Dragon Fruit: Reservoir of Health benefits


Aanchal Johari* and Ankit Saxena

Dragon fruit also known as Pitahaya fruit or strawberry pear fruit belongs to the genus Hylocereus, it is the fruit of numerous cactus species native to Mexico but the commercial cultivation of Dragon fruit in India is increasing at a rapid pace. The fruit normally weigh from 150 to 600 grams; some may reach one kilogram. It is an extremely beautiful fruit that has dazzling flowers with an intense shape and color. The dragon fruit is usually a dark red color, although some types of this fruit are pink or yellow. The skin of the dragon fruit is a thin rind. The skin is usually covered in scales, and the center of the fruit is made up of a red or white, sweet tasting pulp.

Sweet pitahayas have leathery, slightly leafy skin and are of three types 
•Hylocereus undatus (Pitahaya blanca or white-fleshed pitahaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh. This is the most commonly seen "dragon fruit".
•Hylocereus costaricensis (Pitahaya roja or red-fleshed pitahaya, also known as Hylocereus polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh.
•Hylocereus megalanthus (Pitahaya amarilla or yellow pitahaya, also known as Selenicereus megalanthus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.

Before consumption, the fruit is cut open to expose the flesh. Texture of the fruit is similar to that of kiwi fruit due to the presence of black seeds which have a nutty taste and are rich in lipids but they are indigestible unless chew. The flesh is mildly sweet, low in calories and is eaten raw. The seeds are eaten along with flesh. The fruit is also converted into juice or wine, or used as a flavouring agent for other beverages. The flowers can also be eaten or used for tea making.

Health benefits that dragon fruit possesses are numerous. Dried Dragon fruit is widely incorporated in diabetic diet, as it helps to lower blood glucose level in Type II Diabetes. Dragon fruit is known to show high antioxidant activity and is a substantial reservoir of Vitamin C.  The amount of vitamin C in dried dragon fruit is ten times higher than in the fresh fruit.  Cardiovascular problems are increasing at rapid pace globally, Dragon fruit has the ability to decrease bad cholesterol levels and replenish good cholesterol levels. Dragon fruit is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, helping the heart stay in great condition. Dragon fruit has a small amount of fat because there are so many seeds in the edible part of the fruit.

There can be literally thousands of the small black seeds in any given dragon fruit, and like most seeds and nuts they have both fats and protein in them while the flesh of the fruit itself has virtually none. Many fruits we eat have the seeds removed, like apricots, peaches, apples and the like, so we tend to think of fruits as being completely fat and protein free. It would be literally impossible to remove the seeds from dragon fruit unless you pressed it through a strainer, as the seeds are very small and mixed evenly in the flesh. Fortunately these are mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fats as, of course, they are not processed in any way and therefore are none of the dangerously unhealthy trans-fats seen in most junk food and processed foods.

Consumption of Dragon fruit helps to maintain gut health; it has a high fiber content, which helps in cleansing of digestive system thereby addressing issues related to poor digestion and constipation.

Arthritis directly affects the joints and causes severe irritation and immobility. Adding dragon fruit to your diet can help you fight ailments like arthritis and joint pains. Dragon fruit has a pool of health benefits for people suffering from arthritis therefore it is also commonly referred to as the “anti-inflammatory fruit.” 
Health benefits of dragon fruit are numerous and are just one other example of the reason that eating natural sources of nutrients is superior to getting them from pills and supplements. Inclusion of Dragon fruit in daily diets of the population will not only add to the nutritional benefits that this fruit brings but it will also promote the commercial cultivation of Dragon fruit in the Country.