruit owes its exclusivity to the fact that its cultivation is very limited.
Over the years, several Southeast Asian countries have joined the ranks as prime suppliers of this coveted delicacy. The peak season for growing this member of the cactus species falls between summer and early autumn.
The taste of this enticing gift of nature is a cross between a kiwi fruit and a pear, with just the right degree of sweet and sour. Its flavor profile makes it compatible with an array of other flavors.
Dragon fruit can be savored alone in its raw, fresh form as a healthy snack. It can also give quite a zesty bite to your salads, cereal bowls, smoothies, and juices.
The pulp of this fruit is often used to make jams, purees, sherbets, fruit pizza, and beverages. Its leaves can be steeped to make a very healthy tea.
In addition to a rich and robust antioxidant content, the fruit is replete with soluble fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, and phosphorus.
Plus, it is extremely hydrating given that it is 80% water and has a very low-calorie count. The anti-inflammatory, antitumor, enzyme-inhibiting, antithrombogenic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties account for dragon fruit’s plentiful nourishing properties and make it a great value addition to your diet.
Healthy Perks of Adding Dragon Fruit to Your Diet
Here are 10 health benefits of dragon fruit.
1. Aids Digestion
Owing to its high fiber content, dragon fruit can aid the digestive process. The fiber adds bulk to your stool and regulates bowel movements. Thus, this fruit is the ideal dietary aid to prevent and treat constipation.
In addition, dragon fruit can promote the growth of healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics, in the digestive tract.
A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences found red and white dragon fruit to be a good source of prebiotic oligosaccharides. These are specific types of dietary fiber that favor the growth of gut-friendly healthy bacteria.
Eating foods such as dragon fruit that provide a source of prebiotics can help aid digestion because they promote the growth of probiotics instead of harmful bacteria in the gut.
2. Supports Cardiovascular Health
Dragon fruit promotes cardiovascular health by providing antioxidants.
The vitamin B3 content of dragon fruit can contribute to lowering bad cholesterol levels and raising good cholesterol levels in the blood.
In a 2018 animal study published in the Journal of Physics Conference Series, researchers found that administering progressively increasing doses of red dragon fruit peel powder for 30 days helped decrease total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL-c levels.
In the study, 24 hyperlipidemic male mice were fed with the powder of red dragon fruit peel at doses 50, 100, 150, and 200 mg/kg of body weight for 30 days. The best lipid control was observed with a dose of 200 mg/kg of body weight.
This study suggests that eating dragon fruit may help promote positive blood cholesterol levels, but more studies in humans are needed.
Dragon fruit is packed with various antioxidants that combat high levels of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to plaque formation, which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease.
Thus, the inclusion of dragon fruit as part of a balanced, heart-healthy diet may help protect against atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
3. Manages Blood Sugar Levels
The fiber content in this exotic fruit plays a key role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. In fact, it prevents sugar spikes in people with diabetes.
These spikes generally occur after eating high-glycemic-index foods. By contributing to the stabilization of blood sugar levels, dragon fruit helps stave off several health complications commonly associated with diabetes. For instance, it may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems among people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
A 2010 study published in Pharmacognosy Research showed that dragon fruit extract was effective in controlling oxidative damage and decreasing aortic stiffness in diabetic rats.
Therefore, dragon fruit may have a positive role in people with diabetes. However, dragon fruit should be consumed in moderation and in accordance with your doctor’s advice.
4. Supports Weight Loss
Dragon fruit is low in calories and high in fiber. This is a winning combination for supporting weight loss. Eating foods that are low in calories and high in fiber can help you feel full longer so you will eat less throughout the day and you don’t gain extra weight.
Dragon fruit can serve as a healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, which will keep you satiated for long periods. For additional satisfaction, eat dragon fruit as part of a meal or snack that includes protein and heart-healthy fats.
5. Boosts Immunity
Dragon fruit can boost the body’s immune system because it is high in antioxidants. The antioxidant vitamin C helps the white blood cells function properly and protects your body from infectious agents. This, in turn, may help reduce episodes of the common cold and other infections.
In addition, the B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous, iron, and protein in the fruit contribute to a healthy immune system.
The high water content of dragon fruit also helps remove water waste from the body.
6. Prevents Cancer
Dragon fruit provides many types of antioxidants that help combat cancer-causing free radicals. One of the antioxidants it provides is carotene, which has been shown in some studies to have anticarcinogenic qualities that may help prevent the development of tumors.
In addition, the lycopene that gives this fruit its characteristic red color may help lower prostate cancer risk.
This is suggested by a 2011 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, which states that a low-fat diet and high intake of fruits, vegetables, and lycopene-rich foods, along with adequate physical activity, can help avert the risk of prostate cancer.
7. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Dragon fruit contains potassium. Potassium can help balance the fluid movement in the body, which can lead to blood pressure regulation.
Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy can help you reach an adequate daily intake of potassium.
8. Maintains Eye Health
Dragon fruit contains beta-carotene, which is needed by the retina for both low-light (night vision) and color vision.
It helps maintain healthy and clear corneas and protects the cells in your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. It also reduces the risk of night blindness and age-related macular degeneration.
In addition, dragon fruit provides vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps in the proper functioning of the retinal cells and preventing cataracts.
9. Fights Signs of Skin Aging
The antioxidant property of dragon fruit may help keep the skin tight and firm as you age. It helps fight off free radicals that accelerate the aging process.
10. Strengthens Bones and Teeth
Dragon fruit provides calcium and phosphorous that help strengthen your bones and teeth.
Calcium is also needed for proper muscle functioning and nerve transmission. The nutrients from dragon fruit can also help aid in tissue formation and repair, which may help prevent brittle bones and osteoporosis.
Is Dragon Fruit Safe?
Dragon fruit is considered safe for people to eat, including pregnant women, in moderation as part of a balanced diet. If you have any health concerns related to diabetes or kidney disease, speak with your doctor before adding dragon fruit to your diet.
Dragon fruit allergy is very rare, but if you notice any allergic symptoms after consuming dragon fruit, do not continue to eat. Consult your healthcare team for further information.
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