The Healthy Benefits of Eating Dragonfruit
Known for its distinct appearance and its juicy, slightly sweet flavor that tastes like a cross between a kiwi, a pear, and a watermelon, the dragon fruit also boasts many wonderful health benefits.
With its unique appearance that features red skin and a seed-speckled pulp, the dragon fruit is a sight to behold. On the outside, the fruit bears the appearance of a reddish, bright pink (sometimes yellow) bulb with spike-like green leaves shooting out around it like flames. When you cut it open, you'll discover a spongy white substance inside with a few black seeds that are safe to eat.
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya or pitahaya, is the fruit of a cactus species indigenous to the Americas. They’re native to countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, but are also cultivated in Southeast Asia, the United States, the Caribbean, Australia, and India.
The fruit has a distinct sweet taste and crunchy texture. It’s best eaten raw, but it can also be grilled like other fruits. And because of its acclaimed superfood properties, it has now become popular among foodies and the health-conscious. Studies have even shown that the dragon fruit has many potential health benefits, which include:
1. Excellent source of fiber
Although fiber is well known for its role in digestion, evidence suggests it may also aid in the prevention of heart disease, the management of type 2 diabetes, and the maintenance of healthy body weight.
According to health experts, women should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, while males about 38 grams. Keep in mind that supplements don't provide the same health benefits as fiber obtained from the diet. This makes dragon fruit a good whole-food source because it contains seven grams of fiber per one cup (227 grams) serving.
2. High nutrient value
A one-cup serving of dragon fruit also contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 136
- Protein: three grams
- Magnesium: 18% of the RDI
- Carbohydrates: 29 grams
It also contains 8% of the RDI for iron, 9% for vitamin C, and 4% for vitamin E.
3. Has prebiotic properties that promote a healthy gut
Prebiotics are a form of fiber that encourages the growth of good bacteria in your intestine. According to a study published in the Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, eating dragon fruit has a prebiotic effect on the body that improves digestion and nourishes gut bacteria.
Researchers believe that oligosaccharides found in dragon fruit assist the growth of good bacteria in the stomach and intestines. These bacteria help support various aspects of our health and are known as probiotics.
4. Strengthens the immune system
Our white blood cells are responsible for destroying harmful substances in the body, but they are also susceptible to free radical damage. Vitamin C and carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that can neutralize these free radicals and protect your white blood cells from harm. Because dragon fruit is high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, it offers great immune-boosting properties.
5. Helps boost iron levels
Iron is necessary for the transfer of oxygen throughout the body, and for the conversion of food into energy. There are only a few fresh fruits that contain iron, and dragon fruit is one of them. In fact, dragon fruit contains 8% of your daily required consumption in one serving (RDI). The vitamin C in the fruit further aids your body in its absorption of iron.
6. Better glycemic control
Previous animal research has suggested a link between a dragon fruit diet and better diabetes control. This was mainly attributed to the fact that dragon fruit promotes the growth of insulin-producing pancreatic cells.
Subsequent clinical trials revealed that the dragon fruit had a substantial effect on fasting plasma glucose in persons with prediabetes. Researchers also discovered that with more dragon fruit consumed by the subjects, the better the blood sugar benefits. Nonetheless, more studies are needed to establish whether eating dragon fruit can help stabilize blood sugar levels in humans.
With so many health benefits to offer, the dragon fruit is a delicious, exotic tropical fruit that you should try. It tastes great, adds a splash of color to your meal, and provides important nutrients, prebiotic fibers, and helpful plant compounds in a low-calorie serving.