Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit that is native to Central America. This nutrient-rich fruit has a flaming pinkish-red skin with black seeds inside the pulp. It has a mild flavor and a texture that is a cross between a kiwi, a pear, and a passion fruit.
This exotic fruit is low in calories and high in nutrients and antioxidants, making it a healthy alternative to other fruits (1).
Research on the health benefits of dragon fruit states that it is good for heart health, managing diabetes, and controlling cholesterol.
Dragon fruit is considered a ‘superfood’ as it is nutrient-dense and rich in antioxidants. It is also available commercially in powder form, which can be used in smoothies and flavored yogurt. Let’s check out the nutrition profile and health benefits of dragon fruit.
Table Of Contents
Dragon Fruit Nutrition
Dragon fruit (100 g) contains 264 calories, carbohydrates (82 g), and protein (3.57 g). It is rich in fiber (1.8 g), iron (4% RDI), magnesium (10% RDI), calcium, potassium, and vitamin C (3% RDI) (1), (2), (3). It is also a good source of vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and C (3).
- Dragon fruit is a healthy source of carbohydrates and fiber (1). The complex sugars from fruits are a better alternative to processed sugar.
- The fiber content of dragon fruit is important in maintaining the beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. The high fiber content also helps in bowel movement.
- The glycemic content of dragon fruit is on the higher side, but it is nutrient-dense, which makes it a healthy snack.
- The high concentration of vitamin C in dragon fruit is more than the daily recommended intake. Vitamin C is a vital nutrient and antioxidant that is involved in multiple physiological functions and provides many health benefits.
Now that you have a brief idea about the health benefits of dragon fruit, let’s check them out in detail in the next section.
13 Health Benefits Of Dragon Fruit
1. May Promote A Healthy Gut
Dragon fruit is considered good for digestion because it is rich in fiber (1). The prebiotic fiber helps in the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria in the body. These bacteria provide us with essential compounds that our body cannot synthesize (4). Dietary fiber also improves bowel movement and treats conditions such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and gastrointestinal issues (5).
2. May Lower Cholesterol And Improve Heart Health
The seeds of dragon fruit are a rich source of essential unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acids (6). These good fats can lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Excess low density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol can harden your arteries and lead to heart diseases. The presence of phytonutrients such as lycopene can also help in improving cardiovascular health (7), (8), (9).
Higher dietary fiber intake is positively linked with lower risk of heart disease (10).
All these cardioprotective compounds present in dragon fruit may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks.
3. May Strengthen Your Immune System
Dragon fruit contains antioxidants such as vitamin C, betacyanins, betaxanthins, and polyphenolic compounds (11), (12). Vitamin C is integral to maintaining a robust immune system as it assists in killing harmful pathogens and promotes the growth of white blood cells (immunity cells) (13). The colored pigments in dragon fruit – betalains – have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (14). These antioxidants can scavenge or bind to the harmful free radicals released during stress or metabolic reactions.
4. May Help Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
Dragon fruit can reduce blood sugar levels. This could be helpful for people who are pre-diabetic or diabetic. Research shows that the glycemic control of dragon fruits is dose-dependent. This means that as the amount of dragon fruit consumed increased, the blood sugar levels decreased (15). This hypoglycemic property of dragon fruit can help in regulating glucose levels in the blood.
However, consuming too much dragon fruit can also lead to adverse effects as it has been found to induce insulin resistance in mice (16). Insulin resistance can lead to obesity.
5. May Aid Weight Loss
A study conducted on mice has found that the betacyanins found in red dragon fruit can help manage diabetes and prevent obesity by regulating the growth of beneficial bacterial in the gut (17). The high fiber and water content of dragon fruit can also help keep you satiated for longer periods.
6. May Boost Iron Levels
Dragon fruit is rich in iron and vitamin C (3). Iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen to various parts of the body (18). Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron apart from helping in the body’s defense system (19). Both iron and vitamin C are involved in regulating major physiological functions in our body. Deficiency of iron or vitamin C can lead to conditions such as anemia and scurvy respectively (18), (19). Incorporating dragon fruit into your diet can fulfill your dietary requirements of these important nutrients.
7. May Prevent Cancer
Dragon fruit contains pigmented carotenoids like – beta-carotene and lycopene – and vitamin C that have the potential to fight cancer. Antioxidants such as betalains can reduce oxidative stress and fight cancer cells (20), (21). Research has found that the betacyanins found in dragon fruit may inhibit the growth and spread of breast cancer (22). These antioxidants can also repair cellular damage (20).
8. May Help Improve Vision
Beta-carotenes are essential for good eye health. The beta-carotene present in dragon fruit may help improve vision and reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (23). However, there is insufficient evidence to support these claims.
9. May Help Suppress Arthritis Pain
Traditionally, dragon fruit was suggested as a remedy to people who suffered from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and joint pains. Dragon fruit has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (14). Thus, it may relieve the inflammatory pain caused by arthritis.
10. May Help During Pregnancy
Since dragon fruit is rich in iron, consuming it during pregnancy can help prevent anemia (24). It also contains vital minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium (2). These nutrients aid blood circulation, bone formation, and brain health.
11. May Help Dengue Patients
Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming dragon fruit can help people infected by the dengue virus. This could be because of the antiviral activity of the compounds present in dragon fruit.
An in vitro study observed that the betacyanin in red dragon fruit exhibits antiviral activity against dengue virus (25). In silico studies have also observed an affinity between the compounds in dragon fruit and viral proteins (26). This is a promising development and suggests that dragon fruit has the potential to treat dengue. However, more in vivo studies should be done to determine the safety of antiviral therapy using red dragon fruits for humans.
Dragon fruit as a treatment for dengue is not scientifically proven, and it should not be included in the diet without consulting a medical practitioner.
12. May Boost Brain Function
Regularly consuming dragon fruit may lower the risk of neural degeneration. An animal study found that the extract of red dragon fruit helps improve memory and learning ability after exposure to lead (27).
13. May Promote Reproductive Health
Traditional medicinal practices suggest the consumption of dragon fruit to improve reproductive health and benefit the sexual organs.
A study done on mice showed that dragon fruit peel extract can inhibit the progress of endometriosis (29). However, research is limited to back these claims in humans.
Dragon fruits are also said to have many beneficial properties for the skin. Check them out below.
Dragon Fruit Benefits For Skin
- May Have Anti-Aging Properties: Dragon fruits contain antioxidants that have anti-aging properties. These antioxidants inhibit the enzymes that break down skin components such as collagen and hyaluronic acid (30), (31). Vitamin C is another potent antioxidant that can prevent skin aging (32).
- May Treat Acne: Dragon fruit extracts are used in traditional skin care remedies to treat acne. This could be because red dragon fruit peel has antimicrobial properties (33). The compounds in dragon fruit are also said to control sebum production and help in controlling acne, though there is no scientific proof for the same.
- May Soothe Sunburned Skin: The vitamin C, along with the other vitamins and minerals present in dragon fruit, can reduce sunburn (34). It restores moisture and heals the sunburnt area and calms it. The antimicrobial property of dragon fruit may help prevent infections on the burnt area (33).
- May Promote Skin Health: Dragon fruit is a good source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is proven to lighten skin tone, reduce hyperpigmentation and improve skin complexion. It is also essential for collagen synthesis (32). Collagen keeps your skin firm and plump as it is a structural component of the skin.
- May Hydrate The Skin: Dragon fruit is high in water, so it may help hydrate the skin. The vitamin B in it can moisturize your skin and keep it healthy and supple.
After reading all about the benefits of dragon fruit, you must be wondering how to eat it. Here’s how…
How To Eat Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit can be eaten fresh or blended to a juice. It can be used to flavor jams, salads, smoothies, and yogurts.
It is easy to pick a good dragon fruit. Just check if it is firm and not too soft. Select a fruit that is even in color. Use a knife to slice it in half. You can scoop out the flesh using a spoon or remove the peel and slice the flesh into smaller pieces. Dragon fruit is freeze dried and commercially available as a powder, which can be used as a substitute for the fruit.
Here’s how you can use dragon fruit on your skin.
How To Use Dragon Fruit On Skin
1. Skin Tightening Face Pack
You Will Need
- 1/2 dragon fruit
- 1 tablespoon yogurt
- Scoop out the pulp of the dragon fruit and mash it into a smooth paste.
- Add the yogurt to the paste.
- Apply the pack to your face and neck and keep it on for 20 minutes.
- Rinse off the pack with lukewarm water and pat your face dry with a soft towel.
- Repeat this process once a week for two months.
2. Dragon Fruit Face Mask For Pimples
You Will Need
- ¼ dragon fruit
- 3-4 cotton balls
- Scoop out the pulp of the dragon fruit and mash it into a smooth paste using a fork.
- Dab it on the affected area using a cotton ball. Use a fresh cotton ball to apply it on another area to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Rinse off the paste with lukewarm water after 20 minutes. Let your face air dry.
- Repeat this process twice a week.
3. Dragon Fruit Face Pack For Sunburned Skin
You Will Need
- ¼ dragon fruit
- 1 vitamin E capsule
- Scoop out the pulp of the dragon fruit and mash it with a fork to make a paste.
- Puncture the vitamin E capsule and squeeze its oil into the dragon fruit paste. Mix thoroughly.
- Apply the pack to the sunburned area. Keep it on for 30 minutes.
- Rinse it off with cold water and let your face air dry.
- Use this pack every alternate day until the symptoms subside.
Wondering if dragon fruit has any side effects? Find out below.
Side Effects Of Dragon Fruit
Overall, dragon fruit is safe to consume. In rare cases, people develop allergic reactions with symptoms such as rashes, itching, nausea, and swelling of the mouth. Very few cases of allergic reaction to dragon fruit have been reported (35).
- Dragon fruit is a nutritious and flavorful exotic fruit that can enhance your overall health.
- It is a high-fiber, low-calorie superfood with essential healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They are a popular choice among people who are health-conscious.
- Dragon fruits are safe to consume, even during pregnancy. Consult a doctor before including it in your diet.
- Research on its nutritional profile is ongoing, and research on the benefits of dragon fruit for humans is limited.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Q. Can I eat dragon fruit every day?
A. Yes, dragon fruit can be eaten everyday as it is full of vitamins and minerals. However, do not go overboard as it is high in fiber. Introducing high fiber suddenly into your diet can cause flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea.
Q. Is dragon fruit good for kidney patients?
A. Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants and can help in improving the functioning of internal organs such as kidneys. It can capture harmful toxins and may help in reducing the risk of kidney stones.
Q. Is the dragon fruit peel good for you?
A. The peel of dragon fruit has some nutraceutical properties as it is reported to contain pectin, betanin, and other phytochemicals. However, it is not edible unless commercially processed.
- Dragon fruit, FoodData Central, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.
- SEM studies on the morphology of ‘white pulp’ dragon fruit, Acta horticulturae, US Department of Agriculture, National Agricutural Library.
- Effect of juice concentration on storage stability, betacyanin degradation kinetics, and sensory acceptance of red-fleshed dragon fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus) juice, International Journal of Food Properties, Taylor & Francis Online.
- Oligosaccharides of pitaya (dragon fruit) flesh and their prebiotic properties, Food Chemistry, ScienceDirect.
- Fibre effects on intestinal functions (diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome), Clinical Nutrition Supplements, ScienceDirect.
- Essential fatty acids of pitaya (dragon fruit) seed oil, Food Chemistry, ScienceDirect.
- Dragon Fruit, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
- Lycopene and Its Antioxidant Role in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases-A Critical Review, Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Dietary intake of carotenoids and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in cardiovascular care, Mediators of inflammation, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis.” British Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
- Pigment Identification And Antioxidant Properties Of Red Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus Polyrhizus), African Journal Of Biotechnology, ResearchGate.
- Comparative antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of red and white pitayas and their correlation with flavonoid and polyphenol content, Journal of Food Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Vitamin C and Immune Function, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Health-promoting bioactivities of betalains from red dragon fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus (Weber) Britton and Rose) peels as affected by carbohydrate encapsulation, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of dragon fruit on glycemic control in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis, PloS One, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- White Pitaya (Hylocereus undatus) Juice Attenuates Insulin Resistance and Hepatic Steatosis in Diet-Induced Obese Mice, PloS One, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Red pitaya betacyanins protects from diet-induced obesity, liver steatosis and insulin resistance in association with modulation of gut microbiota in mice, Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Review on iron and its importance for human health, Journal of research in medical sciences, Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Vitamin C: Needs and Functions, Vitamin C Fortification of Food Aid Commodities: Final Report, National Academies Press, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- Metabolite profiling of red and white pitayas (Hylocereus polyrhizus and Hylocereus undatus) for comparing betalain biosynthesis and antioxidant activity, Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Functional foods and their role in cancer prevention and health promotion: a comprehensive review, American Journal of Cancer Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Pitaya Extracts Induce Growth Inhibition and Proapoptotic Effects on Human Cell Lines of Breast Cancer via Downregulation of Estrogen Receptor Gene Expression, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Beta-carotene, lycopene, and alpha-tocopherol contents of selected Thai fruits, Food Chemistry, ScienceDirect.
- Effect of consuming red dragon fruit (hylocereus costaricensis) juice on the levels of hemoglobin and erythrocyte among pregnant women, Belitung Nursing Journal, ResearchGate.
- Antiviral activity of betacyanins from red pitahaya (Hylocereus polyrhizus) and red spinach (Amaranthus dubius) against dengue virus type 2 (GenBank accession no. MH488959), Access Microbiology, ResearchGate.
- In silico drug designing studies on dengue NS5 protein, World Journal Of Pharmacy And Pharmaceutical Sciences, ResearchGate.
- Red Dragon Fruit Extract (Hylocereus polyrhizus) Restores Learning Ability and Memory on Test Animals Post Lead Exposure: Experimental Study on Test Animal, Indonesian Psychological Journal, ResearchGate.
- Magnesium in depression, Pharmacological Reports, ScienceDirect.
- The Potential Effect Of Red Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus Polyrhizus) Peel Ethanol Extract On Endometriosis Progressivity In Endometriosis Mice, Jurnal Kedokteran Hewan, ResearchGate.
- Antioxidant and Anti-Hyaluronidase Activities of Dragon Fruit Peel Extract and Kaempferol-3-O-Rutinoside, ResearchGate.
- Antioxidant and Anti-Collagenase Effectivity of Red Dragon Fruit Peel and Kaempferol 3-0-Rutinoside, American Scientific Research Journal for Engineering, Technology, and Sciences (ASRJETS).
- Vitamin C in dermatology, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- In Vivo and In-Vitro Evaluation of Antimicrobial Activity of Peel Extracts of Red Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus), Research Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Indian Journals.
- Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Allergy to red pitaya, Allergy, European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Wiley Online Library.