The Health Benefits of Everyone’s Favorite Pink Superfood, Dragon Fruit
There are lots of superfoods that have sparked our interest in the last few years, but none as alluring as this strange yet beautiful fruit. Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is the exotic pink fruit you’ve probably picked up a time or two in the produce aisle wondering what you’d do with it. Native to Central America, dragon fruit comes from the cactus plant Hylocereus Undatus.
The pulp of the fruit varies from white to a deep pink hue with tiny black seeds. The taste is often compared to part kiwi, part pear. It’s delicious by itself but beginning to be a favorite in smoothies, smoothie bowls, and cocktails. Starbucks has even jumped on the trend with a dragon fruit refresher, though I’d steer clear of that one since it’s loaded with sugar and hardly healthy.
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Vitamins & Minerals
Dragon fruit is low in calories and fat free. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals like carotenoids, lycopene, iron, vitamin C, and magnesium. The fiber content of dragon fruit is extremely high at 7 grams in a single cup. A recommended daily dose of fiber is 21-25 grams. This alone helps aid weight loss, reduces cancer risks, and improves heart health. If you experience digestive or gastrointestinal issues dragon fruit makes a great addition to your diet. Dragon fruit is also one of the few fruits that contain iron.
Another way that dragon fruit helps aid gut health is through prebiotics. These plant fibers are vital to the microbiome in your gut. Prebiotics help with the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Think of them as a natural fertilizer for the healthy micro organisms in your stomach. Recent studies show a strong link between balanced gut bacteria and mental health. This article about how prebiotics and fiber effect the microbiota is a great resource if you’d like more information on gut health.
If there’s anything we’ve learned in the last few years it’s that a strong immune system is vital to fighting off illnesses. White blood cells are the fighting force in the immune system to attack harmful viruses and bacteria in the body. These blood cells are particularly sensitive to free radicals. Dragon fruit is high in antioxidants which help to fight off free radicals. The vitamin C and carotenoids in dragon fruit help to neutralize free radicals therefore boosting your immune system by protecting the white blood cells and preventing infection.
Reduces Chronic Illness
Eating foods high in antioxidants helps to decrease inflammation in the body. Disease and illness thrive in high inflammatory environments. Foods rich in antioxidants have shown to prevent cancer, hearth disease, arthritis, and diabetes. The vitamins and minerals in dragon fruit show strong protection against cancer cells and heart disease in particular. While you can take supplements and vitamins in a pill form your best line of defense is to receive key nutrients through your diet.
How to Eat Dragon Fruit
You can now find fresh and frozen dragon fruit at most large grocery stores in the US. Fresh dragon fruit makes for a great smoothie bowl topping. My personal favorite way to eat dragon fruit is in a smoothie. If you’re planning on making a smoothie or smoothie bowl with dragon fruit it’s best to use either frozen or freeze dried since the fruit has a high water consistency. Fresh dragon fruit tends to make smoothies too thin. If you live in an area where fresh or frozen is hard to find freeze dried dragon fruit powder is another great option. Mix the powdered dragon fruit into smoothies or with coconut water, fresh lime juice and raw honey for a refreshing superfood cocktail.