The benefits of dragon fruits are numerous for us. They are full of many health benefits from helping with digestion, reducing blood sugar levels, to helping with cancer prevention. A beautiful tropical dragon fruit certainly sounds and looks exotically unique. Check out the three delicious recipes here too.
All that said, I am sure many don’t even know what a dragon fruit is, so it is time to learn about them.
What Is A Dragon Fruit?
First of all, as the name says, this fruit is a tropical fruit that is called pitaya or pitahaya or strawberry pear. You will find it easily in Asia, Central America, Mexico, and South America. Nowadays, you can find them in most supermarkets across North America as well, and if you cannot find them in your large grocers you can usually find them in ethnic food stores.
That spiky skin that is part of the fruit is a result of it being a part of the cactus family. It is a climbing vine plant that grows best in dry areas. It grows fast and a plant can produce for more than 20 years.
Dragon Fruits Health Benefits For Your Body
Let’s learn how this fruit benefits your health in many ways.
Helps with Digestion
It contains oligosaccharides that work as prebiotics helping improve digestion and gut health. This fruit was found to increase healthy gut flora in a Thailand study in 2105.
Also, it has a very good amount of fiber which we know is helpful for digestion, preventing constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Can Help Prevent Cancer
It may have anticancer properties for colon cancer according to one study in 2016.
Carotene and lycopene found in this fruit are strong antioxidants linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities which help in reducing prostate cancer.
Helps Prevent Diabetes
Fiber is important for digestion, but it also can help stabilize blood sugar levels. This fruit can help prevent sugar spikes after eating high glycemic index foods.
In the analysis in research of 36 prediabetes people and 109 Type 2 diabetes patients, it was noted that regular consumption of dragon fruit reduced blood sugar levels. Also, prediabetics who ate more of the fruit had a larger blood glucose reduction.
Immune System Booster
This fruit is full of flavonoids and vitamin C, which are very good for the immune system. So eat your dragon fruit.
Good for the Eyes
Dragon fruit has the ability to inhibit the growth of a protein (human cytochrome P450) found in the liver which is linked to the incidence of congenital glaucoma. Also, the beta-carotene content in dragon fruit helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration by keeping the eyes protected from harmful free radicals. ~ According to research at the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University, Thailand.
This fruit is low in calories, full of good fiber, and high in vitamin C, B vitamins and antioxidants. Also, has magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Learn more about Dragon Fruit Nutrition.
Dragon Fruits Trivia
- According to legend, it received its name when the fruit was puffed out in the last breath by a dragon that was defeated in a battle.
- This fruit grows on a specific type of cactus plant.
- In Malaysia, it is called “buah naga.”
- It is called ‘Queen of the night’ or moonflower because it blooms from evening to midnight.
- The large, beautiful white flowers have a very sweet fragrance.
- The flower only lasts for one night and then goes into producing the fruit.
- Bats and moths pollinate the fruit flowers at night.
- The fruit grows in 30 to 50 days.
- The plant can have four to six fruit-producing cycles each year.
- It is grown in Southeast Asia, the United States, Israel, Australia, Cyprus, and the Canary Islands.
- The first dragon fruit cactus in Hawaii was planted on a school wall by Mrs. Bingham in 1836.
- It is known as Pitahaya in Mexico which is the Spanish name for fruiting vines of Central America. It is called pitaya in Nicaragua.
Dragon Fruits History
Many historians believe that it originated in Central America.
- BUT it is thought that it came from China: “Ancient Chinese legends say that the dragon fruit was created thousands of years ago by a dragon in battle who blew a burst of fire containing the fruit”. ~ American Culinary Federation Education Foundation.
- It was exported from central America to southeast Asia by French missionaries where it was called dragon fruit.
- Then it was taken to eastern and southern Asia, where the fruit is now grown extensively.
How to Select The Best Dragon Fruits
The skin of this fruit is thick and fibrous which can be daunting, but don’t let that stop you from eating this fruit. Once you learn how to it is actually pretty simple.
The main thing is to select a fruit that is perfectly ripe—the bright red ones are ripe, the green ones are unripe. A few spots are fine, but avoid those with brown spots. It is best for it to be soft but not mushy. Test it by gently pressing the skin with your finger; it should push in a little, but not feel too soft.
You can get a very firm dragon fruit, but it will be a few days before it ripens for you to eat it.
You can find this fruit in the frozen section of some grocery stores, pre-peeled and cut into cubes. This is a convenient option for a tasty snack that packs a nutrient-dense punch.
“Dragon fruit is very subtle, very delicate. So you want to be careful not to kill it with things that have a very strong flavor.” Jose Andres
How to Store
You can place it in a glass-covered container and keep it in the fridge for up to five days. Also, you can store dragon fruits that are peeled and chopped up as described below in the freezer for up to three months.
What Do Dragon Fruits Taste Like?
Many may hesitate to try this fruit because of its unique spiky appearance. Do give it a try.
It is crunchy and sweet with a mild flavour and can seem like a pear and kiwi mixed together. If you are like me and enjoy fruit then you may also fall in love with dragon fruit as I have.
It does come in three colors but where I live it is only to be found in one, which is with pink skin with white fruit. Then there is the yellow skin one that has white fruit. I hear there are ones with pink skin with red fruit which are very sweet. I looked all over the city by even going to oriental supermarkets and there were none to be found.
How to Cut One
The best thing about this fruit is how you can simply eat the fruit fresh and here is how to do it.
1. First, cut the fruit in half.
Make sure you have a sharp knife; now cut it in half lengthwise.
2. Now cut the fruit out of the skin.
See in the photo how to do it. You can cut it into cubes.
3. You can simply enjoy these pieces of dragon fruits.
Eat them as a snack right out of the skin as below or add it to smoothies, salads, and yogurt.
Tips For Eating Delicious Dragon Fruits
With its mild flavour, it is best not to add other strong-tasting fruits that will take over.
It is often eaten fresh because it tastes so good but a smoothie or a pudding or juice is tasty too.
3 Dragon Fruit Recipes
I enjoy spending time in my kitchen developing a number of delicious recipes. It is a fun and tasty experience. Enjoy and let me know any recipes you made with dragon fruit.
Simple Dragon Fruit Juice Recipe
This truly is the simplest dragon fruit recipe of all. It only has one ingredient! Guess what that ingredient is?
- All you have to do is take the fruit out of the skin as above.
- Next, cut it up and put it into the blender.
- Now blend it on high liquefy.
- Pour it into a glass and enjoy your dragon fruit juice.
I was surprised by how tasty it is and that it didn’t need any sweetening. If you do want a sweeter beverage you might like to add a few drops of liquid stevia to taste.
Tropical Fruit Bowl with Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit in a bowl with mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, coconut and strawberries is a very delicious summer fruit salad.
Again this is such a simple recipe. Simply peel the fruit, and just chop it up. Mix the fruit together in a bowl and serve.
Exotic Dragon Fruit Smoothie – This dragon fruit smoothie is delicious and refreshing. This exotic fruit is delightful to make a smoothie with. Also, this recipe is vegan and gluten-free. This is a tasty smoothie that is great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
Dragon Fruit Chia Pudding with Raspberries -This is for sure a delicious chia pudding made with dragon fruit and raspberries. Of course, it is vegan and sugar-free as all the recipes on Real Food for Life are and I have to say delicious too. It is a very healthy dessert made from the tasty superfoods dragon fruit, raspberries, flax seeds, stevia and chia seeds.
Learn more about some of the healthiest vegetarian foods you will always want to have in your pantry or growing on your deck.READ Superfoods – Over 100 of the Healthiest Foods, You Should Have in Your Diet and learn more about the variety of Superfoods we think you should have in your diet.