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Health Benefits and Nutritional Value of Dragon Fruit

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Mazlan has a passion for health and fitness. He enjoys yoga, cycling, home workouts, and healthy food.

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Dragon Fruit Facts

I first came to know of dragon fruit way back in the early '80s when a friend brought it back from Vietnam for us to try. This weird-looking fruit failed to tempt us and was left to practically rot in the fridge. Now is a different story, we loved it so much that I had it planted in our small garden. I also learned about the health benefits and the amazing nutritional values of dragon fruit.

This article reviews all you need to know about dragon fruits including:

  • Different Types Of Dragon Fruit
  • Dragon Fruit Health Benefits
  • Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts
  • Dragon Fruit and Pregnancy
  • Dragon Fruit Stem—Edible?
  • What Dragon Fruit Taste Like
  • How to Eat Dragon Fruit
  • How to Choose a Ripe Dragon Fruit
  • Where to Buy Dragon Fruit
  • Yellow Pitaya
  • Red Flesh Is Better
Dragon fruit has many health benefits and is now a popular fruit in most countries

Dragon fruit has many health benefits and is now a popular fruit in most countries

Different Types Of Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit, also known as Pitaya, originates from South America and is now grown in most tropical Asian countries. The skin is covered with 'scales' and comes either as a red-skin or yellow-skin variety.

  • The red-skin variety is either white or luminous red flesh.
  • The yellow-skin variety is available only in the white flesh.

The popularity is due to the many benefits that dragon fruit has to offer. The red-skin variety with red flesh offers more benefits compared to the other varieties i.e. the red-skin with white flesh and the yellow-skin dragon fruit variety.

For this article, we will explore the benefits of the red-skin variety.

Red skin and yellow skin dragon fruit or pitayas

Red skin and yellow skin dragon fruit or pitayas

Dragon Fruit Health Benefits

Despite the many years of the fruit's existence, it was only recently that studies were conducted on the health benefits of dragon fruits, which are as follows:

Dragon Fruit for People with Type 2 Diabetes

The statistic shows that people who suffer from diabetes will have increased chances of vascular complications by at least twofold.

Based on the study conducted by the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Universiti Sains Malaysia, and published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, dragon fruits, which are rich in antioxidant betacyanins can prevent this combative stress and diabetes.

Red Flesh Dragon Fruit

In another study on patients with Type 2 diabetes who are not dependent on insulin, shows a decrease in blood sugar level by more than 19% when given 600 gm daily dosage of the red flesh red skin dragon fruit over a period of four weeks.

The flavonoid antioxidants present in red flesh dragon fruit are responsible for this reduction. If you suffer from Type 2 diabetes, eating the red flesh dragon fruit can help control your glucose level.

Red flesh dragon fruit

Red flesh dragon fruit

Dragon Fruit May Reduce Cancer Risk

The red pigments in the red flesh dragon fruit are rich in lycopene, flavonoid antioxidants, and phytoalbumins, which help prevent the formation of cancerous cells.

As documented in the American Institute for Cancer Research eNews, the phytochemical lycopene that is present in red flesh dragon fruit can prevent prostate cancer.

In another study by Paweł Pa´sko et al of Jagiellonian University Medical College, Poland, dragon fruits with their high antioxidant properties and cytotoxic potential to colon cancer cells may become an important chemopreventive element of the daily diet.

In addition, flavonoid antioxidants can also prevent inflammatory diseases such as gout and arthritis.

Dragon fruit with white flesh

Dragon fruit with white flesh

Dragon Fruit May Reduce Cholesterol

Dragon fruit has high levels of insoluble and soluble fibers. 100 gm of fresh dragon fruit gives you 1 gm of fiber. In dried form, the fiber content is even more at 10 gm for every 100 gm of powdered or dried fruit.

These fibers can improve the digestive system, which in turn will reduce the accumulation of dietary cholesterol in your body.

In a clinical study published in the American Journal of Applied Sciences 6 (7): 1341-1346, 2009 edition, eating the red dragon fruit over five weeks saw an impressive drop in the total cholesterol level.

Prebiotic Action of Dragon Fruit

Based on the article in 'Food Chemistry' (June 2010 edition), the fiber in dragon fruit is made up mainly of oligosaccharides. This is not digested in the stomach but acts as prebiotics, which assists in the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are healthy bacteria.

When taken in the right amount, these microorganisms will assist in digestion and keep the immune system strong.

Dragon Fruit Protein, Carbohydrates, and Calories

100 g of dragon fruit gives almost 2.0 g of protein and 9 g of carbohydrates, which is about 3% and 4% of the recommended daily value, respectively.

Pitaya is also very low in calories at only 60 calories, which is about 3% of the daily value

This is good news if you are in a weight management program.

Dragon Fruit Vitamins & Minerals

Dragon fruit has a high dosage of Vitamin C where 100 gm of the fruit gives 500 mg of Vitamin C. It also contains Vitamin A, B1, and E but in smaller amounts.

Mineral contents in dragon fruits include a good dosage of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. In smaller amounts, it has calcium, iron, and copper.

With all these nutritional benefits, dragon fruit can be a complete meal of its own.

Please refer to the table below for a detail breakdown of the vitamins and mineral contents.

Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts

NutrientsNutritional Value per 100gHealth Benefits

Protein

2.0 g

To build and repair tissues, to make hormones, enzymes and assist the body to release energy

Calcium

5.7mg

For strong and healthy bones

Potassium

57mg

Assists in carbohydrate metabolism, & regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular health

Magnesium

28mg

Regulate body temperature, detoxification, energy production

Ascorbic Acid (Vit C)

500mg

Strengthen immune system, heals bruises and cuts faster.

Vitamin E

106 µg

Protection against toxin, thins the blood & helps in the skin and hair care

Phosphorus

23mg

For tissue formation

Retinol (Vit A)

20 µg

For body detoxification, skin health and improves night vision

Iron

3.4mg

For red blood cells production & for body energy

Copper

31 µg

For a healthy bone, tissue & thyroid gland

Zinc

14mg

Improves brain function & to control appetite

Thiamine (Vit B1)

48.9 µg

Assists in production of energy as well as metabolizing carbohydrates

Lycopene

14.35 mg

Helps keep the body healthy and protect against harmful damage caused by free radicals

Dragon Fruit and Pregnancy

Eating fruits during pregnancy is a good habit and red dragon fruit with all the richness in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fatty acids will be beneficial to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

Among its many benefits is its iron content that is essential for a pregnant woman that reduces the chances of anemia. It also contains folates, which are essential for the formation of red blood cells.

Dragon fruit is also rich in fibers and can provide relief from constipation.

Based on the study by A. Widyaningsih et al., it is safe for pregnant women to eat dragon fruit. You can eat it fresh or as part of your mixed fruit salad, as a juice, or as smoothies.

Pitaya or dragon fruit tree during flowering stage

Pitaya or dragon fruit tree during flowering stage

Is Dragon Fruit Stem Edible and Nutritional?

Surprisingly, based on the study by the University Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the dragon fruit stem can be processed into powdered form and consumed, as it is rich in nutrient content.

Dragon Fruit Stem Benefits

The study concludes that the premature stem of the red dragon fruit has more nutritional value compared to the matured stem.

Dragon Fruit Taste

Dragon fruit looks unique and exotic but the taste can be bland and uninteresting. Not fiery and intense unlike its name. The red flesh variety is, however, sweeter.

Dragon Fruit Seed contains Omega-3 & Omega-9

The flesh has a nice texture with tiny seeds all over, just like kiwi fruits. Do not be put off by these tiny seeds as there are edible and nutritional. The seeds contain natural oils and fatty acids in the form of linoleic acid and oleic acid (Omega-3 and Omega-9), which are useful for your cardiovascular health.

One way to eat the dragon fruit is to cut it in half and scoop the flesh with a spoon

One way to eat the dragon fruit is to cut it in half and scoop the flesh with a spoon

How to Eat Dragon Fruit

You can cut it in half and spoon it out or cut it into quarters, peel the skin off and serve on a plate. It tastes better if it is chilled. Some people will add a bit of lime juice for added flavor.

Or you can cut it into cubes and serve it as part of your mixed fruit salad.

Dragon Fruit Juice, Sorbet, and Smoothie

For something different, try it as dragon fruit juice, sorbet, or smoothie.

  • To make dragon fruit juice, cut the fruit into two, scoop the pulp and blend it. You can add sugar or honey, ginger, and lemon juice if you want. Add water to the consistency you want.
  • For dragon fruit sorbet, likewise, blend the dragon fruit pulp with lime juice (and orange juice - optional), until smooth. Then place into an ice cream container, freeze.
  • For dragon fruit smoothie, freeze the scooped fruit pulp. When you are ready to make the smoothie, throw in the frozen dragon fruit pulp, add milk (or yogurt) and blend. You can also add other fruits to this dragon fruit smoothie such as banana, pineapple, mango, etc.

Dragon Fruit Skin

You do not eat the dragon fruit skin but in some Southeast Asian countries, the skin is pickled and eaten either on its own or as a salad. Based on a study by the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Natural Resources, the peel or the skin is actually rich in flavonoids, which are good for anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-viral effects.

Dragon Fruit Fun Facts

1. Dragon Fruit flower blooms only at night and will last for one night only. Pollination needs to happen on that one night for it to set fruit.

2. Dragon fruit trees, if maintained properly, can last for over a hundred years.

How to Choose a Ripe Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit is usually picked mature and ready to eat. If you press it with your thumb and it gives a little, then it is perfect for eating. If it is too soft, then it is over-ripe and the dragon fruit flesh may be too runny. If it is very firm, then you need to rest it for a couple of days for it to ripen.

Do not keep it too long, otherwise, it will be too soft. If you are not ready to eat it yet, put it in the fridge. It can last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Dragon fruit that is without blemishes is usually priced higher. I find the quality and taste of the dragon fruit flesh from those with and without blemishes are no different. So, save your money!

But do not buy if it has too many blemishes or blotches as it may be over-ripe. Another sign of over-ripe dragon fruit is the dry and brown tips of its 'leaves.

Where to Buy Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruits are now easily available in most supermarkets. Alternatively, you can try the Asian food market in your area.

The growing season is traditionally from June to late December so you have plenty of time to enjoy this exotic fruit.

Buy Dragon Fruit Online

If you still have difficulty finding dragon fruit in your area, stay cool as it is also available online, but you have to buy them in large quantities!

Yellow dragon fruit or Yellow Pitaya with white flesh

Yellow dragon fruit or Yellow Pitaya with white flesh

Yellow Skin Dragon Fruit or Yellow Pitaya

Although this article is on the red dragon fruit variety, it will not be complete without comparative information between the two varieties.

To start with, the yellow dragon fruit plant takes a long time to grow and harvest. Depending on the growing condition, it can produce between four to six fruiting cycles per year, similar to the red skin variety.

The fruit is smaller but is sweeter in taste. The way to eat the fruit is similar to its red skin cousin and because it is sweeter, Yellow Pitaya makes a better juice drink.

Although it is grown mainly for its yellow fruit, the flower has commercial value as well. It has an impressive bloom and is probably the largest cacti flower in the world.

The yellow skin Dragon Fruit is native to the northern part of South America and is not commonly grown in tropical South East Asia, yet.

More FAQs on Dragon Fruits

Here are more frequently asked questions on dragon fruit:

Is Dragon Fruit a Superfood?

Superfoods are foods with very high nutritional contents with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are low in calories. Dragon fruit, with high nutrients and low calories, has gained the title of superfood.

Is Dragon Fruit Good for Weight Loss?

A dragon fruit, weighing about 100 gm, has a low calorie of only 60 and is suited for weight loss. It also has less sugar and carbs than many other tropical fruits.

Is Dragon Fruit Good for Your Skin?

Dragon fruit is good for the skin as it is rich in Vitamin C. You can get rid of acne by applying dragon fruit paste to the affected area. It can also treat sunburns and keep your skin hydrated. It also boosts collagen production for healthy, radiant skin.

Is Dragon Fruit Good for Your Hair?

Dragon fruit has niacin which gives better blood circulation to nourish the scalp and hair follicles. The best way to benefit is to do a hair massage using dragon fruit paste. It is also good for people who frequently color-treat and chemically treat their hair.

To Sum Up, Red Flesh Dragon Fruit Is Better

Based on the research and studies that were mentioned earlier, the red flesh, red-skin dragon fruit with its higher antioxidants content, and the red pigment, which has lypopene, flavanoid, and phytoalbumins, has better therapeutic properties and hence, is the dragon fruit variety to consume.

Although it costs slightly more, it is sweeter and better for our health. Do be careful when you eat this red flesh, red skin dragon fruit as the red pigment will stain your clothes.

If you have not tried it yet go out and buy some. If you have been eating the white flesh variety, this is the time to change to the red flesh variety.

Enjoy!

References and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can a CKD patient consume dragon fruit?

Answer: It is best to check with your doctor to confirm if someone with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can take dragon fruits. Each patient will have a different level of severity so it is better to seek medical opinion.

Question: Does red dragon fruit turn your secretions a different color?

Answer: No

Question: Is it ok to eat one dragon fruit daily?

Answer: Yes, you can eat dragon fruit daily. It should not be an issue.

Question: Does red dragon fruit change your urine color?

Answer: No, it does not.

Question: Is it ok to eat dragon fruit if you are going to breastfeed?

Answer: Yes, it should not be a problem but just in case, please check with your doctor.

Question: Does the red dragon fruit make your stool and urine red?

Answer: The red dragon fruit is rich in pigments called betalains which accounts for its red-colored flesh. It is also rich in antioxidant properties. But too much of these betalains rich fruits can turn your urine and stool red. It is, however, something that is not dangerous to your health.

Question: What is the pH value of the dragon fruit?

Answer: The dragon fruit pH value is 5.45. You can check them here https://www.acidwatcher.com/index.php/categories/c...

Question: Can dragon fruit be eaten by someone with chronic kidney disease?

Answer: Please check with your doctor as dragon fruits have potassium. People with chronic kidney disease should avoid fruits and vegetables that has potassium as a damaged kidney will let potassium to build up in the blood. This can cause problems for the heart.

© 2013 Mazlan A

Comments

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on September 11, 2018:

Hi, Julia. This question was asked before and I should have deleted this info but forgot to do so. The source came from a dragon fruit farm website and since it is not an authoritative site, so it could have been a mistake on their part that I failed to check. This B12 is now deleted from the table. My apologies.

Julia on September 11, 2018:

Dragon fruit does not have any Vitamin B12 in it. Where did you get the nutrition information from?

Elizabeth dela Pena on September 01, 2018:

Very informative, thank you,post more

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 14, 2018:

Hi, Mazian, It's okay. Thanks.

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on August 13, 2018:

Hi Miebakagh. I hope you have success in finding dragon fruits in your town market. Thanks for dropping by.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 11, 2018:

Hello Mazian, I like fruits and enjoy them much daily. However, I had not heard of the dragon fruit. A good mart is available in my city that import fruits from the oriental countries. I will soon check if the fruit is available.

Your pictures are nice. But it is not easy for me to identify it. I will google to get another picture for my understanding. Thank you and enjoy the day.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on January 16, 2018:

It is the first time for me to hear about dragon fruit, it is very informative, thank you.

Laszlo on December 01, 2017:

B12? Wow! May I kindly ask for the resource you got these stats from? If these babies have B12 then all other organically grown fruits have as well.

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on October 01, 2017:

Hi, Bazli. Other interesting facts about Pitaya? Well, I suppose the following info can be considered as

interesting facts:

1. It is from a cacti tree

2. It is also known as strawberry pear (besides dragon fruit and pitaya)

3. Dragon fruit flower will last only for a day before it whiter. So, it needs to pollinate in the evening before it wilts the next day.

Bazli on October 01, 2017:

Thank you for the informations given.But are there many other interesting facts about this pitaya?

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on September 10, 2017:

Ev, there's a quite a few places where you can buy dragon fruit seeds online including for the red variety.

You can google 'dragon fruit seeds online' and you will see a few sites selling them. Or you can go directly to amaozin.com or eBay. You can find a few sellers there too. Good luck.

Ev on September 04, 2017:

I happen to live where Pitaya grow "wild", but only the pink-skinned white variety. I'm sure the red variety would grow here if I could find the seeds. So, I'm looking for sources for seeds of the red variety. Any suggestions?

GregM on April 11, 2017:

I have never seen this fruit before but this summer I will be flying to Vietnam for holiday. Will I be able to buy one there?

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on March 25, 2017:

Dorah, not sure if it can grow in South Africa but I am sure you can buy the fruits in your local market. Dragon fruits growers are very aggressive and they are marketing the fruits all over the world.

Dorah on March 19, 2017:

Hi! Interesting info, I live on South Africa. Can the dragon fruit grow here? I have aneamia and vit b12 deficiency, Where can I get the fruit?

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on August 31, 2015:

Hi Muhammad Nasir uddin. I have not read any research articles, or any article for that matter that says Dragon Fruit will 'destroy sperm'. In fact one of the causes of low sperm count is lack of Zinc. Dragon fruit on the other hand, is rich in Zinc. Hope this answer your query.

Muhammad nasir uddin on August 22, 2015:

Does it works as antifertility?Will it destroy sperm?

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on January 31, 2014:

@chefsref, based on your comment (in my other article on Dates Palm) I don't think Dragon Fruit tree can grow at that temperature range. You need to move South, then it might possible to grow the tree!

Thanks for the visit.

Lee Raynor from Citra Florida on January 22, 2014:

Hey Greatstuff

Yeah, I'm trying to grow Dragonfruit )as well as dates.) I have my doubts due to our freezing weather in the winter but so far they are alive after two frosts.

You have access to a lot of foods that we never see here in North Florida.

You publish some very interesting Hubs!

Lee

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on January 21, 2014:

@Nell, we learn new things every day on HP! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Have a great day

Nell Rose from England on January 14, 2014:

I had never heard of it before, so this is really interesting to me, this is great information, and something I am going to look into, thank you!

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on January 13, 2014:

@oldiesmusic, Yeap! The red variety will stain your clothes, if you are not careful, but it is the variety that has the most nutritional benefits. Thanks for dropping by and commenting

@Danida, I have checked the website and dragon fruits are available in London at Tesco, M&S and the Asian grocery stores, Check out this article by The Guardian on the best Asian supermarket in London, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/sep/0...

Good luck and have fun eating the red variety dragon fruit

Danida from London on January 11, 2014:

I've always been fascinated by dragon fruit. The first time I saw a picture of its 'insides' I thought it was fake haha! It just looks so weird...

I've never bought one though as I can never find them.

oldiesmusic from United States on December 26, 2013:

At first I was curious about the dragon fruit, and when I tasted it, it was quite ok. It tasted great, despite staining my clothes (I ate the red variety) and my teeth like my gums were bleeding hehehehe. I couldn't believe that it is related to the cactus (haven't seen the plant yet). Thanks for the wonderful information and for listing the great health benefits of this wonder fruit.

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