It’s grown primarily in Asia, Mexico, Central America, and South America, and historians think it originated in Central America. But the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation suggests a different story: “Ancient Chinese legends say that the dragon fruit was created thousands of years ago by a dragon in battle who blew a burst of fire containing the fruit,”
If you’ve never heard of dragon fruit, you might be familiar with its other names: strawberry pear and pitaya or pitahaya.
Dragon fruit (or pitaya) comes from a cactus of the type hylocereus. It’s a fast-growing crop, and the plants can produce for more than 20 years once established.
Three Different Varieties of dragon fruits:
Nutrition Facts of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit boasts several nutrients and vitamins for better health, as per the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines. If you’re watching your waistline and want to help reduce your caloric intake, you’ll be happy to know that 100 grams (g) of dragon fruit (which you can enjoy in bite-size cubes) contains about 60 calories, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
In addition, the same amount of dragon fruit has about 2.9 g of fiber (11 percent daily value, or DV); 18 milligrams (mg) of calcium (1.8 percent DV); 59 international units (IU) of vitamin A (1.18 percent DV); 40 mg of magnesium (10 percent DV); 2.5 mg of vitamin C (4.16 percent DV); 0.74 mg of iron (4.1 percent DV); 1.18 g of protein (2.3 percent DV).
The vitamin C and carotenoids in dragon fruit may boost your immune system and prevent infection by protecting your white blood cells from damage. The white blood cells in your immune system attack and destroy harmful substance.
Dragon fruit is low in calories but packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains a subtantial amount of dietary fiber.
Here’s rundown of the main nutrients in one-serving (227 grams):
. Calories: 136
. Protein: 3 grams
. Fat: 0 gram
. Carbohydrates: 29 grams
. Fiber: 7 grams
. Iron: 8% of the RDI
. Magnessium: 18% of the RDI
. Vitamin C: 9% of the RDI
. Vitamin E: 4% of the RDI
Benefits of Dragon Fruits
Because dragon fruit is full of vitamins and nutrients, and offers potentially disease-fighting antioxidants, it probably come as no surprise that eating this fruit on a regular basis can have a positive influence on your health and wellness
Help Fight Chronic Disease
Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause cell damage, which may lead to inflammation and disease. One way to combat this is by eating antioxidant-rich foods like dragon fruit.
Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, thus preventing cell damage and inflammation. Studies suggest that diets high in antioxidants may help prevent chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Dragon fruit contains several types of potent antioxidants, including:
. Vitamin C: Observational studies have found correlations between vitamin C intake and cancer risk. A study in 120,852 people associated higher intakes of vitamin C with lower rates of head and neck cancer.
. Betalains: Test-tube studies indicate betalains can combat oxidative stress and may have the ability to suppress cancer cells.
. Carotenoids: Beta-carotene and lycopene are the plant pigments that give dragon fruits its vibrant color. Diets rich in carotenoids have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Antioxidants work best when eaten naturally in food, rathan than in pill form or as a supplement. In fact, antioxidant supplement may have harmful effects, and taking them without medical supervision is not recommended.
Loaded with Fiber
Dietary fibers are nondigestible carbohydrates that boast an extensive list of potential health benefits. Health authorities recommend 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams for men. Like antioxidants, fiber supplements do not have the same health benefits as fiber from foods. With 7 grams per one-cup serving, dragon fruits is an excellent whole-food source.
Although fiber is probably most well known for its role in digestion, research has suggested it may also play a role in protecting against heart disease managing type 2 diabetes and maintening a healthy body weight.
More research is needed, some observational studies suggest that diets high in fiber may protect against colon cancer.
No studies have linked dragon fruit to any of these conditions, its high-fiber content can help you meet your recommended daily values.
However, it’s important to note that high-fiber diets can have drawbacks, especially if you’re accustomed to a low-fiber diet. To avoid stomach discomfort, increase your intake of dietaty fiber gradually and drink plenty of fluids.
Promotes a Healthy Gut
Your gut is home to some 100 trillion diverse microorganism, including more than 400 species of bacteria. Many researchers believe this community of microorganism may impact your health. Both human and animal studies have associated imbalances in your gut to conditions like asthma and heart disease.
Given that dragon fruit contains prebiotics, it can potentially improve the balance of good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are a specific type of fiber that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. Like all fibers, your gut cannot break them down. However, the bacteria in your gut can digest them. They use the fiber as fuel for growth, and you reap the benefits.
Regularly, consuming prebiotics may reduce the risk of infection in your digestive tract and diarrhea. This is because prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria, which researches believe may out compete the bad
While much of the research on prebiotic is favorable, the research on the prebiotic activity of dragon fruit is limited to test-tube studies. More studies are needed to determine its true effect on the human gut.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Dragon fruit is the perfect food that will improve cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Antioxidants in the fruit, and the fact that its seeds – which are edible – provide your body with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acis, eating the fruit help reduce the LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. Improving your cholesterol help reduce plaque build up in your arteries, which promotes healthy blood flow.
Support Your Immune System
People who have a weakend immune system are more Susceptible to a variety of illnesses. This can include the common cold, flu and infections.
Dragon fruit contains vitamin C, which can give your immune system a boost and defend your body against foreign invaders (germs and bacterial) and free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms in the body that can lead to cell damage.
Your body’ ability to fight infection is determined by several different factors, including of your diet.
The vitamin C and carotenoids in dragon fruit may boost your immune system and prevent infection by protecting your white blood cells from damage. The white blood cell in your immune system attack and destroy harmful substances. However, they are extremely sensitive to damage by free radicals.
As potent antioxidants, vitamin C and carotenoids can neutralize free radicals and defend your white blood cells against harm.
The dietary fiber in dragon fruit also can help promote healthy digestion and gut health. Adults need between 21 and 38 g of fiber per day. About 100 g of dragon fruit contains 2.9 g of fiber, or 11 percent of the daily value. Adequate dietary fiber contributes to bowel regularity and can prevent and treat constipation.
May Boost Low Iron Levels
Dragon fruit is one of the few fresh fruit that contain iron. Iron plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen throughout your body. It also plays an important role in breaking down food into energy. Unfortunately, many people do not get enough iron. In fact, it has been estimated that 30% of the world’s population is deficient in iron, making it the most common nutrient deficiencyworldwide.
To combat low iron levels, it’s important to consume a variety of iron-rich foods. Rich sources of iron include meats, fish, legumes, nuts and cereals.
Dragon fruit may be another great option, as one serving contains 8% of your recommeded daily intake (RDI). It also helps your body absorb iron.
Good Source of Magnesium
Dragon fruit offer more magnesium than most fruits, with 18% of your RDI in just one cup. On average, your body contains 24 g of magnesium, or roughly one ounce. Despite this seemingly small amount, the mineral is present in every one of your cells and takes part in over 600 important chemical reactions within your body. Thus, it takes part in reaction needed for the breakdown of food into energy. Muscle contraction, bone formation and even thr creation of DNA.
More studies are needed, but some indicate that higher intakes of magnesium may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Studies also show that diets adequate in magnesium support bone health.
What Does it Taste like?
Dragon fruit has a sweet, delicate taste that could simply be qualified as “tropical.” It is described as a cross between kiwi and pear, or kiwi and watermelon. Thhe texture is somewhat creamy with little seeds, similar to that of kiwifruit.