Dragon fruit is also called strawberry pear or pitahaya. It is a tropical fruit popular for having a sweet, seed-speckled pulp and vibrant red skin. Its special look and potent nature have made it famous among health-conscious people and foodies.
Fortunately, you need not live in the tropics to leverage the numerous benefits of dragon fruits. You can even get it fresh and frozen in grocery stores around the world. The fruit will not only help you in fighting chronic disease, but it will offer fiber, magnesium, iron, and more.
Here are seven dragon fruit benefits.
1. Can Assist in Fighting Chronic Disease
Free radicals refer to unstable molecules that lead to cell damage, which may result in disease and inflammation. One way to fight this is by consuming foods such as dragon fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants function by neutralizing free radicals, hence safeguarding inflammation and cell damage.
Studies show that foods rich in antioxidants can assist in preventing chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Dragon fruits have numerous kinds of powerful antioxidants like carotenoids, betalains, and vitamin C.
Observational research has discovered relations between cancer risk and vitamin C. For instance, a study of 120,852 participants linked higher consumption of vitamin C to decreased rates of neck and head cancer.
Test tube studies show that betalains can fight oxidative stress and can have the power to suppress cancer cells. When it comes to carotenoids, lycopene and beta-carotene are the plant pigments that offer dragon fruits their vibrant color. Diets full of carotenoids are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.
Most significantly, antioxidants perform best when consumed naturally in a diet, rather than as a supplement or in pill form. Moreover, antioxidant supplements can possess harmful impacts, and consuming them without medical advice is not a good idea.
2. Rich in Nutrients
Dragon fruit has few calories but is rich in essential minerals and vitamins. It also has a significant amount of dietary fiber.
About 227 grams of the fruit has 136 calories, three grams of protein, no fat, 29 grams of carbs, seven grams of fiber, eight percent of the daily requirement of iron, eighteen percent of the daily requirement of magnesium, four percent of the required daily intake of vitamin E, and nine percent of the required daily intake of vitamin C.
Apart from essential nutrients, dragon fruit has beneficial plant compounds such as betacyanins, carotenoids, and polyphenols.
3. Promotes a Healthy Gut
Your digestive system has 100 trillion diverse microorganisms, including over 400 species of bacteria. Many scientists believe that these microorganisms can affect your health. Both animal and human studies have linked imbalances in your gut to diseases like heart disease and asthma.
Given that dragon fruits have prebiotics, they have the potential to boost the balance of good bacteria in the digestive system. Prebiotics are a particular fiber type that boosts the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive system.
Similar to all fibers, the fiber in dragon fruits cannot be broken down by the gut. But the bacteria in the digestive system can digest them. They utilize the fiber to fuel their growth, and you benefit from this.
Specifically, dragon fruits mainly boost the growth of two healthy bacteria families: bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria. Regularly eating prebiotics can decrease the risk of infection in your gut as well as diarrhea. This is because prebiotics boosts good bacterial growth, which helps to outdo the harmful bacteria.
For instance, research reveals that the participants who ate prebiotics prior to and during travel faced fewer and less extreme traveler’s diarrhea episodes. Other research also shows that prebiotics can ease signs of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. But these findings are not consistent.
While most of the studies on prebiotics are favorable, the studies on the dragon fruit’s prebiotic activity are limited to test-tube studies. More research is required to find out its true impact on the human digestive system.
4. Rich in Fiber
Dietary fiber refers to nondigestible carbs that have numerous health benefits. Health professionals advise that you should consume 38 grams of fiber daily for men and 25 grams for women.
Similar to antioxidants, fiber from supplements have different health benefits compared to fiber from foods. About seven grams serving of dragon fruit can offer an excellent source of whole-food. Even though fiber is popular for its work in digestion, studies show that it can also help in safeguarding you against heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight of your body, and managing type 2 diabetes.
Particular observational studies show that diets rich in fiber can safeguard against colon cancer. But there is a need for more research. Although no research has associated dragon fruits with any of these diseases, their high content of fiber can help you in meeting your required daily intake.
But it is good to keep in mind that foods rich in fiber can have disadvantages, particularly if you are used to a low-fiber diet. To prevent stomach discomfort, boost your consumption of dietary fiber slowly, and drink a lot of fluids.
5. Can Improve Levels of Iron
Another one of the potent dragon fruit benefits is its iron content. Iron has a significant role when it comes to oxygen transport throughout the body. It is also essential in breaking down food into energy. But unfortunately, numerous individuals fail to get sufficient iron.
Research shows that about 30 percent of the planet’s population has iron deficiency, which makes it the most common nutrient that people lack in the globe. Fighting low levels of iron require you to consume various foods rich in iron. Such foods include cereals, nuts, fish, legumes, and meat.
Dragon fruits are another excellent option since a single serving of the fruit has eight percent of the required daily intake. It also has vitamin C that assists the body in absorbing iron.
6. Rich Magnesium Source
Dragon fruits are one of the richest fruit sources of magnesium. They have 18 percent recommended daily intake in a single cup. On average, the human body has 24g of magnesium. In spite of this small amount, the mineral is found in all body cells and participates in more than 600 crucial chemical reactions inside your body.
For instance, it participates in reactions needed for the breaking down of food into energy, bone formation, DNA creation, and muscle contraction. Even though there is a need for more research, particular studies show that higher consumption of magnesium can decrease the likelihood of stroke and heart disease.
Research also indicates that foods rich in magnesium support the health of your bones.
7. Strengthens the Immune System
Numerous factors such as diet quality determine the ability of your body to combat disease. Dragon fruit benefits to your immune system are linked to its carotenoids and vitamin C that help in boosting your immune system and fighting disease by safeguarding the white blood cells from being damaged.
Your immune system’s white blood cells fight and ruin harmful substances. But they are very susceptible to being damaged by free radicals. Like potent antioxidants, carotenoids and vitamin C can fight free radicals and safeguard your white blood cells against damage.
8. Boosts Glycemic Control
According to a PLOS ONE journal meta-analysis, animal studies have indicated a potential association between the consumption of dragon fruits and better diabetes control. This is because one of the dragon fruit benefits is the promotion of pancreatic cell growth that leads to insulin production.
The analysis looked into numerous clinical trials that compared the impacts of dragon fruits with placebo in individuals with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The analysis concluded that there was a significant impact of dragon fruits on fasting plasma glucose in individuals with prediabetes.
The studies also discovered that the more dragon fruits an individual consumes, the greater the benefits to the blood sugar. But the research did not discover an association between the consumption of dragon fruits and improved type 2 diabetes control.
The researches stated that there was a need for more studies about the consumption of dragon fruits and prediabetes to find out whether consumption of the fruit can assist in stabilizing levels of blood sugar.
Eating Dragon Fruits
Dragon fruits can be intimidating due to their thick and leathery skin. However, eating them can be quite simple. You need to get one that is ideally ripe. Raw dragon fruit is normally green, and ripe ones are bright red.
It is normal to see spots on the fruit, but too many of them can be proof that it is overripe. Similar to kiwis and avocados, ripe dragon fruits need to be soft and not mushy.
To eat the fruit, use a sharp knife to slice it in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the fruit using a spoon. You can also slice it into cubes by slicing horizontal and vertical lines into the pulp while avoiding the peel.
Now expose the cubes by pushing back the peel before removing them with your fingers or a spoon. Alternatively, you can get dragon fruits in frozen sections of many grocery stores, re-peeled and sliced into cubes.
Whether you are suffering from constipation, low blood levels, low immune system, or any other disease covered by these dragon fruit benefits, you are sure to get better after eating this fruit consistently. You can incorporate dragon fruit easily into your diet. Eat it after or before every meal, and with time, you will start to see its numerous health benefits working for you.