Dragon fruit is an exotic and delicious fruit and is also considered as a tropical superfood because of its wealth of benefits. It is also known as pitaya or pitahaya, and some call it a strawberry pear. The dragon fruit has its origins in Mexico, South America, and Central America. It is suspected that the New World settlers probably brought it to Southeast Asian nations like Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, where it remains an important part of the dietary fruit intake. Now, it’s not just the healthy fruit, but also nutrient-rich pitaya powder, that is available worldwide.
Benefits of dragon fruit
- Protective Against Cancer – A recent study on dragon fruit showed that this fruit may have anticancer properties particularly in the case of colon cancer. Along with the antioxidant quality of vitamin C that boosts the immune system, dragon fruits also contain other sources of natural antioxidants. According to research, carotene and lycopene, found in these fruits, are potent antioxidants that have been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities.They help in reducing the chances of prostate cancer as well as the size of tumors in the body.
- Boosts Immune System – The high level of vitamin C found in dragon fruit helps boost immunity and it stimulates the activity of other antioxidants in the body as well. According to a 2011 research study, the flesh and the peel of the white and red pitayas have high polyphenol and flavonoid content which can help eliminate free radicals. This has been linked to preventing the proliferation of cancer cells. Also, these antioxidants work to increase the platelet count, thus treat dengue and help a faster recovery.
- High in Fiber & Aids in Digestion – Research published in Food Chemistry also suggests that dragon fruits are rich in oligosaccharides that help promote the growth of gut bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. A 2015 study on natural prebiotics in Thailand showed that the fruit helped increase healthy gut flora, which is important for smooth digestion. Dragon fruits have a high fiber content, which means that they can help bulk up 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 conditions like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and even colorectal cancer.
- Controls Diabetes – Regular consumption of dragon fruit is linked to a reduction in blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for type 2 diabetics and those with pre-diabetes. In a 2017 research review study, it was found that overall pre-diabetics showed a noticeable reduction in blood sugar levels as compared to people who had not eaten dragon fruit. Furthermore, prediabetics with higher consumption of dragon fruit showed greater blood glucose reduction.
- Rich in Iron & Prevents Anaemia – Iron, present in dragon fruits, is a good for boosting the hemoglobin levels in anemic individuals. It also aids in the production of red blood cells (RBCs), which then helps in the proper oxygenation of vital organs.
- Good Source of Antioxidants – Research published in the Journal of Food Science indicates that due to a high polyphenol and flavonoid content, and antioxidant activity it can be used for cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications both.
- Rich in Magnesium & B Vitamins – Dragon fruit is also packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and the B-vitamins as well as magnesium. Benefits of magnesium include improving bone health and heart health. The B1, B2, and B3 vitamins help improve everything from blood pressure, skin health, and cholesterol levels to thyroid function, fluctuating hemoglobin levels, and carbohydrate metabolism.
- Skin Care – The antioxidants in dragon fruit may help fight the signs of aging by reducing the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. They also aid in treating sunburn, acne, and dry skin. Vitamin C, contained in many fruits but particularly dragon fruit helps brighten the skin.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health – Dragon fruit contains no unhealthy saturated fats. This leads to higher levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and lower levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in the body. The chances of developing plaque in the arteries and veins are less, thereby reducing your chances of suffering from atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
- Hair Care – Its high amounts of nutrients helps to reduce the damage done to hair by the chemicals present in artificial hair color. It also helps improve the texture and bring back the shine to your hair.
- Anti-inflammatory Properties – Dragon fruit powder is rich in anti-inflammatory properties, which help in reducing the pain caused by arthritis and other medical conditions.
- Eye Care – Dragon fruit is known to inhibit the growth of human cytochrome P450, a protein found in the liver. This protein is often linked with the occurrence of congenital glaucoma. Also, according to research published in the journal Food Chemistry, the beta-carotene content in this fruit helps in preventing macular degeneration and cataract formation by keep the eyes protected from harmful free radicals.
- Strong Bones and Teeth – Dragon fruit is higher in calcium than many other fruits and can therefore help contribute to the daily calcium requirements needed to keep your bones healthy, improves the bone mineral density, and prevents osteoporosis. A study done by Tufts University showed that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables offers the right mix of nutrients, protein, and calcium to boost bone density.
- Pregnancy – Dragon fruit is beneficial for pregnant women as it contains iron, B vitamins, and folate. Studies show that iron helps in preventing hemoglobin deficiency and also in preventing the occurrence of anemia.The B vitamins and folate help prevent birth defects and boost energy. Also, the mild laxative properties of dragon fruit help loosen the stool and regulate bowel movements. Moreover, the calcium content in it aids in the bone development of the fetus, thereby contributing to a healthy pregnancy. High levels of calcium and magnesium also help fight osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
- Boosts Cognition – Dragon fruits contain B vitamins and are rich in vitamin C, both of which help in keeping the cell membranes healthy.
- Improves Respiration – Dragon fruit extract capsules are also available, which help provide vitamin C and antioxidants. There is evidence that higher intakes of fruit and vegetables may have a positive impact on respiratory issues.
Dragon fruit varieties
There are three types of dragon fruits, namely,
- Red skin with red flesh
- Red skin with white flesh
- Yellow skin with white flesh.
Adding dragonberries to your diet
Dragon fruits can be eaten raw or may be used to make salads, smoothies, juices, wine and popsicles.
Recipe for Dragon Fruit Milkshake
Preparation time: 3 minutes, Cooking time: NIL, Serves: 2
Dragon Fruit – 1/2
Milk – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 or 2 tbsp
Ice Cubes – 4-5
Vanilla Essence or Rose Essence – 2 drops (optional)
Cut the dragon fruit into half lengthwise. You can easily scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
Take the scooped out flesh in a blender along with boiled and chilled milk, ice cubes, sugar and vanilla or rose essence.
Blend it for 2-3 minutes.
Pour into serving glasses and enjoy.
Recipe for Dragon fruit pudding
Yields: 4 servings
1/2 cup water
1 sachet unflavored gelatin
1 dragon fruit
5 rambutans, peeled, seed removed, and finely diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can lite coconut milk
1. Add the water to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Leave aside to allow the gelatin to bloom for at least 5 minutes. The gelatin will absorb the liquid and look like swollen translucent granules.
2. Add the sugar and coconut milk to a thick-bottomed saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer on a medium-low flame.
3. Scoop the dragon fruit pulp into a bowl. Smash the pulp with the prongs of a fork.
4. Add the dragon fruit and rambutan fruit pulps to the coconut milk in the saucepan.
5. Stir in the gelatin and mix for about 1 minute. Pour and evenly divide the liquid into serving bowls or molds and refrigerate until the pudding is soft but firm to touch. This will take at least 4 hours. Serve chilled directly in serving bowls. If using molds, then place the outer surface of the mold in warm water for a few seconds to loosen, flip onto a clean plate, tap gently and remove mold.
Dragon fruits are safe if taken in food amounts, however certain individuals may have allergies.
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