Dragon fruit – aka strawberry pear, pitaya, and belle of the night – is an exotic fruit that grows in tropical regions around the globe. Dragon fruit originally grew in Mexico and South America before Europeans brought it elsewhere in the world, including to Asia, during the 19th century. When it comes to nutritional value, dragon fruit packs quite a punch; it’s loaded with nutrients, bioactive compounds, and natural antioxidants that can combat everyday free radicals.
Its bulb shape, green leaves, and striking outer coloring make dragon fruit instantly recognizable. When you cut open a dragon fruit, you’ll find an interior of a fleshy white substance and edible black seeds. (Some say dragon fruit resembles, you guessed it, a dragon – hence the name.) Some of the different types of dragon fruit include:
Thanks to its wide availability and robust nutritional impact, dragon fruit has become increasingly popular in recent years. In this article, we’ll take a look at dragon fruit’s nutritional value and myriad health benefits.
The calorie content of dragon fruit is remarkably low. Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are only 57 calories per every 100 grams of dragon fruit. The low calorie content makes dragon fruit a highly appealing option for people looking to consume a healthy, nutrient-dense fruit. One-hundred grams of dragon fruit also includes 3.1 grams of fiber, 15.2 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.14 grams of fat.
Dragon fruit contains vitamin C, iron, and magnesium, among other important vitamins and minerals. Indeed, consuming 100 grams of dragon fruit can get you 3% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C; 4% of the recommended daily intake of iron; and 10% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium. Dragon fruit also contains vitamin A and calcium.
Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids, betacyanin, and phenolic acid. Antioxidants help your body fight everyday free radicals and can help prevent health problems related to oxidative stress. Upping your antioxidant intake is a surefire way to support your immune health.
There’s good evidence to suggest that dragon fruit can help support a healthy digestive system – and a healthy digestive system has far-reaching benefits for the health of your whole body. Think about it: All of the nutrients your body gets from your diet must pass through the digestive system before making it to the rest of the body. So, it’s important to take care of the health of your gut.
Gut health is shaped by the presence of the bacteria in your gut microbiome – some of which is considered “good bacteria” and some of which is considered “bad bacteria.” So, how does dragon fruit come into play? Well, this study found that dragon fruit has prebiotic-like properties; prebiotics are known to restore proper balance of good bacteria in your gut. In other words, the prebiotic fiber in dragon fruit can work wonders for supporting healthy digestion and promoting a healthy microbiome!
As mentioned, dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can manage free radicals and help fight damage caused by oxidative stress. It is well understood that too much oxidative stress can be harmful for skin health and contribute to skin aging. That’s why dragon fruit can promote skin health – by managing the potential damage to the barrier function of skin caused by oxidative stress and helping keep your skin looking exactly how you want it.
Dragon fruit’s vitamin C content also plays a role in skin health. Vitamin C plays a key role in your body’s formation of collagen, which is a key component in the skin. Collagen supplements can also boost skin health.
Any time you’re consuming something rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, you can assume that you’re boosting your immune health. Dragon fruit certainly fits this description! The vitamin C in dragon fruit can also help your body absorb non-heme iron. Talk to your physician about whether you’re getting enough vitamin C – if you’re not, you’d be well served by adding some dragon fruit to your diet. Otherwise you can try a vitamin C supplement, such as Care/of’s The Citrus Savior.
Simply adding dragon fruit to your diet isn’t a sound weight management strategy. There’s no one single food item or vitamin supplement that can manage your weight. A better approach is to focus on lifestyle changes, including exercising, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and eating a healthy, varied diet that includes protein, carbs, fiber, and healthy fats. Dragon fruit can certainly be a welcome addition to a healthy diet!
On top of everything else, it turns out that dragon fruit can even be good for cardiovascular health! Certain red-fleshed dragon fruits are rich in belatins, or red color pigments that have been shown to possess “cardioprotective properties.” This study found that those participants who consumed 24 grams of whole dragon fruit powder with 33 mg of belatins experienced improved cardiovascular health relative to the placebo group.
That’s not all, though. Animal studies have found that dragon fruit can help manage oxidative stress, which has an added benefit of supporting cardiovascular health. And, lastly, there is a clinical trial now underway to evaluate the effect of dragon fruit juice on vascular health. There’s still much to learn about dragon fruit and cardiovascular health, but early signs are very promising.
The first step to preparing and then ultimately eating dragon fruit is, well, to pick out a good dragon fruit! Before you buy a dragon fruit, give it a gentle squeeze to see how soft it is. It shouldn’t be too mushy; it should just give a little. If it feels hard, it still needs time to ripen. When you’re preparing the dragon fruit, cut it up in fourths. Peel the skin or remove it with the utensil of your choice – ideally a spoon of some kind. (Note: You shouldn’t eat the skin.)
Once you’ve prepared the dragon fruit, there are a number of fun and tasty ways to consume dragon fruit. Try a method that works for you! You can add it to a fruit salad. You can cut it into salsa. You can use it as a topping for your yogurt. You can also blend it into a delicious fruit smoothie.
Consuming dragon fruit is generally considered safe. That said, you should bear in mind that dragon fruit is rich in fiber – if you consume too much fiber, you might experience some temporary digestive discomfort as your body adjusts.
In certain rare cases, people develop allergies to dragon fruit. If this describes you, it’s best to avoid dragon fruit altogether. Fortunately, there are plenty of other tasty, healthy fruit options out there!
The bottom line is this: Unless you’re allergic to it, dragon fruit is good for you! It boasts a range of amazing health benefits and can be a welcome addition to most of any healthy diet. Try a recipe that’s right for you. Have some fun with it. Your body will thank you. There’s a reason people call dragon fruit a “superfood.”