The Dragon fruit may not be familiar to many people as it is a strange and unique fruit that is not commonly seen in every region. Yet it is available in supermarkets these days and is considered to be the healthiest of all fruits. This fruit, also known as Pitaya has an exceptionally stunning appearance and is very popular for the several health benefits it offers. This fruit belongs to the cactus species and is found predominantly in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Although it is a native of Central America, South America, and Mexico, dragon fruit is widely cultivated in Southeast Asian countries like Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam. In many of these countries, dragon fruit is an important part of the daily diet as well.
There are different species of dragon fruit that varies in size, shape and taste (sweet or sour). It comes in pink, red and yellow colors with pink or white meat inside. The species of dragon fruit that is most commonly available is red in color and covered with broad spike like growths. Inside the fruit, the meat resembles the texture of a kiwi fruit but contains many tiny black colored seeds, which are edible and packed with protein.
Nutritionals benefits of dragon fruit in a nutshell
The dragon fruit is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and anti oxidants and consuming it regularly makes it highly beneficial for us to lead a healthy life. These nutrients help in protecting our body from potentially dangerous health conditions like cancer and heart diseases. This fruit is also an excellent source of minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus and also important vitamins like vitamin C and the B group vitamins. The phytoalbumins present in the fruits have high anti-oxidant properties which fights the development and growth of cancer causing cells. A single dragon fruit has about 60 calories, 2 g of protein, 1.5 g of fat, 1 g of fiber, 8 g of sugar, 9 g of carbohydrates and 60mg of sodium.
The dragon fruit can be consumed either fresh or in the dried form. It can also be used to make a wide variety of delicacies like jam, ice cream, jelly, candy etc. The dried form of the fruit is found to carry about ten times the nutritional effectiveness of a fresh fruit. Another advantage of the dried fruit is that it is easily available in places where it cannot be grown. However, no matter how you eat the fruit, it is guaranteed to provide you with a plethora of health and nutritional benefits. Given below are some of the important health benefits of dragon fruits:
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Dragon fruit Improves cardiovascular health
Dragon fruit helps to lower the level of bad cholesterol in your body, which in turn lowers the risk of your veins and arteries being blocked by plaque. As a result, you are protected from many of the life threatening conditions like heart attack, atherosclerosis and stroke. The fruit itself has almost no cholesterol or any kind of fats that are cholesterol producing or unhealthy. It also helps to increase the level of good cholesterol or HDL which is not only good for your body but also keeps the level of LDL under check.
Boost the immune system with Dragon fruit
Dragon fruit has high vitamin C content which improves your immunity and keeps you safe from many diseases and ailments. Vitamin C is known to help in the removal of the free radicals that are produced as a result of cell metabolism. These free radicals are dangerous and are capable of causing serious health conditions like heart problems and cancer.
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Dragon fruit and Cancer
According to the American Institute of cancer research, cancer can be prevented to a great extent by maintaining a proper weight and eating a healthy and nutritious diet. The diet recommended for preventing cancer mostly consists of more servings of fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, lean meat, seeds and nuts. At the same time it is important to reduce the intake of processed food, and foods high in sodium, saturated fats and sugars. Dragon fruit is a great anti-cancer food because in addition to being a rich source of vitamin C, it is also a storehouse of many different natural antioxidants. Carotene, which has been found to possess many anti-cancer properties, is present in high levels in this fruit. The fiber and minerals contained in dragon fruit helps in the easy digestion of food and the removal of toxic substances, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Dragon fruit aids in digestion
As mentioned earlier, dragon fruit is a good source of fiber, which helps in regulating your bowel movements. When your bowel movements are regular, the odds of developing many digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation etc are considerably reduced.
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Dragon fruit storehouse of vitamins
Besides the abundance of vitamin C, dragon fruit is also rich in many other vitamins like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B3. Vitamin B1 is useful in carbohydrate metabolism and providing your body with the energy it needs. Vitamin B2 helps to improve appetite and hence is a good solution for people suffering from loss of appetite. Vitamin B3 can help in reducing the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your body, thereby lowering your risk of heart diseases and stroke. The other benefit of the B group vitamins is that they help to maintain the blood pressure levels. It also aids in improving the health of your skin and ensuring the proper functioning of the thyroid glands.
Dragon fruit and diabetes
A popular notion is that people suffering from diabetes should cut down on their intake of fruits in order to maintain their blood sugar levels. It is important to understand that all fruits are not the same and there is no need for diabetics to completely avoid fruits from their diet. The key is in consuming the right fruits with low glycemic index. These fruits do not cause dangerous spikes in your sugar levels. Dragon fruit is found to be good for regulating the blood sugar levels for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. This fruit, which is low in carbohydrates and sugar helps to stabilize the levels of insulin the blood.
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Antibacterial and antifungal properties of Dragon fruit
Another important quality of dragon fruit is its antimicrobial properties. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of this fruit protect your body against the infections caused by bacteria and fungi by increasing the number of white blood cells. It also speeds up the process of healing by stimulating cell regeneration at a faster rate.
Dargon fruit – an anti-inflammatory food
Dragon fruit being an abundant source of vitamin c helps in stimulating the production of cartilage in your joints. The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin c are very beneficial in fighting against joint problems like arthritis and gout.
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Dragon fruit for weight loss
Obesity is a major factor that is often associated with many serious diseases like cancer, heart problems, etc. So maintaining a healthy weight is of utmost importance to reduce the risk of these diseases. Regular exercise along with the consumption of low calorie foods can help you keep your weight under control. Dragon fruit is low in calories, rich in fiber and filling too. People who wish keep their weight under check should consider including this delicious fruit in their diet. The carbohydrates contained in the dragon fruit can easily be broken down and digested by your body.
Dragon fruit improves eyesight
Vitamin A is another nutrient that can be obtained by eating dragon fruit. The intake of vitamin A helps in improving your eyesight.
A stress buster fruit
Eating dragon fruit is a great way to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. This fruit has been found to have the ability to bring down the levels of stress hormones, thereby helping you to relax.
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Dragon fruit strengthens bones and teeth
The high calcium and phosphorus content in the dragon fruit helps to strengthen your teeth and bones and also in the formation of new tissues.
Dragon fruit boosts metabolism
The proteins that we intake are responsible for growth, increasing your strength and muscle mass and speeding up your metabolism. Dragon fruit is an excellent source of protein and hence making it a part of your daily diet can help speed up metabolism.
Benefits of Dragon Fruit to skin
The vitamins present in dragon fruit can help you have a healthy and beautiful skin. Vitamin B3 smoothens and moisturizes your skin. Vitamin C is helpful in both treating and preventing skin disorders like acne. Vitamin A and Vitamin E prevent premature aging of your skin and keeps it looking healthy and attractive. Phytofluence contained in the fruit is capable of protecting your skin from the undesirable effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
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Wound healing properties of Dragon fruit
Some studies have found that extracts of leaves, rind, fruit pulp has wound healing effects
The wealth of nutrients and antioxidants present in the dragon fruit makes it an ideal food for pregnant women, because the baby receives many of the important nutrients required for proper growth and development. Because of the innumerable medicinal and health properties it offers, dragon fruit is often called as the health fruit and is extensively promoted all over the world as a super food.
Is Dragon fruit skin poisonous?
Skin of Dragon fruit is inedible. Some believe that similar to nopal cactus fruit, the outer skin may contain gums which can cause discomfort to throat, lips and tongue.
Other names of Dragon fruit – Red Pitahaya, Night blooming Cereus, Strawberry Pear, Belle of the Night, conderella plant, cierge-lezard, poire de chardon (French), distelbirn, echte stachelbirn, drachenfrucht (German), Pa-nani-o-ka (Hawai), cato-barse, cardo-ananaz (Portuguese), pitahaya roja (Spanish) flor de caliz, pitajava (Puerto Rico); junco, junco tapatio, pitahaya orejona, reina de la noche, tasajo (Mexico) skogskaktus, röd pitahaya (Swedish) huǒ lóng guǒ 火龍果 (Chinese)Image Credits: Flickr - Barbara, Wikimedia