Dragon fruit comes from a variety of cactus species and has a striking appearance, sweet taste, and unique texture. It has a bright white flesh speckled with small black seeds, which resemble poppy seeds. Naturally rich in various antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, dragon fruit makes a great addition to your diet. It may help to support immune function, improve iron levels, promote gut health, and provide the body with lots of magnesium.
What Is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit looks like something from a fantastical realm, but it is native to Central America, dating back to the 13th century. Dragon fruit, actual name pitaya or pitahaya, made its way to Vietnam and Malaysia, where it is widely grown. Most of the dragon fruits in the U.S. come from Israel, where the fruit is commercially grown. Israeli growers tend to call it pitaya, while Vietnamese growers refer to it as dragon fruit. According to nutritional data, one cup of dragon fruit offers the following nutrients:
- 136 calories
- 29 grams of carbohydrates
- 0 grams of fat
- 3 grams of protein
- 9% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C
- 7 grams of fiber
- 8% of the DV of iron
- 18% of the DV of magnesium
- 4% of the DV of vitamin E
Beyond these nutrients, dragon fruit exhibits several plant compounds that benefit the body, both internally and externally. The carotenoids and betacyanins in dragon fruit may be useful in pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and cosmetic applications. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of dragon fruit.
Rich In Fiber
Dietary fibers are non-digestible carbohydrates that offer lots of health benefits. According to health officials, adult women should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should consume 38 grams per day. Similar to antioxidant supplements, fiber supplements don’t have the same health benefits as the fiber you get from whole foods. Fiber is well known for the role it plays in the digestive process, but many studies suggest that it may help manage body weight, protect against heart disease, and manage type 2 diabetes. No studies have linked dragon fruit to the aforementioned benefits, but consuming dragon fruit can help you meet your recommended daily intake RDI of fiber.
Enhance Immune Function
Several nutrients in dragon fruit are responsible for its ability to support the immune system. Firstly, dragon fruit is an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin C, both of which help to optimize immune function. The betacyanins and betaxanthins are pigments in dragon fruits that work to combat free radicals, protecting white blood cells from infection. A 2018 study confirmed that the antioxidants in dragon fruit may work to lower the risk of developing inflammatory conditions like gout and arthritis.
Boost Iron Levels
There are not that many fruits that contain iron, but dragon fruit happens to be one of them. Iron is necessary for breaking down food into energy, but it also helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Many in the world do not meet the RDI of iron, with about 30% of the world’s population being iron deficient. This makes iron the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide. Dragon fruit is a great option to help boost iron levels, as one cup offers 8% of the RDI.
It Has Prebiotic Properties
Prebiotics are special plant fibers that contribute to the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. They essentially make your digestive system work more efficiently. When you ingest dragon fruit, it has a prebiotic effect on the body. It works to nourish gut bacteria and the oligosaccharides stimulate healthy bacterial growth in the stomach and intestines. By enhancing your gut microbiome, you naturally boost immune function and decrease the risk of intestinal infections.
Rich In Fatty Acids
Dragon fruit contains a lot of tiny black seeds, which exhibit significant nutritional value. A 2018 study found that these seeds are decent sources of fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids. Increasing your intake of these omegas may help to reduce your risk of cognitive decline, inflammatory conditions, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Meeting your RDI of omega-3s may benefit your overall mental health as well. A 2016 study found that increasing omega-3 intake helped decrease symptoms of depression.
A Great Supply Of Magnesium
Magnesium assists with many bodily functions. It works to form and maintain bones, break down food, create DNA, contract muscles, and support healthy nerve function. One cup of dragon fruit satisfies 18% of the RDI of magnesium, helping you meet your daily goal. Some preliminary studies show that magnesium may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, but more research is necessary on this matter.