10 Reasons Why We Are Pumped Up on Dragon Fruit
If you’re someone who keeps up with recent food trends, more than likely you’ve seen a new kind of fruit staring at you from an aisle in the grocery store. Dragon fruit—which may sound like a mythical treasure trove from a TV show like “Game of Thrones—“ is all over the place as of late. Whether you’re encountering it canned near the fruit cocktails, jams or jellies or at an exotic fruit stand shimmering in the sunlight, dragon fruit appears to be popping up everywhere—even on menus in high end restaurants, as a staple in delicious smoothies, even in cooking shows and an ingredient in weekly recipes. What is all the hype about it, anyway? Could this be the next best thing when it comes to your health and taste buds? What is this striking fruit and why is it good for us? Hopefully, it’s not made from real dragons and is something many of our palettes can savor and enjoy.
Dragon fruit originally comes from Central America and is known as “Pitahaya” in Spanish. Physically, dragon fruit is a long-growing fruit that can take up to six years before harvesting. It has an unusually dramatic appearance with scales on its skin and bright pink and yellow-skinned varieties. The fruit’s scales, in part, is what gives it a “dragon-like” feeling. The fruit itself is pear-shaped or oval. It grows on climbing vines of a cactus, which may be strange for many to imagine since we don’t often think of anything on a cactus as all that edible.
The skin of a dragon fruit—with all of its intrigue—is technically not edible, so you need to peel it away to get to the actual consumable fruit flesh. Many eat it with a spoon and claim that the texture is similar to that of a kiwi; slightly sour, some varieties sweeter than others, somewhat bland. (Many dragon fruit fans will refer to it as a “strawberry pear”.) The French introduced dragon fruit to Vietnam over 100 years ago upon taking it from Nicaragua and Colombia as an ornamental plant. Nowadays its distribution primarily comes from South Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Taiwan and Malaysia.
With all of its health benefits set aside, the symbolism behind dragon fruit is very meaningful. In the East, dragons are intended to represent vitality, power and luck. (You sure don’t get that from a banana, do you?) It’s also known by such nicknames as “dragon pearl fruit”, “Belle of the Night” and “Cinderella Plant”. Clearly, the imagery and all its connotations mean something greater than just your average healthy fruit. But what are dragon fruit’s primary health benefits? Is it a newly discovered miracle food that could cure ailments, disease and illness? While the research is still out, let’s take a look at some of its more immediate plusses, which will more than likely pique your interest and cause you to include it on your next grocery list!
The nutrients in dragon fruit will truly knock your socks off! One-cup serving contains 136 calories, 3 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, significant amounts of Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. With under one gram of fat and 2.7% of the daily suggested amount of Thiamine, this super food clearly packs more than just a delicious taste and exotic name. Also featured in dragon fruit is calcium while lacking in trans fat—thank goodness! Clearly, logging in calories from this label is anything but a chore.
Since we mentioned fiber in our first point, why don’t we delve a little deeper into dragon fruit’s fibrous benefits, shall we? With 7 grams per serving, dragon fruit is truly a top tier resource for fiber, particularly since health authorities recommend women consume 25 grams and men 28 grams for optimal health and wellbeing. Fiber plays a vital role in protecting against heart disease, maintaining a healthy body weight, as well as managing Type 2 Diabetes. Some studies even suggest diets rich in fiber can help prevent colon cancer. Weaving high fibrous foods like dragon fruit into your diet slowly is recommended so as not to prevent an upset stomach.
Furthermore, if you’re seeking additional fiber, please check out Pure Green’s acai bowl called Pure Pitaya, blended with pineapple, banana, agave, dragon fruit and coconut water. It’s deliciously topped with hemp granola, blueberries and strawberries. Talk about a delicious way to introduce dragon fruit to your diet!
Dragon fruit is also rich in polyphenols, which are micronutrients with antioxidant activity, found especially in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, dried spices—and thankfully, cocoa and red wine! Polyphenols play a crucial role in preventing diabetes, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as cancer. They are also an important prebiotic—which we will circle back to later—increasing the ratio of beneficial bacteria in your stomach, which is important for weight management and disease prevention.
Carotenoids are abundant in dragon fruit and highly useful for protecting your vision and overall eye health, as well as fighting cellular damage. They have been linked to keeping the prostate, breast, liver, colon and lungs functioning optimally with the bonus advantage of anti-tumor properties due to their high content of acetylenics. Who knew right?
While it may be hard to pronounce, betacyanins are found in the natural red pigment in fruits and vegetables, advantageous towards the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. For instance, the betacyanins in beets alone have been shown in some studies to eliminate leukemia cells!
As we mentioned earlier with the polyphenol characteristics, dragon fruit has powerful prebiotics that can help heal your stomach. Are you aware that your gut is home to 100 trillion microorganisms, including 400 different species of bacteria? Prebiotics promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, which can lead to less constipation and better overall health. Dragon fruit is rich in two amazing prebiotics, in particular: lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria, which can both ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
Also mentioned before in the nutrients was dragon fruit’s high magnesium content—actually, this fruit contains more magnesium than most other fruits, with 18% of your RDI in just one cup! Studies have shown that magnesium can reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease as well as support bone health. It’s needed for the breakdown of food into energy.
Who doesn’t want to hear that a favorite fruit of theirs also helps them lose weight? Well, we got you covered here. Because of dragon fruit’s high amount of protein—which are thus metabolized by enzymes in the body and transformed into usable proteins that can speed up cell repair—this super food can actually help enhance metabolism and bodily strength, playing a vital role in weight loss and the enhancement of muscle mass.
The anti-fungal and antibacterial effects of dragon fruit can increase the white blood cell count in the county, which ultimately defends against toxins while preventing the entrance of fungal or bacterial infections in the organs. You can also look to dragon fruit to help stimulate cell regeneration and healing—meaning cuts and bruises heal at an increased rate. Wow!
Hair & Skin Care
Believe it or not, dragon fruit can actually help keep your hair nourished and healthy by treating the damage done to it by the chemicals found in artificial colors and dyes. It can also help improve the texture and bring back its vibrant shine. In terms of the skin, this super food aids in treating sunburns, acne and even excessive dryness. With its high amounts of Vitamin C, dragon fruit can really bring about a powerful illumination and shine. It’s not uncommon to see dragon fruit in Shea soaps, body scrubs, facial lotions and even lip balms.
Dragon fruit is delicious and can be incorporated into a variety of your already-favorite foods and beverages. Try dragon fruit on a parfait, whether with dates and cinnamon or dried mulberries. You can even add a mixture of berries to enhance its richness and color! Wanting to try dragon fruit in a beverage? Look no further—it’s great in a “pink dragon soda” with soda water and lime juice—even a touch of alcohol. Finally, those who love dragon fruit know it isn’t a stranger to pancakes. While there are a bunch of recipes out on the market, mixing it with coconut and pineapple and a few Stevia drops can add a delectable taste and flavor!
All in all, it appears dragon fruit is joining the ranks with other trendy foods such as acai berries and goji berries, soon to become a staple in the lives of healthy people and their diets. While it may not replace the conventional apple or banana, it’s sure to find an important place with other like-minded super foods. Regardless of its future, we certainly cannot underestimate its health benefits. J.R.R. Tolkien, in all his brilliance, claimed, “Never laugh at live dragons’—“ well, let’s make it a point not to laugh at dragon fruit, either!