You might have noticed an odd-looking red fruit in your supermarket. It looks sort of like a mango with a skin condition – spiky fingers that look like flames or dragon scales. It is a dragon fruit or pitaya.
It may not be familiar to all Americans, but it is a popular (and healthy) food in Central America and southeast Asia. People liken the flavor to a crunchy blend of kiwi fruit and pear. The flesh ranges from white to red and is filled with edible seeds. The skin ranges from yellow to red.
The dragon fruit is the fruit from a cactus and like other cacti fruits has some terrific health benefits.
You’ll be amazed by what will happen if you eat dragon fruit once a day!
1. Lycopene Fights Cancer
The red color means that the fruit is full of lycopene. This carotenoid appears to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Lab tests show that it has stopped breast, lung, and endometrial cancer cell growth.
2. Dragon Fruit May Stop Glaucoma
Dragon fruit appears to inhibit the activity of P450. This cytochrome is produced normally and aids in metabolic pathways like cellular respiration (yes, even your cells need to breathe!). Mutated P450 is linked to development of congenital glaucoma. Eating dragon fruit might save your vision!
3. How to Prepare Dragon Fruit
Choose a slightly soft fruit (sort of like the perfect avocado). Slice the dragon fruit lengthwise. Either scoop out the flesh or quarter and peel it. The rind is leathery and bitter.
Eat raw, make into a smoothie, add to a fruit salad, create a parfait or make dessert pancakes. There are lots of ideas on the internet for interesting ways to eat this remarkably health food.
4. Dragon Fruit Nutrition
Dragon fruit is a nutrient dense snack. In 3.5 ounces, you’ll get 52 calories, some protein, healthy fat, and a reasonable amount of carbs and fiber. Vitamin wise, it contains almost 1/3 of your daily requirement for vitamin C and 10% of the iron you need.
Dragon fruits are also high in fructose, a form of sugar, so eat in moderation.
5. Omega 3 and 6 Improves Heart Health
The dragon fruit seeds are very high in both Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Boosting intake of these has positive effects on almost every function in your body. They are linked to diverse effects from improving your eye sight to boosting energy to fighting aging to protecting your heart. Most people don’t get enough. Dragon fruit oil is equally high but probably harder to acquire.
6. Vitamin B and Vitamin C
You need a selection of the vitamin Bs to help you digest carbohydrates and break down food. They are also linked to mood, energy, developing skin rashes, and brain function. Dragon fruit offers a variety of Bs!
Vitamin C is well known to support your immune system, but it has a lot of uses, including to build skin and preventing scarring. It also helps with brain and heart health. Since one serving of dragon fruit gives you 34% of your RDA of Vitamin C, it is very healthy!
7. Strong Bones and Healthy Cells
Dragon fruit contains calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. We often get this in milk, so adding dragon fruit to a smoothie will just boost your intake.
Iron is needed to keep cells healthy and help them transport oxygen around the body. Women in general need more iron and dragon fruit is a great way to get it, especially if you don’t like organ meat!
Phosphorus is a trace element that you need to grow healthy tissues and cells.
8. Phytochemicals for Overall Health
Phytochemicals are compounds found in plants. Researching are finding that dragon fruit has a variety of phytochemicals that are linked to heart health (in addition to omega-3s), lung health, have anti-inflammatory properties, and improve vascular systems.
Since the research on dragon fruits has only begun, there may be dozens of other positive effects from eating this fruit. They may even discover new and important phytochemicals to boost health.
Dragon fruit might be weird looking and new to many of us. It is extremely rich in a variety of nutrients that run the gamut from preventing cancer to lifting depression to improving heart health. Eating it once a day might be the best thing you can do for yourself. So pick a dragon fruit and give it a try.
If you don’t like it raw, try it in a smoothie or look up some interesting recipes. Experimenting with new foods is part of the fun of living in a global economy, and dragon fruit is worth the effort!