Pitaya (Hylocereus undatus L.), more commonly known as dragon fruit, is a sweet, crunchy and healthy tropical fruit.
It is most likely native to Mexico and Central South America, but widely cultivated in Asian countries, most notably in China and Vietnam.
This popular fruit is laden with nutrients, antioxidants and highly beneficial compounds involved in glucose control, immune and digestive health.
In fact, the medicinal properties of dragon fruit have been recognized by different traditions, when it was used to heal wounds, treat constipation, and more.
Read on to recognize the impressive human health benefits of dragon fruit.
It is Loaded with Nutrients
Dragon fruit is low in calorie but high in minerals and vitamins.
It has a unique nutrient profile which supplies beneficial antioxidants, such as polyphenolics, carotenoids, glucosinolates and thiols.
A 3.5-ounce serving of dragon has just 264 calories but delivers a significant dose of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. More specifically, it contains the following (1):
- Energy: 264 kJ
- Dietary Fiber:6 g
- Carbs:14 g
- Protein:57 g
- Magnesium: 4% of the recommended DV
- Calcium: 107 mg
- Potassium: 180 mg
- Fat: 0 g
- Iron: 6% of the recommended DV
- Vitamin E: 3% of the recommended DV
- Vitamin C: 7% of the recommended DV
This fruit is particularly high in potassium, an essential nutrient involved in cell function, plasma volume regulation, blood pressure reduction, muscle contraction and bone and kidney health promotion.
Potassium also acts as an excellent antioxidant in your body, protecting you against cardiovascular damage induced by reducing the production of reactive oxygen species and improving insulin resistance (2).
Overall, dragon fruit is low in calorie yet high in important nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium.
It Also Has Excellent Antioxidant Properties
Antioxidants are bioactive compounds that help protect your cells against oxidative stress and tissue damage, both of which are risk factors for chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Dragon fruit is a reliable source of many types of beneficial antioxidants. These include flavonoid, phenolic acid and betacyanin.
Red dragon fruit (Hylocereus costaricensis L.), in particular, contains abundant amounts of gallic acid — potent phenolic organic powder in the hydroxybenzoic acids family.
Several sources of evidence have shown that regular consumption of plants rich in gallic acid lowers the risk of neurodegenerative disease.
For example, an animal study on the effect of gallic acid in rat models of Alzheimer’s disease found that it has favorable effects on cognitive function and reduces neural damage (3).
A review of the mechanisms of pathophysiological effects of inflammation and oxidative stress in obese patients reported that gallic acid has anti-obesity properties, especially in the case of diet-induced obesity (4).
In addition, gallic acid has been theorized as a treatment for diabetes mellitus and albuminuria.
All in all, dragon fruit is a good source of antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease and help treat certain chronic diseases such as diabetes.
And Helps in Glycemic Control
Dragon fruit consumption may help in the control of blood sugar levels, which is especially important to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes patients.
One study in 36 prediabetes patients demonstrated that dragon fruit consumption has favorable effects on lipid profiles and fasting plasma glucose (FPG). More specifically, the results reported that dietary intake of dragon fruit for 3 days per week reduced FPG by -15.1 mg/dL on average. Additionally, comparable effects were observed in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats (5).
Another Indonesian study in 30 type 2 diabetes mellitus patients offered 15 of these patients 180 grams of red dragon fruit per day, education and physical exercise regimen for 2 weeks and found that high intake of the said fruit is associated with a significant glucose reduction in comparison with placebo (6).
In animal studies, there is evidence that specific compounds found in dragon fruit possess an anti-diabetic effect by regenerating pancreatic-beta cells (7).
To sum up, dragon fruit contains many beneficial compounds that may help control blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line…
Dragon fruit is one of the healthiest tropical fruits out there.
It is packed with nutrients and natural antioxidants which are favorable to immune health, digestion and weight loss.
What is more, it can fight iron deficiency by providing you with 6% of the recommended DV and topping this supplementation by vitamin C which enhances iron absorption.
Dragon fruit is also versatile, meaning it can be eaten raw or part of tasty recipes.
Adding dragon fruit to your healthy fruit diet is an easy way to boost your energy!