Most fruits boost health. While some of them have limited benefits, others are loaded with goodness. These are called superfoods. Dragon fruit, a variant belonging to the cactus class, is one such example. Available in various shades and colour combinations, it is also called “Pitaya”. This fruit draws its name from its shape and fiery tone, which resembles a dragon. Incidentally, this fruit is native to Central America.
What is Dragon Fruit?
Its original name is Pitaya. Nonetheless, in most Asian countries, it is known as “Dragon Fruit”. Rich in nutrients and having antioxidant properties, it is available in several colours (internally), while the skin is mostly a combination of pink/red hues. Frequently called the superfood, this exotic fruit has a flavour that is a mixture of pear and kiwi. “Pitaya/ dragon fruit” is synonymous with high vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber content.
How Does It Taste?
People who consume Dragon Fruit describe its taste differently. While some say it is slightly bitter, there are others who find its taste a combination of pear and kiwi. Then there is another group who feel that it is a milder version of passion fruit.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition Value –
Pitaya fruit or dragon fruit is not called a superfood without reason. Here are some staggering numbers –
- A bowl (100 grams) of this fruit contains almost 250 calories
- It has 82 g and 3.57 g of carbohydrates and protein, respectively
- It is also a great nutrition source of magnesium, iron, and calcium
- Pitaya is prescribed by health experts as a single source of vitamin C (3% RDI)
- It is also rich in fiber (8%)
This multi-faceted fruit, therefore, offers multiple health benefits. It is a source of immense goodness that improves overall health. Here is a list of the top 10 dragon fruit benefits.
- Enhanced Immune System: Boosting Your Body’s Defence
Vitamin A and vitamin C are immune system boosters. These essential vitamins help improve the body’s natural defence mechanism. While the carotenoids in dragon fruit usually get converted into vitamin A to fight infections, vitamin C is known to improve various cellular functions of the immune system. Apart from carotenoids, this fruit also contains other antioxidants, such as betaxanthins and polyphenolic compounds, which promotes the growth of WBCs or white blood cells.
- Antioxidant-Rich: Fighting Free Radicals and Aging
One of the established scientific theories is the negative impact of free radicals on the human body. They have the potential to harm DNA and protein cross-linking. These unpaired molecules, a result of persistent oxidative damage, cause aging. Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants such as Hydroxycinnamates and Flavonoids. Betalain, another antioxidant, has the power to prevent oxidation (of LDL – a form of bad cholesterol) and, thereby, cell damage. No wonder, then, one of the dragon fruit uses is the prevention of aging.
- Digestive Health: Aiding in Smooth Digestion
Red dragon fruit benefits include combating digestive health issues such as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and the subsets of gastrointestinal problems. It is not only high in fiber content which helps improve bowel movement, but its non-digestible food ingredients also stimulate the growth and/or activity of bacteria (Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria) in the gut region.
- Weight Management: A Low-Calorie, High-Fiber Option
In several lab studies, it has been observed that disturbed gut microbiota can lead to obesity. Intestinal microorganisms play a crucial role in hunger, digestion, and bowel movement. Metabolic disorders can trigger frequent urges to eat and thereby increase body weight. Betacyanins possess free radical neutralising properties, thereby keeping the gut in a healthy condition. Moreover, dragon fruit’s nutrition, high fiber, and high water content prevent overeating.
- Heart Health: Supporting Cardiovascular Function
Everyone knows that saturated fats are bad for our bodies. Thankfully, dragon fruit has several unsaturated or good fatty acids, such as Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and Omega-6 (linoleic acid). Almost half of it is an Omega-6 subset. Good fatty acids reduce cholesterol. Medical researchers have proved that bad or saturated fatty acids affect arteries, leading to cardiovascular issues. Lycopene, a photo nutrient present in Pitaya, does its bit in preventing heart-related problems.
- Diabetes Control: Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
Several studies have proved that dragon fruit’s benefits for diabetes are unmatched. Consuming this fruit reduces “fasting plasma sugar”. This is especially true in people with borderline diabetes. Pitaya has a GI value of around 50 and also boasts hypoglycaemic properties; therefore a good food for people with diabetes. However, people on insulin should consult their doctor for the exact quantity they can consume.
- Improved Hydration: Quenching Your Thirst Naturally
So what makes dragon fruit a great choice for keeping the body naturally hydrated? There are two reasons. Although this fruit doesn’t have a very high water content value like watermelon (90%), it does boast an impressive reading. Pitaya fruit consists of 80% water. It also contains vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, iron, and other micronutrients. This unique combination keeps the body hydrated naturally for longer durations.
- Skin Rejuvenation: Enhancing Complexion and Health
While it may sound a bit outlandish, dragon fruit benefits for skin simply cannot be ignored. There are several reasons for this assumption. Dragon fruit is loaded with vitamin C, which is known to combat skin-related issues such as pigmentation and, at the same time, tone down dark spots. On the other hand, this fruit’s antioxidants slow down ageing and nurture skin components such as collagen and hyaluronic acid, making the skin look younger and bouncy.
- Eye Protection: Guarding Vision with Key Nutrients
Although no sufficient research has been conducted in this area, it is believed that beta-carotene found in pink dragon fruit helps prevent age-related and premature macular degeneration. One of the other benefits of eating dragon fruit vis-à-vis eye protection and vision health is the delay of cataracts. If consumed in the right way and right proportion, it reduces the chance of vision problems drastically.
- Nutrient Powerhouse: Packed with Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Some of the nutrients and minerals found in dragon fruit include – Vitamins C (9%) & E (4%), magnesium (18%), calcium, and iron. Pitaya also contains marginal protein (3%) and a decent punch of calories (136). Its less than 10% fibre content is a perfect source for your daily body needs.
Read More: 10 Diabetes-friendly Fruits To Keep Your Blood Sugar In Control
How should I eat this fruit?
You can consume it as it is, mixed in yogurt as a dessert option, in powder form or include it in smoothies.
Who should eat this fruit?
Although people suffering from cholesterol, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and skin-related issues can benefit from its consumption, those who are on insulin should consult their doctor first (to consume the right quantity).
Is dragon/pitaya fruit good for hair?
Although dragon fruit benefits for hair is still a premature theory, at least until detailed studies are conducted, it does seem to improve hair quality.
How much dragon fruit should I consume daily?
Typically, a bowl full of 200 grams should suffice. Consuming in moderate amounts doesn’t require a doctor’s permission/prescription, even for insulin-taking diabetic patients, because it’s GI value is almost similar to a banana.
Are there any dragon fruit side effects?
It may cause rashes, swelling around the face or trigger nausea in rare cases.
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit in a Nutshell!
Dragon fruit is fiber-rich, laden with antioxidants, boasts anti-inflammatory properties, and is hypoglycemic. Medical studies prove that this fruit kills free radicals (because of the presence of flavonoids and betacyanin), preventing cell damage which can lead to severe illnesses.
It is also a perfect option/food for managing diabetes and cholesterol and improving heart health, apart from preventing/slowing down aging and improving vision and skin glow.
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