Just one bite of this unique tropical treat can pack a serious nutritional punch for your body. Dragon fruit (pitaya) comes in both sweet and sour varieties and colors. Also, there are plenty of benefits of dragon fruit that you should be aware of. The most common form seen in markets today is the red dragon fruit, which is a little smaller than a cantaloupe and features trademark spikes on its skin.
According to the University of Florida, dragon fruit has mostly remained popular in South Florida, the Carribean Islands, Hawaii, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Israel, but it is becoming available rapidly around the world as interest in this fruit grows. Here are the benefits of dragon fruit that you should know about.
1. Contains Dense Nutrients
One of the more popular benefits of dragon fruit is the nutrients your body gets from just one fruit. Here is the nutrient profile for one (100 gram) serving of dragon fruit:
- Calories (energy): 52.
- Protein: 1.1 gram.
- Fat: 0.4 grams.
- Carbohydrates: 11 grams.
- Fiber: 3 grams.
- Vitamin C: 34%.
- Iron: 10.6%.
One should consider food as nutrient dense taking into consideration its vitamin content compared to its caloric value. Based on its high vitamin C content and low-calorie count, the dragon fruit is considered a nutrient dense food. This benefit of dragon fruit makes it a good option for those looking to increase their vitamin intake with food rather than supplements.
2. Supports a Healthy Digestive System
Another of the benefits of dragon fruit is its unique carbohydrate content. A study from Science Direct found that dragon fruit has significant prebiotics found inside of its carbohydrates. These compounds support the growth of healthy bacteria including Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria (the same found in yogurt), which help prevent diarrhea and other digestive upsets.
This makes dragon fruit a possible alternative for those who can’t consume dairy products but need the digestive support. These bacteria also help your gut absorb nutrients from other foods that you eat.
3. Increases Blood Flow
Included in the list of benefits of dragon fruit is its dietary fiber content in the form of pectin substances, which can reduce cholesterol levels. It’s true that studies on this have been limited to trials involving rodents.
Still, researchers plan to develop several human studies soon as heart and blood health becomes a popular concern around the world. Pectin also contains different acids that help clean out blood vessels and arteries that may be clogged and causing blood pressure problems.
4. Supports a Healthy Heart
A study published in the journal Pharmacognosy Research found strong evidence that one of the benefits of dragon fruit is its ability to lower your risk for heart disease. This is due to its high concentration of mono-saturated fats.
These fats help to reverse blood vessel stiffness and thrombosis, in addition to slowing the progression of plaque and heart inflammation. While this study was also limited to rodents, the implications for human consumption are promising.
5. Provides Essential Fatty Acids
One less known of the many benefits of dragon fruit is that the seeds found inside contain omega-3 fatty acids, something many adults need to supplement their diets with. The American Heart Association encourages increased consumption of these fatty acids to reduce your risk of heart disease and other conditions.
6. Safe for Many Diabetics
One unexpected of the benefits of dragon fruit is its safety for people with diabetes. As an entire fruit contains 60 calories, nutritionists consider it a low-glycemic fruit similar to blueberries. The same 2010 study referenced above found that white dragon fruit, in particular, may play a role in decreasing insulin resistance for those with type II diabetes.
7. Includes Antioxidants
Dragon fruit pulp (the fleshy part around the seeds) contains an antioxidant called lycopene, which some doctors and nutritionists associate with lower cancer rates. While linking dragon fruit to reductions in cancers requires more studies, preliminary research is promising. Published works showing the results of this research will be increasingly available in coming years as interest in cancer prevention is at an all-time high.
What Is a Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is the product of a flowering cactus called the Hylocereus cactus, native to Mexico and Central America. Nowadays, it grows in many countries worldwide. The fruit comes in many types, but the most common is a red fruit with white pulp and black seeds. The taste can be described as a sweet mix of kiwi and pear.
Most nutritionists consider dragon fruit to be safe for most healthy adults, including pregnant women. If you are not sure about adding dragon fruit to your diet, be sure to check with your doctor.
If you are looking for a delicious, healthy fruit to add to your diet, the dragon fruit may be a satisfying option.
Enjoying the Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Many enjoy dragon fruit in its raw form. Choose a fruit that has bright red, even color and that you can squeeze slightly with your fingers. You can simply cut the fruit in half and spoon out the pulp or peel the skin and slice the whole fruit.
Some add dragon fruit to yogurt parfaits or salads, while some add it into savory recipes. Seared scallops with dragon fruit salsa and dragon fruit berry bliss chia pudding are some of the tastiest and most creative recipes that use dragon fruit as the main ingredient.
Summing It Up
It’s true that more definitive research is in the works on this subject. Still, the studies available on the benefits of dragon fruit are promising. More studies involving human subjects would be beneficial and are likely to begin in the future. Overall, the potential benefits of dragon fruit combined with its impressive nutritional profile make it a healthy, sweet way to get more fruit in your diet.
If you enjoy dragon fruit in your diet, we would love to hear what you think! Leave us a comment below with your thoughts on this special fruit.