Dragon fruit is an exotic fruit that’s gaining a lot of attention lately.
Not only is it eye-catching and delicious, but it also seems to offer some health perks.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about dragon fruit, from its nutritional value to its advantages and even how to enjoy it.
What is dragon fruit?
Dragon fruit comes from the Hylocereus cactus, sometimes known as the Honolulu queen, which has flowers that bloom only at night.
Originally from the southern parts of Mexico and Central America, these days you can find it being grown globally.
It’s known by various names like pitaya, pitahaya, and strawberry pear.
The most typical varieties sport a vivid red exterior with green spikes, looking very much like a dragon, which is how it got its name.
You’ll usually find it with white flesh dotted with black seeds, although there’s a rarer variety that has red flesh with black seeds. There’s also a yellow-skinned type with white flesh and black seeds.
Despite its exotic appearance, the flavor of dragon fruit is fairly familiar. It’s often described as a mildly sweet blend of kiwi and pear flavors.
Summary: Dragon fruit, originally from Mexico and Central America, is now grown worldwide. Its flavor is best described as a mix of kiwi and pear.
Nutritional breakdown of dragon fruit
Dragon fruit is a light snack that packs in a variety of nutrients, including iron, magnesium, and fiber.
For a single serving size of 3.5 ounces or 100 grams, here are the nutritional specifics:
- Calories: 60
- Protein: 1.2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 13 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Vitamin C: 3% of your daily requirement
- Iron: 4% of your daily requirement
- Magnesium: 10% of your daily requirement
Thanks to its high fiber and magnesium content, coupled with its low calorie count, dragon fruit is definitely a nutrient-packed fruit.
Summary: Dragon fruit is low in calories but rich in fiber, making it an excellent source of several essential nutrients.
Antioxidant benefits of dragon fruit
Dragon fruit is loaded with different kinds of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are substances that defend your cells against unstable molecules, known as free radicals, which can lead to chronic illnesses and aging.
The primary antioxidants in the pulp of dragon fruit include:
- Betalains: Found in the red flesh of dragon fruit, these red pigments are known to help prevent “bad” LDL cholesterol from being oxidized or damaged.
- Hydroxycinnamates: These compounds have shown potential in fighting cancer, based on lab and animal tests.
- Flavonoids: This wide-ranging group of antioxidants is associated with improved brain function and a lower risk of heart disease.
One study evaluated the antioxidant capabilities of 17 different tropical fruits.
Although dragon fruit didn’t top the list in overall antioxidant power, it was particularly effective in protecting certain fats from damage by free radicals.
Summary: Dragon fruit offers a range of antioxidants that safeguard your cells, including betalains, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonoids.
Possible health benefits of dragon fruit
Studies on animals indicate that dragon fruit could offer a variety of health gains.
Much of its potential comes from its rich fiber and antioxidant properties.
Experiments with both red and white dragon fruit have demonstrated reduced insulin resistance and lesser fat in the liver of overweight mice.
In one experiment, mice fed a high-fat diet but supplemented with this fruit extract put on less weight. They also had lower levels of liver fat, insulin resistance, and inflammation, partially because of positive changes in their gut bacteria.
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Dragon fruit is a source of prebiotic fiber, which helps boost beneficial gut bacteria, possibly enhancing your metabolic health.
While the fruit shows promise in improving aspects of metabolic syndrome, which is connected to type 2 diabetes, not all impacts have been positive.
For instance, a mouse study on a high-fat and high-carb diet found that those who consumed dragon fruit juice saw improvements in blood sugar levels and some liver enzymes. However, another liver enzyme level rose significantly.
In another study, diabetic rats treated with this fruit extract showed a 35% decrease in malondialdehyde, an indicator of oxidative stress. They also experienced reduced arterial stiffness when compared to a control group.
However, findings regarding dragon fruit’s effects on type 2 diabetes in humans are mixed, warranting further research.
Summary: Research on animals indicates that dragon fruit might help with issues like insulin resistance, liver fat, and cardiovascular health. However, human studies offer mixed results.
Potential side effects of dragon fruit
Generally speaking, dragon fruit is considered safe to eat. However, some individuals might experience allergic reactions in rare instances.
There have been two reported cases where women, who had no previous food allergies, had severe allergic reactions after eating a fruit blend containing dragon fruit. Blood tests confirmed that they developed antibodies against dragon fruit.
So far, these are the only two known cases of allergic reactions, but it’s possible that others might be allergic to this fruit and not be aware of it.
Summary: There are a couple of reported instances of severe allergic reactions to dragon fruit, so some people may unknowingly be allergic to it.
How to eat dragon fruit
Don’t be put off by its exotic appearance; dragon fruit is quite simple to consume.
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Here’s your guide to eating dragon fruit:
- Pick a ripe one with a vibrant red skin that’s evenly colored and yields a bit when you squeeze it.
- Take a sharp knife and cut the fruit directly down the middle to halve it.
- You can either scoop the flesh out with a spoon or peel the skin away and cut the inside into small chunks.
Ways to serve dragon fruit:
- Just slice it and savor it as it is.
- Dice it into little cubes, and pair it with Greek yogurt and some nuts.
- Mix it into a salad.
Summary: Eating dragon fruit is straightforward. You can either eat it by itself or incorporate it into various nutritious dishes.
Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit with lower sugar and carbohydrate content compared to many of its tropical counterparts.
It holds promise for certain health advantages, but further research involving humans is needed to confirm these benefits.
All in all, dragon fruit is a flavorful, unique fruit that can add some excitement to your food choices.