6 benefits of dragon fruit – plus nutrition, recipes and more

6 benefits of dragon fruit – plus nutrition, recipes and more

6 benefits of dragon fruit – plus nutrition, recipes and more

What is dragon fruit?

We all know it – we should eat between two and five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Maybe you’re coming up short. Or maybe you’ve gotten into a fruit rut and keep reaching for the same healthy yet boring option — hello, bananas.

Enter the dragon fruit, a lesser-known but increasingly popular choice.

Also known as pitaya, the dragon fruit gets its name from its spiky exterior, says Akua Woolbright, MD, national director of nutrition for the Whole Cities Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Whole Foods.

It’s not just a weird-looking food — dragon fruit has reportedly had a whole host of nutritional benefits. Nutrition gurus laud its ability to boost antioxidants, support gut health, and even help manage diabetes.

We spoke to nutritionists and food experts to learn everything there is to know about dragon fruit, including where it comes from, how to enjoy it, and if its benefits really last.

(Here are the best nutritional secrets from nutritionists.)

Origins of Dragon Fruit

These days, you can find dragon fruit in the produce section of your local grocer, but that wasn’t always the case.

“Dragon fruit is native to Central America,” says Dr. Woolbright. It grows on the Hylocerus Cactus that is often found in Mexico but can grow anywhere in the world.

Mareya Ibrahim, Founder of Eat Cleaner and Author of Eat like you give a fork says that the dragon fruit is very popular in Southeast Asia, where it also grows.

What does dragon fruit look like?

Even if you’ve never heard of dragon fruit, you’ve probably seen it before. It’s probably the only pink product you’ll come across in your summer shopping.

Slice through the spiky pink skin and you’ll usually find white flesh with tiny black seeds inside. “The little seeds inside are crunchy but edible, like a kiwi,” says Susan Bowerman, RD, Senior Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition.

There is more than one variety of dragon fruit, most commonly distinguished by their appearance.

“There are more unusual varieties that have red flesh with black seeds, or yellow skin with white flesh and black seeds,” says Marvin Singh, MD, director of integrative gastroenterology at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at UC Irvine and founder of Precisione Clinic outside of San Diego.

Like a mystery box, you never know exactly what you’re going to get.

“While the light pink flesh looks like a tropical fish that has been crossed with a plant and had a baby, you never know if you’re going to get white or pink flesh until you cut it open,” says Ibrahim.

How does dragon fruit taste?

Different varieties of this exotic fruit have different tastes.

“The white variety tends to have a very bland flavor, while the deep pink/red varieties tend to have more flavor – similar to a watermelon,” says Bowerman.

Nutrients in Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit contains many essential nutrients. Here is the nutritional breakdown and percentage of the Recommended Daily Value (DV) for 100 grams of diced dragon fruit:

Calories: 60

Protein: 1.2 g (2 percent DV)

Fat: 0 g (0 percent DV)

Carbohydrates: 13 g (5 percent DV)

Fiber: 2.9 g (10 percent DV)

Calcium: 18 mg (1 percent DV)

Vitamin C: 2.5 mg (3 percent DV)

Iron: 0.74 mg (4 percent DV)

Magnesium: 6.3 mg (1.5 percent DV)

Phosphorus: 60.2 mg (4.8 percent DV)

The amount of health-promoting nutrients in your dragon fruit depends on the variety. “Fruits with a darker flesh may have higher nutritional value,” says Dr. Woolbright.

Benefits of Dragon Fruit

Thanks to its unusual appearance and nutritional value, dragon fruit is a hit with health food fans. Note, however, that there’s really no research that gives dragon fruit any special powers over other nutrient-dense fruits.

“Although dragon fruit hasn’t been directly linked to preventing disease, foods high in antioxidants and fiber may support heart health while fighting inflammation that can increase your risk of future disease,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered nutritionist and author of Belly fat diet for dummies.

Dragon fruit contains good amounts of vitamin C and magnesium (more on that later), as well as carotenoids, lycopene, manganese, phosphorus, iron, and calcium.

It’s low in calories

“Dragon fruit is low in calories — only about 60 per half cup of fruit,” says Ibrahim.

It’s a smart choice for people who want to maintain their weight.

It is rich in dietary fiber

The fruit is also packed with fiber, which helps relieve constipation and get things moving. “A one-cup serving contains seven grams of fiber,” says Jenna Gorham, a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian and founder of Link, a company that connects brands with dietitians.

Because an average-sized dragon fruit is smaller than a cup, she says a typical dragon fruit has about 2 grams of fiber.

However, this is not only a benefit for people with constipation.

“Its fiber content helps lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, and supports a healthy digestive system,” says Dr. Woolbright.

Close up of wet pitayas on wooden table against black background

Do Thai Thanh / EyeEm / Getty Images

It’s full of magnesium

“Dragon fruit contains more magnesium than most fruits, which may help support health,” says Palinski-Wade.

Magnesium offers a number of benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease, reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure, among many others.

sleep problems? “Low magnesium levels can increase insomnia, so adding dragon fruit to your diet may help improve sleep,” says Palinski-Wade.

It’s loaded with vitamin C

If you’re feeling a cold, Ibrahim says dragon fruit can help.

“It can boost the immune system because it provides a good amount of vitamin C,” says Palinski-Wade.

It contains prebiotics

You’ve no doubt heard of probiotics — the good bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy. You can feed them and boost their growth with prebiotics, and dragon fruit provides. “The prebiotics contained in dragon fruit support intestinal health,” explains Dr. Woolbright.

Can Dragon Fruit Help You Lose Weight?

“Dragon fruit is naturally fat-free, low in calories, and high in fiber, making it an excellent food choice for weight loss,” says Dr. Woolbright.

“As a high-fiber fruit, dragon fruit can improve body weight,” says Palinski-Wade. “A high-fiber diet is associated with improved body weight and reduced waist circumference.”

Since most people don’t get enough fiber, even one cup a day can make a difference.

“This can help induce a feeling of satiety, which can lead to fewer calories consumed later in the day,” says Palinski-Wade. “Plus, high-fiber foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels and fight cravings.”

(Check out these surprising weight loss secrets from around the world.)

Are there any risks or side effects?

Most experts agree that dragon fruit has very few side effects. But it is impossible to exclude allergic reactions for everyone.

“While side effects are rare, as with any new food, people who have never consumed dragon fruit should be aware of possible allergic reactions when they first try it,” says Dr. Woolbright.

And as Bowerman points out, adding fiber to your diet suddenly could create some pretty explosive changes.

“If your diet is typically relatively low in fiber and you suddenly eat a large amount of dragon fruit — or other high-fiber foods — you might experience temporary indigestion,” she says.

In other words, until you get used to the fiber increase, you may experience symptoms like a bloated stomach, diarrhea, or bad gases.

(Wondering if you might have a food allergy? These are the easy-to-miss food allergy symptoms.)

What is the best way to eat dragon fruit?

If you’re the kind of person who likes to enjoy fruit whole, then go for it. “To eat, you cut the dragon fruit in half and scoop out the flesh — much like you would eat a kiwi or an avocado,” says Gorham.

Or try the fruit in other dishes.

Ibrahim adds it to smoothies, like the Frozen Buddha Bowl from her book (recipe below). “The pink is the prettiest,” she says.

She also adds chunks of dragon fruit to green salads.

If fruit salad is more your pace, Ibrahim recommends cutting off the peel and dicing the flesh. Place in a bowl with honeydew melon, cantaloupe, mint and a drizzle of honey.

You can also freeze diced dragon fruit and layer it in a bowl with chopped nuts, chia seeds, and sliced ​​bananas, she says.

Worried you’re enjoying dragon fruit a little too much? Relax, says Palinksi-Wade, who likes to add it to smoothies for extra fiber and a pop of color.

“Dragon fruit can be enjoyed as often as you like, along with other fruits and vegetables, as part of a balanced diet,” she says.

Dragon fruit recipes

Would you like to enjoy dragon fruit yourself? Try these refreshing recipes.

The Ultimate Frozen Buddha Bowl

Courtesy of Mareya Ibrahim

The Ultimate Frozen Buddha Bowl

This Buddha Bowl recipe based on Ibrahim’s book is equally good for breakfast, dessert or a snack.

serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 frozen banana, skin on left

One (3.5 ounce) packet of frozen dragon fruit or acai with no added sugar

1 teaspoon ground flaxseed

1/4 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (like almond, rice, coconut, soy, or hemp)

1/2 teaspoon raw coconut oil

1 cup plain yogurt with coconut

1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder

1/2 teaspoon raw honey

Optional toppings:

pomegranate seeds

Fresh dragon fruit and lychee fruit

halves of grapes

Shelled sunflower seeds or raw hemp hearts

maca powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine banana, acai, flaxseed, milk, and coconut oil.
  2. Blend on medium-high speed for 15 to 30 seconds until smooth and creamy. Pour into a bowl and add yogurt, spirulina and honey. Stir until everything is smooth.
  3. Garnish your Buddha Bowl with a choice of toppings.

Dragon fruit smoothie

Courtesy of Susan Bowerman

Dragon fruit smoothie

Bowerman recommends this easy-to-make dragon fruit smoothie. “Dragon fruit smoothies are delicious and have the most amazing color when you use the pink variety,” she says.

serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup dragon fruit (small pieces or frozen puree)

1/2 cup mango chunks (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder

1 tablespoon lime juice

Instructions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass and enjoy

Next, learn more about exotic fruits you might love.

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