Dragon Fruit Nutrition: Top Health Benefits, Immune Support

What Is Dragon Fruit?

Dragon fruit grows on the Hylocereus cactus, also known as the Honolulu Queen, whose flowers only open at night.

The plant is native to southern Mexico and Central America. Today, it is grown all over the world.

It goes by many names, including pitaya, pitahaya and strawberry pear.

The two most common types have bright, red skin with green scales that resemble a dragon — hence the name.

The variety that’s most widely available has white pulp with black seeds. The less common variety has red pulp with black seeds.

Another variety has yellow skin and white pulp with black seeds. It is referred to as yellow dragon fruit.

Dragon fruit may look exotic, but its flavors are similar to other fruits. Its taste has been described as a slightly sweet cross between a kiwi and a pear.

Health Benefits Of Dragon Fruit

Cardiovascular Health

Dragon fruit is quite an exotic fruit with a number of unique properties, one being that they contain no 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 small.

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.

Some fat is beneficial, and the seeds of dragon fruit do contain this good fat, which can lead to HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).

HDL cholesterol actively decreases the amount of LDL cholesterol by inhibiting the receptors that it binds to, on the walls of arteries.

Reduce Cancer Risk

The red pigments in the red flesh dragon fruit is rich in lycopene, flavanoid antioxidants, and phytoalbumins, which can help prevent the formation of cancerous cells.

As documented in American Institute for Cancer Research eNews, the phytochemical lycopene that is present in red flesh dragon fruit can prevent prostate cancer.

It is however, important to note that you must lead a healthy lifestyle and go on an anti-cancer diet to help improves your chances of preventing cancer.

In addition, the flavanoid antioxidants can also prevent inflammatory diseases such as gout and arthritis.

Proteins, Carbohydrates and Calories in Dragon Fruit

100 g of dragon fruit will give almost 2.0 g of protein and 9 g of carbohydrates. Which is about 3% and 4% of the recommended daily value, respectively.

Pitaya is also very low in calories at only 60 calories, which is about 3% of the daily value

This is good news if you are on a weight management program.

Vitamins & Minerals in Dragon Fruits

Dragon fruits have a high dosage of Vitamin C where 100 gm of the fruit will gives 500 mg of Vitamin C.

It also contains Vitamin A, B1, B12 and E, but in smaller amounts.

Mineral contents in dragon fruits include a good dosage of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. In smaller amounts, it has calcium, iron and copper.

Hence, with all these nutritional benefits, dragon fruit can be a complete meal of its own.

Immunity Booster

The high levels of vitamin C found in dragon fruit can give the body’s immune system a boost while also stimulating the activity of other antioxidants.

The presence of high level of vitamin C, minerals, and pytoalbumin is involved in fighting free radicals and possessing antioxidant properties.

Vitamins B1, B2, B3, as well as calcium, phosphorous, iron, protein, niacin, and fiber also contribute to improving the functioning of your immune system.

Digestion

Dragon fruits have a significantly higher fiber content, which means that they can help your body bulk up its 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.

Eyes

Improved eyesight from eating dragon fruit?

You bet!

This fruit contains Vitamin A in the form of carotene which is needed by the retina of the eye for both low-light (night vision) and colour vision.

Night blindness and other eye problems such as age-related macular degeneration can be caused by a deficiency in Vitamin A.

Nervous system

The high B Vitamin content in dragon fruit helps to support the formation and maintenance of some of the most basic structures in the nervous system.

It helps in the formation of nerve cells themselves. And makes us more alert, and experience higher levels of mental clarity.

Calcium in dragon fruit is also essential in enhancing the functioning of the nervous system. It keeps our nerves healthy and ensures their ability to communicate effectively.

The healthy fats in dragon fruit are also crucial to help nourish and protect the myelin sheath which allows for proper conductive signalling in the brain.

What are the best ways to eat the fruit?

When choosing a dragon fruit, look for one that has bright, evenly coloured skin. A few splotches on the skin are OK, but lots indicate it may be over-ripe.

If you press the skin, it should give a little. If it gives a lot, it is likely to be mushy inside, If it is firm, wait a few days for it to ripen.

To get at the flesh inside, place the fruit on a chopping board and slice it in half. You may be surprised at how easy it is to cut with a sharp knife.

You can use a dessert spoon to remove the flesh by running it around the circumference of the fruit, between the flesh and skin.

Lift out the flesh, then check it for any leftover skin, trimming it off. The fruit is now ready to cut into cubes.

You can refrigerate the cubes in a sealed container to keep it fresh. The flesh can be added to a fruit salad or mixed with yoghurt.

You can also purée it to add to a smoothie, jelly or ice cream, or add the purée to a filling for a pudding such as a mousse or cheesecake.

Dragon fruit is also sold in health food shops and online in a dehydrated form. Dried dragon fruit has a chewy texture and mild taste.

The dried fruit can be added chopped up to muesli or granola, desserts or salads and can be eaten whole as a snack.

Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts

100 grams of dragon fruit contains about:

  • 50 calories
  • 11 grams carbohydrates
  • 1.1 grams protein
  • 0.4 gram fat
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 20.5 milligrams vitamin C (34 percent DV)
  • 1.9 milligrams iron (11 percent DV)
  • 0.05 milligram vitamin B2 (3 percent DV)
  • 0.04 milligram vitamin B1 (3 perent DV)
  • 22.5 milligrams phosphorus (2 percent DV)
  • 8.5 milligrams calcium (1 percent DV)
  • 0.16 milligram vitamin B3 (1 percent DV)

 

History Of Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) is a tropical fruit that belongs to the climbing cacti (Cactaceae) family. Widely cultivated in Vietnam, the fruit is popular in Southeast Asia and is. 

Origin and distribution

The dragon fruit’s scientific name is derived from the Greek word hyle (woody), the Latin word cereus (waxen) and the Latin word undatus, which refers to the wavy edges of its stems. 

The origin of the dragon fruit is unknown, but it is probably native to Central America.

 It is also known as pitahaya in Mexico, and pitaya roja in Central America and northern South America. The Spanish name pitahaya may also refer to several other species of tall cacti with flowering fruit. 

The French introduced the fruit into Vietnam over a hundred years ago. According to some accounts, the French took the fruit from Nicaragua and Colombia.

While others say the French brought it with them from Guyana (South America) in 1870 as an ornamental plant. 

Today, Vietnam is the world’s leading exporter of dragon fruit, with revenues from dragon fruit making up 55 percent of the country’s fruit export turnover.

However, the fruit is also increasingly being cultivated in other countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Israel, northern Australia, southern China, the Philippines and Hawaii, challenging Vietnam’s dominance.

China, which imports 77 percent of Vietnam’s dragon fruit production. Has successfully cultivated the crop on 20,000 ha of land in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces alone, an area roughly equal to that dedicated to the plant in the whole of Vietnam.