It doesn’t get much more exotic than the sweet and tempting dragon fruit. Intimidating in name and psychedelic in appearance, the dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants, fiber, and prebiotics, which can provide a wide variety of proven health benefits. We’re going to discuss the health benefits of eating dragon fruit and how it can be part of your weekly nutrition plan.
What Is Dragon Fruit
Fascinatingly, the dragon fruit grows on a climbing cactus called Hylocereus and is found in many tropical climates around the world. Indigenous to Mexico and South America, the dragon fruit which is also known as the strawberry pear, is warm and vibrant with red hot-pink skin with green scales (hence dragon) and seed-speckled white pulp. Its unique and exotic look has given this fruit its superfood claim to fame.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition
Like many fruit coconspirators, dragon fruit is low in calories and rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Dragon fruit is also packed with dietary fiber and prebiotics.
Dragon fruit contains powerful plant compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids, and betacyanins [R].
According to the USDA Food Central database, one cup or 227g of Dragon fruit contains
- Calories: 136
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 29 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 18% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 9% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 4% of the RDI
3 Enticing Health Benefits of Eating Dragon Fruit
1. Dragon Fruit Benefits Gut Health
Dragon fruit contains a relatively high amount of fiber, with roughly 7g per cup and 20% the daily recommended value. Fiber helps boost satiety improving and slowing digestion. Fiber has been linked to reducing your risk for chronic disease states such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
The prebiotics found in dragon fruit can help improve gut health by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria and improving microbiota balance. Research has also shown that your gut is the control center with a direct correlation to your brain health, mood state, and risk for chronic disease.
Studies have shown that dragon fruit can alter microbiota composition and improve gastrointestinal function and growth of two families of healthy bacteria - lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacterium [R].
2. Dragon Fruit Benefits Blood Sugar
It is estimated that diabetes affects over 500 million people worldwide, and contributes to nearly 1.5 million deaths per year.
A review published in the journal PloS One investigated the effect of dragon fruit on glycemic control in prediabetes and type 2 diabetic patients. Four randomized controlled trials were identified, involving 36 prediabetes subjects and 109 type 2 diabetes patients showed a significant reduction in blood glucose levels, but no significant outcomes on type 2 diabetes. More studies are warranted to justify more conclusive results [R].
3. Dragon Fruit May Fight Chronic Disease
Antioxidant-rich foods have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and reduce your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and obesity. Free radicals are oxidized molecules that cause cell damage and lead to inflammation.
Antioxidant-rich foods such as dragon fruit help maintain a healthy balance by eradicating free radicals thus preventing cell damage and inflammation, known as oxidative stress. Antioxidants can be thought of as invisible armor, which can shield you from outside factors, which can cause cellular damage.
Dragon fruit contains several types of antioxidants, which have been shown to have a profound impact on preventing chronic disease.
Dragon fruit contains betalains, which are red-purple and yellow pigments as well as carotenoids, including two xanthophylls (lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin), and two carotenes (lycopene, beta-carotene) [R].
The seeds from dragon fruit contain linoleic and alpha-linoleic fatty acids, which have particular benefits on brain and heart health.
How To Eat Dragon Fruit
Getting the confidence to grab a dragon fruit from the produce section at your local wholefoods, is no easy task. The thick leathery skin, scaled with green dragon-like features, looks like something straight out of Dr. Suess book. But prepping and eating dragon fruit is pretty simple.
Look for a dragon fruit that is bright red, that’s how you know it’s ripe. Like bananas, when it’s green it’s unripe. Using a sharp knife, cut the dragon fruit in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh like you would a kiwi with a spoon. You can also cut it into cubes, and add it to your salads, smoothies, or yogurt for a fresh and satisfyingly sweet snack.
Health Benefits of Eating Dragon Fruit: Takeaway
Dragon fruit is not the most popular fruit in the produce section. But it is fun to try new things. Dragon fruit is loaded with beneficial antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. With a sweet and refreshing taste like a mix between a kiwi and a pear, dragon fruit can be a great addition to your weekly meal plan. Switch it up and go grab yourself a dragon fruit.
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