Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is a fruit that is native to Southeast Asia. There are two main varieties of dragon fruit – red and yellow/white. Dragon fruit health benefits include improved heart health and antioxidants that slow cell damage and aging. It’s also been used for its weight loss benefits, all of which we’ll look at in-depth below.
Pitaya, or strawberry pear, is a tropical fruit that comes from several cactus species. It has been eaten in Asia since the 12th century and is currently grown commercially in Hawaii, Central America, and Mexico.
It has gained a popular following among foodies and health-conscious aficionados for its incredible health benefits.
While the fruit grows in the tropics, you can still enjoy its many health benefits because it’s available fresh or frozen in supermarkets across the world.
Below are dragon fruit’s top health benefits, backed by science.
Packed with nutrients
Dragon fruit falls into that sweet spot category of foods low in calories but dense with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Furthermore, it contains a healthy dose of dietary fibers.
A one-cup serving contains some of the following nutrients:
- Calories: 136
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Fat: Zero fat
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 29 grams
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 18% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 9% of the RDI
Other beneficial compounds in the fruit include carotenoids and polyphenols.
Promotes digestive health
Dragon fruit is packed with dietary fibers non-digestible carbohydrates with numerous health benefits.
Its high fiber content can help you meet dietary fiber requirements (38 grams for men. 25 grams for women per day.)
Indeed, while fiber is best known for its digestive properties, studies show that it may also help protect against colon cancer.
Hydroxycitric acid or HCA is a natural extract found in dragon fruit that helps suppress appetite while slowing down carbohydrate absorption.
By suppressing appetite, dragon fruit can help people eat less, which leads to weight loss.
It also helps improve digestive system health. In one study on rats, scientists showed that dragon fruit extract protected the stomach lining, which prevented inflammation and ulcers.
Full of antioxidants
The fruit contains various nutrients, with antioxidants being one of them. A study published in 2014 shows that dragon fruit has a greater antioxidant capacity than red wine, green tea, and acai juice.
Antioxidants are known for helping fight against free radicals linked to aging and several chronic diseases, including cancer.
Protects against inflammation
In addition to dragon fruit’s high nutrient content, it also contains anti-inflammatory properties.
A study published in 2012 that compared dragon fruit with kiwifruit and grape showed dragon fruit to have greater antioxidant capacity than both fruits, along with an equally high anti-inflammatory effect.
Inflammation is the body’s response to infections or damage, but chronic inflammation has been linked to several health issues, including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, etc.
Strengthens the immune system
Vitamin C, vitamin A, and iron are all known for improving the body’s immune function by strengthening connective tissue, cell membranes, and blood vessels which prevents infections while reducing the severity of allergic reactions.
Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, preventing damage to cells caused by free radicals. These factors make dragon fruit ideal for people who lead sedentary lifestyles or suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
Good for skin health
Dragon Fruit contains vitamin C, an antioxidant known for its role in preventing wrinkles and acne while improving skin elasticity. The fruit also contains vitamin A, another antioxidant that works against collagen damage caused by free radicals.
Improves cardiovascular health
Dragon fruit also offers cardiovascular benefits, which are particularly important for people who lead sedentary lifestyles or are overweight.
Just one cup of dragon fruit offers 24% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C. This vital antioxidant helps protect cells from oxidative stress while strengthening collagen and connective tissue.
Can help with weight loss
According to several studies, dragon fruit is a good option for weight loss. A study published in 2011 found dragon fruit extract can increase energy expenditure which leads to greater weight loss.
In addition, dragon fruit also has appetite-suppressing properties. A recent study on overweight women showed that dragon fruit extract reduced calorie intake without affecting satiety or food preference.
These factors make dragon fruit ideal for people looking to lose a few pounds.
Dragon Fruit is an excellent source of calcium that helps prevent osteoporosis while keeping bones strong and healthy. It also contains B vitamins known for their role in red blood cell production, energy metabolism, and the synthesis of amino acids.
Um, how do you eat this fruit?
Dragon fruit looks frightening at first. Heck, the name alone evokes fiery imaginations of Daenerys Targaryen, aka Khaleesi, aka, The Mother of Dragons, with her ginormous dragon flattening King’s Landing in fire and fury. (Game of Thrones)
Nothing like that here. While the fruit is fiery red when ripe, it’s actually soft and sweet on the inside.
Cut it half lengthwise, scoop the insides with a spoon, or cut vertical and horizontal lines in the pulp to make cubes. The way you’d do with a mango. Push back the skin, and voila, you have some nice tasty cubes you can scoop with your fingers.
Add it to salads, smoothies, yogurt, or eat it on its own. It’s also sold pre-cubed and frozen in some grocery stores.