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Dragon fruit: Nutrition and health benefits

Dragon fruit and its health benefits

Dragon fruit is a vibrant, tropical fruit easily recognized by its broth red skin and seed speckled pulp. This exotic fruit is also known as strawberry fruit or pitahaya. The red skin and white seeded pulp is the most widely available form of dragon fruits. However, another rare type which has red pulp is also available. 

Despite having a unique appearance, this fruit tastes similar to that of other fruits and is described as a combination of the tastes of kiwi and pear. It is acclaimed as a superfood’s food by health-conscious people owing to its fantastic health benefits. So without further ado, let’s look at the nutritional aspects, health benefits, and health risks of eating dragon fruit. 1

Dragon fruit: Nutritional value

Each cup of six-ounce serving of dragon fruit contains the following nutrients 2 :

  • 102 calories
  • 0-gram fat
  • 2 grams of proteins
  • 22 grams of carbohydrates
  • 5 grams of fiber
  • 13 grams of sugar
  • 100 international units (IU) of vitamin A
  • 4 mg of vitamin C
  • 31 mg of calcium
  • 0.1 mg of iron
  • 68 mg of magnesium

Health benefits of eating dragon fruit

Antioxidants

Dragon fruits are rich in antioxidants that protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Some of the essential antioxidants found in dragon fruit are betalain, hydroxycinnamate, flavonoids, etc.

These compounds prevent bad cholesterol from being oxidized and damaging the body. Moreover, they are also found to improve brain health and reduce the risk of heart disease. 3

Low cholesterol –

  • This tropical fruit is low in cholesterol, saturated, and trans fats.
  • It can be a great addition to your weight loss regime, and regular consumption of this fruit is beneficial to your heart in the long run.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget to eat the seeds, too, as these tiny little things are loaded with omega – 3 – fatty acids that are essential for your well-being.

High in fiber –

  • Dragon fruit is an excellent source of dietary fibers.
  • Fiber benefits gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health and helps maintain a healthy weight.

Improves the health of your heart –

  • The antioxidants present in dragonfruits help to promote heart health.
  • They prevent the clogging of the arteries by the plaque and maintain circulation in the body.

Improves gut health –

  • Some studies have shown that dragon fruit promotes the growth of the healthy gut microbiome as it contains prebiotic fiber.
  • This positive effect could help digestion, overall metabolic health and even reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Strengthens the immune system – 

  • Dragon fruit contains vitamin C and carotenoids that boost the immune system. 
  • It also prevents infection by protecting the white blood cells from damage by free radicals.

May boost low iron levels –

  • Eating dragon fruit is sure to boost your iron levels. It contains about 8 % of the recommended daily intake and has vitamin C to help your body absorb iron.
  • So the next time you search for foods to improve your iron levels, don’t forget to consider dragon fruits.

Enhanced glycemic controls –

  • Studies have shown that eating dragon fruit leads to better control of diabetes. It occurs due to the stimulation of the growth of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
  • Moreover, this tropical fruit has proven to lower prediabetes’s fasting blood sugar levels. Surprisingly, this effect increases with the more number of fruits you consume.
  • However, there is no precise correlation between dragon fruit and type II diabetes. 

Side effects of consuming dragon fruits

  • Eating dragon fruit in moderation is relatively safe. If you consume adequate quantities of this fruit at proper intervals, you will not experience any side effects.
  • But, if you eat an excess of this fruit, then there is a high chance of you suffering from any one of the following side effects :
  • Stomach issues – intestinal gas, intestinal obstruction, stomach discomfort, and flatulence are some of the common symptoms that you may develop if you overeat dragon fruit every day.
  • Reddish colored urine
  • Increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke
  • Allergic reaction
  • Hypotension

How to eat dragon fruit?

The exotic look of the dragon fruit, especially its scaly leaves, may give you the impression that it’s challenging to eat. But this is not true.  

It is effortless to dice this fruit but get the perfectly ripe one.

A ripe fruit will be bright red, while an unripe fruit will be green in color. Some spots are usually in the ripe fruits, but if there are too many bruise-like splotches in the fruit, it’s overripe.

And importantly, look for a fruit that’s soft but not mushy. If the fruit is overly firm, then don’t worry. Just bring it to your counter and leave it there for some time. It will ripen soon.

The best ways to eat a dragon fruit are :

  1. Cut the fruit in half lengthwise using a sharp knife. 
  2. Scoop out the white seed speckled pulp with a spoon or cut it into cubes by drawing horizontal and vertical lines in the pulp without cutting into the peel.
  3. Now push on the back of the skin to get the cubes and remove them with your fingers or spoon. Always remember to discard the pink peel of the dragon fruit. This peel, while edible, tastes bitter and may not be appetizing to eat with the fruit. So make sure to remove all the pink portions of the fruit before eating.
  4. Once you cut them up, either eat them up or wrap them up tightly and leave put them in your fridge. But don’t ever eat it if it starts to turn brown and mushy.

Dragon fruit recipes

  • Dragon fruit is best eaten raw. Just cut them up and enjoy them as a quick snack.
  • You can also add them to your fruit salad with almost any other tropical fruit like mango, pineapple, or papaya. 
  • Adding dragon fruit with lettuce, oranges, and tomatoes along with a vinegar mustard dressing gives you the best oriental salad. It makes for the perfect work lunch, which is light and refreshing. So pack them up when you are in a hurry and want something nutritious.
  • You can also enjoy this fruit as a delicious smoothie for your post-workout fix. The recipe is quite simple too. Just blend the diced-up dragon fruits with some yogurt and apricots and have it on the go.
  • Besides these recipes, you can also try a couple of other ways to add them to your diet. Some squeeze lime juice over it to enhance its flavor, while others pair it with fish dishes, particularly cod, tuna, and mahi-mahi. You can chop it finely and serve it on top of your fish as salsa, and there you go with a tasty protein-packed meal.
  • Although most people tend to avoid the peel due to its bitter taste, some pickle it and eat it alone or add it to their salad. Doing so adds to the nutritional value of your salad, as these peels are also loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants.

The bottom line

This nutritious and exotic fruit is undoubtedly worth trying at least once. It not just offers you excellent health benefits but also adds a pop of color to your plate. The best part of this fruit is that it provides you with prebiotic fiber and loads of other minerals, all in a low–calorie serving. So, don’t hesitate any more and grab one of these unique tropical fruits to add variety to your healthy diet. 4, 5

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