Dragon fruit or Pitaya is an exotic fruit that originates from tropical Central America. It is not only known for its sweet and juicy taste, but also for numerous health benefits which includes preventing heart disease and cancer, boosting the immune system, and improving digestive function.
Dragon fruit has been likened to kiwi by many, due to its black crunchy seeds. The seeds are very rich in lipids. Its flesh possess a sweet taste, but has few amounts of calories. The flesh is white in color, but there are varieties that possess pink or red flesh.
Properties of Dragon fruit per 100 g (USDA)
- Energy – 264 kcal
- Carbohydrates – 82.14 g
- Fat – 0.0 g
- Protein – 3.57 g
- Vitamin C – 6.4 mg
- Calcium – 107 mg
- Sodium – 30 mg
Medicinal uses of Dragon fruit
- Prevents cancer
- Aids digestion
- Controls diabetes
- Prevents heart diseases
- Boosts immunity
Pitaya is a great source of antioxidants. These antioxidants help prevent the formation of free radicals in our body which can lead to cancerous growths. Vitamin C is one antioxidant that is present in dragon fruit in significant amounts. Dragon fruit also boosts of another powerful antioxidant known as phytoalbumin.
A study carried out in 2017, suggested how pitaya extracts could have protective effect against breast cancer (1). It showed how pitaya extract may act on selective ER-responsive breast cancer cells by targeting numerous tumorigenic pathways and eventually leading to cell cycle arrest and apoptosis.
Dragon fruit can help prevent numerous types of cancers. So, if you feel you are at a high risk of developing cancer, then consumption of dragon fruit might shield you from this deadly disease. And hey! You don’t have to be at risk to take this fruit: prevention is better than cure.
A healthy digestive system is needed for proper functioning. Digestion is important in breaking down food into nutrients, which the body use for energy, growth, and repair of body cells. But at one point in time, our digestive system tend to knock down after consuming certain types of food. In such cases, foods like dragon fruit can help see you through.
The high fiber content of pitaya facilitates the movement of food down your digestive tract, stimulates the production of digestive enzymes, and prevents the occurrence of constipation.
Apart from its fiber content, dragon fruit contains oligosaccharides that can act as prebiotics. Prebiotics stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract, thus, leading to an improved gut health and digestion.
Many health experts have considered dragon fruit as a great food for the diabetics. This comes after many researches have proven its effect in regulating blood sugar level, and attenuating insulin resistance (2).
Apart from aiding digestion, the fiber content in pitaya can help stabilize blood sugar levels. But how? Fiber traps sugar molecules in our digestive tract, which leads to sugar molecules being slowly released into our blood stream without causing hike in blood sugar level. This way, the body needs less insulin to handle the sugar content in the blood.
Adding dragon fruit into your diet can be a very good way to get some extra fiber going down your gut. It’s a double benefit – low blood sugar and constipation-free!
Prevents Heart diseases
Heart diseases are responsible for about 31% of all deaths annually, worldwide. This gives you every reason to eat the right way and prevent heart diseases. One of those foods that can lower your risk of heart diseases is dragon fruit. A research carried out on laboratory animals found dragon fruit extract to be effective in controlling oxidative damage and decreasing the aortic stiffness (3).
In addition to being an excellent source of monounsaturated fats which are good for the heart, many other studies have shown how pitaya is able to regulate the body’s cholesterol by decreasing the level of bad cholesterol and increasing the level of good cholesterol.
Excess cholesterol in the blood can clump in our arteries, and may deprive the heart and brain of blood supply, thereby leading to conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
Looking to stay heart-healthy, then dragon fruit consumption might go a long way in helping you attain a good cardiovascular health.
Boosts the Immune system
Right from our elementary schools, everyone knows that vitamin C fights disease-causing organisms. We were told how it was a great immune booster. And that’s not a lie – its a fact that will linger on till eternity.
Pitaya is one fruit that contains this vitamin in significant amounts. It is said to be among the richest foods in this vitamin. Apart from vitamin C, pitaya contains other antioxidants in rich amounts. These antioxidants prevent our body from harm by fighting off free radicals.