Dragon fruit is native to Mexico & Central America & was introduced to Asia later on. It belongs to the cactus family.
Now, this fruit is grown all over the world. However, it’s still considered exotic owing to its lesser availability than other fruits. It may look exotic because of its appearance & availability but its flavor is similar to other fruits. Its taste can be considered as a slightly sweet cross between a kiwi and a pear.
The dragon fruit got its name because of its unique appearance, which is thought to resemble a dragon. It is also known as pitaya & strawberry pear.
What does dragon fruit taste like ?
A fully ripe dragon fruit has a mildly sweet flavor often described as a blend of pear and kiwi fruit, and has a soft texture similar to a ripe kiwi. Anyone who likes the kiwi & pear fruits will definitely enjoy the flavor of this fruit too. An under-ripe form of this fruit, on the other hand, is basically flavorless.
Dragon fruit types
The most common type of this fruit has bright red skin with green scales which seemed to resemble a dragon & hence the name dragon fruit was used, as depicted in Chinese mythology.
The most commonly available variety has white pulp with black seeds, though a very less common type with red pulp and black seeds exists as well.
Yellow dragon fruit
Another variety referred to as yellow dragon fruit, has yellow skin and white pulp with black seeds which are larger in size. It also has a more sweet taste owing to its higher sugar content.
Nutritional value of one cup serving(227gram)
- Calories 136
- carbs 29 grams
- Protein 3 grams
- Fat 0 grams
- Fiber 7 grams
- Iron 8% of RDI
- Magnesium 18% of RDI
- Vitamin C 9% of RDI
- Vitamin E 4 % of RDI
It also contains antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage:
- Betalains: These are found in the pulp of red dragon fruit & they are deep red pigments that have been found to protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized or damaged.
- Hydroxycinnamates: These antioxidants have demonstrated anticancer activity in test-tube studies and animal studies.
- Flavonoids: This large, common & diverse group of antioxidants is linked to better brain health and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Dragon fruit health benefits
Good source of fiber. It has 7 grams fiber per one-cup serving, so dragon fruit is an excellent whole-food source. Dieticians recommend 25 grams of fiber intake per day for women and 38 grams for men. Dietary fiber is a non digestible carbohydrate that provides extensive health benefits.
Although fiber is more commonly known only for its role in digestion, research has quite well proved that it may also play a role in protecting against heart disease, managing type 2 diabetes and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Promotes healthy gut. Both human and animal studies have suggested a direct link between healthy gut & a healthy body overall. These studies have associated imbalances in gut to conditions like asthma, heart disease & what not.
Dragon fruit contains prebiotics, so it can improve the balance of good bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotics are a specific type of fiber that our bodies cannot digest however it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut as these bacteria can digest this fiber & hence they flourish & give you a strong gut health.
Regularly consumption of prebiotics can reduce the risk of infection in your digestive tract and diarrhea as prebiotics promote the growth of good bacteria, which can outcompete the bad.
A study in travelers showed that those who consumed prebiotics before and during travel experienced far less severe episodes of traveler’s diarrhea.
Some studies have also suggested that prebiotics may ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. More research is still needed & is ongoing.
Dragon fruit may help fight chronic diseases. It contains antioxidants like betalains, hydroxycinnamates, flavonoids & vitamin C which help to protect the cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules which can cause cell damage that may cause inflammation & disease.
Research studies have suggested that antioxidant rich foods may help to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes & cancer. Your body’s ability to fight infection is determined by several different factors, including the quality of your diet.
Strengthens the immune system.
The rich vitamin C and carotenoids content of this fruit can boost your immune system and prevent infection by protecting your white blood cells from damage.
The white blood cells in your immune system attack and destroy any harmful substance that enters your system. However, these white blood cells are extremely sensitive to damage by free radicals.
Vitamin C and carotenoids are very potent antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and hence defend your white blood cells against harm.
Dragon fruit as an iron source. This fruit is amongst the few fresh fruits that contain iron.
Iron deficiency or anaemia is very common. Unfortunately, for some reason many people do not get enough iron. It has been estimated that 30% of the world’s population is deficient in iron, which makes it the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide.
To combat low iron levels, it’s important to consume a variety of iron-rich foods. Rich sources of iron include meats, fish, legumes, nuts, cereals, prune juice, olives & mulberries.
Dragon fruit could be another great option, as just a single serving of one cup contains 8% of your recommended daily intake (RDI). Moreover it also contains vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron which makes it an even better source of iron.
It is also a source of Magnesium. Magnesium is another nutrient which dragon fruit offers while most fruits do not. Surprisingly, this fruit offers more magnesium than most fruits, with 18% of your RDI in just a serving of one cup.
On average, our body contains about 24g of magnesium, or roughly one ounce.
Despite this very small amount, magnesium is present in every single cell of your body and takes part in over 600 important biochemical reactions.
For example, it takes part in the most critical reactions like in the synthesis of DNA, in the breakdown of food into energy, muscle contraction, bone formation & many more to name.
Though more studies are needed, but some indicate that maintaining adequate levels of magnesium may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Studies also show that diets adequate in magnesium supports healthy bones.
Magnesium deficiency makes you more prone to migraines & also decreases your mental performance.
How to cut dragon fruit ?
While the thick, leathery skin can be quite intimidating, eating this fruit is actually quite simple.
The trick is finding the fruit that is perfectly ripe.
An unripe fruit is green in color. Look for the one that is bright red. Some spots are normal, but too many bruise-like splotches can indicate the fruit is overripe. Like an avocado, a ripe dragon fruit should be soft but not mushy.
To cut a dragon fruit:
- Using a sharp knife, cut it in half lengthwise.
- Scoop out the soft interior fruit with a spoon, or you can cut it into cubes by cutting vertical & horizontal lines into the pulp without cutting into the peel. Push on the back of the skin to move out the cubes and remove them with a spoon or your fingers.
How to eat dragon fruit ?
To enjoy it, one can add it to salads, shakes, smoothies and yogurt, or simply snack on it by itself.
Dragon fruit is a delicious tropical fruit with a pear like taste and it supplies essential nutrients, prebiotic fibers & beneficial plant compounds which are all in a low-calorie serving.