Dragon fruit or pitahaya/pitaya is a red-skinned fruit mainly grown in the tropics and subtropics. Dragon fruit is sometimes referred to as the strawberry pear and grows in different places globally. In the United States, dragon fruit is cultivated in Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and southern California. Globally, the fruit grows well in the Caribbean, Australia, Southeast Asia, as well as Central and South America.
Israel grows a cloned variety known as the yellow dragon fruit or Israeli Yellow pitaya. A native yellowish-skinned variety known as golden dragon fruit is also widely grown in Colombia and Ecuador. One of the key distinguishing characteristics of the Israeli Yellow pitaya is its lack of spikes. The native yellowish varieties or golden dragon fruits often have spines. However, the red-skinned type of dragon fruit does not have any spines. The red-skinned pitaya may have white or red flesh with black seeds. Normally, red-fleshed dragon fruits taste sweeter and juicier than white-fleshed ones.
Five Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit or pitaya has become increasingly popular globally. The increase in popularity has coincided with its recent designation as a superfood.
Dragon Fruit is a Nutritional Powerhouse
Pitaya is a nutritionally-rich fruit, which explains its classification as a superfood. It has a high content of vitamins and minerals and provides an adequate supply of antioxidants that range from carotenoids, polyphenols, and betacyanins. Dragon fruit also nourishes the body with proteins and dietary fiber. The tropical fruit has black seeds that confer additional nutritional benefits when eaten. Recent evidence shows that dragon fruit seeds have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Dragon Fruit Prevents Chronic Conditions
Pitahaya contains antioxidants that help in destroying free radicals. Free radicals contribute to cell damage and trigger the onset of inflammation and disease. Thus, the high levels of antioxidants in the dragon fruit help prevent chronic conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. For instance, recent research shows that pitaya might have protective effects against the development of breast cancer. Dragon fruit seeds also provide extra nutritional benefits and help prevent cardiovascular disease because they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Dragon Fruit Boosts Your Immune System
Dragon fruit strengthens the immune response to infections and other disease-causing factors. The immune-boosting effects of this fruit are attributable to the high content of carotenoids and vitamin C. These act as potent antioxidants and help eradicate free radicals in the body.
Dragon Fruit is Packed with Dietary Fiber
Dragon fruit provides 2.9 grams of dietary fiber for every 100 grams, which leads to better digestion and gastrointestinal health. Adequate dietary fiber is implicated in the prevention of colon cancer. Therefore, dragon fruit may help lower the risk of developing colon cancer.
Additionally, dragon fruit contains prebiotics, which adds to its benefits in boosting gastrointestinal health. Prebiotics nourish the healthy or good bacteria in the stomach, ensuring a proper microbial balance.
Dragon Fruit Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Dragon fruit helps reduce blood sugar levels in the body. In particular, the fruit increases the level of satiety, helping decrease appetite, and regulate blood sugars. The antioxidants found in dragon fruit also help expel free radicals that cause cell damage in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreatic cells implicated in insulin production remain intact and help promote proper blood sugar regulation. Further, the dragon fruit improves weight management due to high dietary fiber, leading to better insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation.