Dragon Fruit; Health Benefits and Adverse Effect You Should Know.
Dragon fruit grows on the Hylocereus cactus, also known as the Honolulu Queen, whose flowers only open at night. The plant is native to southern Mexico and Central America. Today, it is grown all over the world.
It goes by many names, including pitaya, pitahaya and strawberry pear. The two most common types have bright, red skin with green scales that resemble a dragon — hence the name. The variety that’s most widely available has white pulp with black seeds. The less common variety has red pulp with black seeds.
Another variety has yellow skin and white pulp with black seeds. It is referred to as yellow dragon fruit. Dragon fruit may look exotic, but its flavors are similar to other fruits. Its taste has been described as a slightly sweet cross between a kiwi and a pear.
Dragon fruit contains small amounts of several nutrients and is a good source of vitamin C and iron.
Here are the nutrition facts for a serving of 3.5 ounces, or 100 grams:
- Calories: 52.
- Protein: 1.1 gram.
- Fat: 0.4 grams.
- Carbs: 11 grams.
- Fiber: 3 grams.
- Vitamin C: 34% of the RDI.
- Iron: 10.6% of the RDI.
- Thiamine: 2.7% of the RDI.
- Riboflavin: 2.9% of the RDI.
Given the high amount of fiber and vitamin C, as well as the extremely low calorie content, it can be considered to be a highly nutrient-dense fruit.
It Contains Antioxidants
Dragon fruit contains several types of antioxidants. These are compounds that protect cells from unstable molecules called free radicals, which are linked to chronic disease risk and aging.
These are some of the main antioxidants contained in the pulp:
- Betalains: These deep red pigments have been shown to protect LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized or damaged.
- Hydroxycinnamates: This group of compounds has demonstrated anti-cancer activity in test-tube and animal studies.
- Flavonoids: This large, diverse group of antioxidants is linked to better brain health and a reduced risk of heart disease.
One study compared the antioxidant properties of 17 tropical fruits and berries. While dragon fruit’s antioxidant capacity was not as high as many other fruits’, it was found to be best at protecting certain fatty acids from free radical damage.
Potential Health Benefits
Animal studies suggest that dragon fruit may provide benefits for a variety of health conditions. Many of these are likely due to the high amount of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. Both red and white varieties of dragon fruit have been shown to reduce insulin resistance and fatty liver in obese mice.
In one study, mice were fed a high-fat diet. Those also given an extract of the fruit gained less weight and had reductions in liver fat, insulin resistance and inflammation, which were attributed in part to beneficial changes in gut bacteria.