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Health Benefits and Nutritional Values of Dragon Fruit

Updated on August 26, 2016
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Mazlan wasn’t into health & fitness, but as age crept up on him, he realizes the importance & benefits of living a fit & healthy lifestyle

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 to try to was left to practically rot in the fridge. Strange, but now we loved it and even planted the dragon fruit tree in our small garden.

Back then, dragon fruit was a new fruit to Malaysia. If you find them in a shop, it will be very pricey. Now you can practically buy them at all the fruit markets and supermarkets. In fact, there are several dragon fruit farms sprouting all over the country and we even export them to the rest of the world.

Dragon fruit is now a popular fruit in most countries
Dragon fruit is now a popular fruit in most countries | Source
Red-skinned and Yellow-skinned Dragon Fruits or Pitayas
Red-skinned and Yellow-skinned Dragon Fruits or Pitayas | Source

Red-Skinned and Yellow-Skinned Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit, also known as Pitaya, is said to originate from South America and is now grown in most of the tropical Asian countries. The skin is covered in 'scales' and comes either as a red-skinned or yellow-skinned variety. The red-skinned variety comes either as white or luminous red flesh. The yellow-skinned variety is available only in white flesh.

The popularity stems from the many benefits that dragon fruit has to offer. Generally, the red-skinned variety with red flesh offers more benefits compared to the yellow or the red-skinned (with white flesh) variety

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

Dragon Fruit Health Benefits

The universities and cancer research centers only recently investigated the nutritional benefits of dragon fruits, and these benefits are as follows:

Dragon Fruit for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Statistic shows that people that suffer from diabetes has an increased chances of vascular complications by at least twofold.

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

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-skinned dragon fruit over a period of four weeks.

The flavanoid antioxidants present in red flesh dragon fruit is responsible for this reduction and hence, if you suffer from Type 2 diabetes, eating the red flesh dragon fruit can help control your glucose level.

Red Flesh Dragon Fruit

Red dragon fruit
Red dragon fruit | Source

Dragon Fruit can Reduce Cancer Risk

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

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

It is however, important to note that you must lead a healthy lifestyle and go on an anti-cancer diet to help improves your chances of preventing cancer.

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

White Flesh Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit with white flesh
Dragon fruit with white flesh | Source

Dragon Fruit can Reduce Cholesterol

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

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

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 act as prebiotics, which assists in the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are the healthy bacteria.

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

Proteins, Carbohydrates and Calories in Dragon Fruit

100 g of dragon fruit will give 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 on a weight management program.

Source: Calories in Dragon fruits

Vitamins & Minerals in Dragon Fruits

Dragon fruits have a high dosage of Vitamin C where 100 gm of the fruit will gives 500 mg of Vitamin C. It also contains Vitamin A, B1, B12 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.

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

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

Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts

Nutritional Value per 100g
Health Benefits
2.0 g
To build and repair tissues, to make hormones, enzymes and assist the body to release energy
For strong and healthy bones
Assists in carbohydrate metabolism, & regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular health
Regulate body temperature, detoxification, energy production
Ascorbic Acid (Vit C)
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
Cobalamin (Vit B12)
16 µg
For healthy nerve cells & red blood cells
For tissue formation
Retinol (Vit A)
20 µg
For body detoxification, skin health and improves night vision
For red blood cells production & for body energy
31 µg
For a healthy bone, tissue & thyroid gland
Improves brain function & to control appetite
Thiamine (Vit B1)
48.9 µg
Assists in production of energy as well as metabolizing carbohydrates
14.35 mg
Helps keep the body healthy and protect against harmful damage caused by free radicals

Dragon Fruit and Pregnancy

Fruits must be part of a pregnancy diet and with all the richness in vitamins, minerals, fiber and fatty acids in red dragon fruit, eating the fruit on a daily basis will be beneficial to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

Among its many benefits is its iron content that will assist a pregnant woman's demand for iron. This will help reduce chances of anemia. It also contains folates, which is essential for the formation of red blood cells.

Eat it fresh, as part of your mixed fruit salad, as a juice or as smoothies.

Dragon Fruit Plant

Pitaya or Dragon fruit tree during flowering stage
Pitaya or Dragon fruit tree during flowering stage | Source

Is Dragon Fruit Stem Edible and Nutritional?

Surprisingly, based on the study by University Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the dragon fruit stem can be turned into a powdered form and consumed as it is rich in nutrient content. However, that does not stop you from eating the fruit stem, fresh!

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

Dragon Fruit Taste

Dragon fruit may look unique and exotic, but the taste can be bland and uninteresting. Not fiery and intense just like its name. However, the red flesh variety is sweeter.

Dragon Fruit Seed contains Omega-3 & Omega-9

The flesh has a nice texture with tiny seeds all over, just like kiwi fruits. But 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 | Source

How to Eat Dragon Fruit

You can cut it in half and spoon it out or cut 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 mix fruit salad.

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

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

Dragon Fruit Trivials

  • 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.
  • Dragon fruit tree, 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 flesh may be too runny. If it is very firm, then you need to rest it for 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 fridge, it will stay fine for a week or so.

Those that do not have blemishes are usually priced higher. I find the quality and taste of the dragon fruit flesh from those with and without blemishes is 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.

If you still have difficulty in 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 | Source
Flower of Yellow Pitaya
Flower of Yellow Pitaya | Source

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 longer time to grow and harvest, and depending on the growing condition, can produce between four to six fruiting cycles per year, similar to the red-skinned variety.

The fruit is smaller, but is sweeter in taste. The way to eat the fruit is similar to its red-skinned 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, as it has an impressive bloom and is probably the largest cacti flower in the world.

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

Red Flesh Red-Skinned Dragon Fruit is Better

Based on the research and studies that were mentioned earlier, the red flesh, red-skinned 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-skinned dragon fruit as the red pigment will stain your clothes.

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


How to Grow Dragon Fruit Tree


If you have any of the above ailments, it is best to consult your doctor on any alternative remedies. Please check if these remedies will affect your current medications.

© 2013 Mazlan


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    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 4 days ago from Malaysia

      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.

    • profile image

      Dorah 10 days ago

      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?

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 19 months ago from Malaysia

      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.

    • profile image

      Muhammad nasir uddin 19 months ago

      Does it works as antifertility?Will it destroy sperm?

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 3 years ago from Malaysia

      @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.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 3 years ago from Citra Florida

      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!


    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 3 years ago from Malaysia

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

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      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!

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 3 years ago from Malaysia

      @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,

      Good luck and have fun eating the red variety dragon fruit

    • Danida profile image

      Danida 3 years ago from London

      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 profile image

      oldiesmusic 3 years ago from United States

      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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