Maybe you've been intrigued by this strange, colorful fruit in the grocery store, but does dragon fruit have more to offer than just exotic good looks?
Also known as pitaya or pitahaya, dragon fruit can have pink, red, or yellow skin—which is inedible— and white, pink, or purple flesh with black seeds. The flesh and edible seeds have a delicate taste often described as a blend of kiwi and pear.
Dragon fruit is low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and packed full of healthful nutrients. Include it in your diet to support many essential functions, including regulating blood pressure, maintaining healthy muscles and bones, and promoting healthy digestion.
One of the most unusual yet beneficial properties of dragon fruit is its high amounts of magnesium, an essential mineral not found in many fruits. More common in nuts, seeds, and dark green vegetables, magnesium plays a vital role in regulating muscle and nerve function, balancing blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and making and supporting cells, bones, and DNA.
A one-cup serving of dragon fruit provides 18% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium.
Dragon fruit is packed with antioxidants, including polyphenols, carotenoids, and betacyanins. These powerful molecules have protective effects against stress-related and inflammatory diseases, and researchers are particularly interested in what role they may play in preventing and treating cancer.
Antioxidants are most effective when consumed as food, rather than in supplement form, so dragon fruit is a great way to receive the health benefits of these protective compounds.
Another antioxidant found in dragon fruit is vitamin C. Vital for controlling infections, healing wounds, and protecting against free radical damage, vitamin C also plays a role in producing collagen and several hormones important for the nervous system.
Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it isn’t stored well within the body and must be consumed daily. One cup of dragon fruit provides approximately 9% of the daily amount of this nutrient.
Dragon fruit is a good source of dietary fiber, which is essential for a healthy digestive system; it helps maintain normal, regular bowel movements and overall bowel health.
High-fiber foods can also assist with weight control as they take longer to digest and create a longer-lasting feeling of satisfaction than low-fiber foods. A one-cup serving of dragon fruit provides 7g of fiber, an impressive 28% of the recommended intake.
Another potential benefit of the high fiber content of dragon fruit is improved cardiovascular health. High-fiber foods have been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, two risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S..
Dragon fruit may also be helpful in reducing another risk factor for heart disease, obesity, as it is low in calories (one cup has about 136 calories) and contains no fat.
Dragon fruit benefits the gut in other ways too. It’s a prebiotic food, which means it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. Specifically, dragon fruit promotes the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, probiotics that not only aid in digestion, but also fight viruses and bad gut bacteria.
The gut is complex, and while the extent of its impact on the body is not yet fully understood, recent research suggests it may play a role in mood, immunity, and heart health, so it’s important to keep it in top condition.
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common deficiencies worldwide, affecting 4 to 5 million people every year in the U.S. alone. Iron is vital for the creation of the red blood cells that transport oxygen around the body, for healthy brain development, and for the normal function of certain cells and hormones. Fatigue and shortness of breath are common symptoms of insufficient iron intake.
It’s unusual for fresh fruit to contain iron, but dragon fruit is a good source of non-heme iron (iron not derived from animal protein), providing 8% of the daily recommendation. The vitamin C in the fruit helps the body better absorb iron.
Dragon fruit may help manage blood sugar levels in multiple ways. Studies show that dragon fruit is effective in lowering glucose levels in people with prediabetes.
In addition, there's some evidence to suggest that dragon fruit may be able to combat insulin resistance, and some animal studies suggest it could help regenerate pancreatic cells.
Like magnesium, potassium is essential for maintaining healthy cellular activity. Its primary function is to balance fluid levels inside cells, moving nutrients in and flushing waste out. It’s also important for nerve function and muscle contraction.
One cup of dragon fruit contains 300 mg of potassium, around 9% of the daily recommended amount. Dragon fruit is also high in folate (vitamin B9), another important nutrient for cell growth and development, especially red blood cells, RNA, and DNA.
Phosphorus is a mineral that is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones, teeth, tissue, and DNA. It also regulates nerve and muscle function and maintains the PH level of the blood.
Though most fruits are low in phosphorus, dragon fruit is considered a good source, with one cup providing just over 6% of the daily amount. Dragon fruit also contains calcium, another mineral important for bone health.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.