Dragon Fruit: Science-Based Benefits, Nutrition, And How To Eat

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Personal Trainer Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
by Annie Jangam

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.

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).

Dragon fruit contains magnesium (2). Magnesium can help treat depression and boost brain function (28).

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

  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. 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

Process

  1. Scoop out the pulp of the dragon fruit and mash it into a smooth paste.
  2. Add the yogurt to the paste.
  3. Apply the pack to your face and neck and keep it on for 20 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the pack with lukewarm water and pat your face dry with a soft towel.
  5. 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

Process

  1. Scoop out the pulp of the dragon fruit and mash it into a smooth paste using a fork.
  2. 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.
  3. Rinse off the paste with lukewarm water after 20 minutes. Let your face air dry.
  4. Repeat this process twice a week.

3. Dragon Fruit Face Pack For Sunburned Skin

You Will Need

  • ¼ dragon fruit
  • 1 vitamin E capsule

Process

  1. Scoop out the pulp of the dragon fruit and mash it with a fork to make a paste.
  2. Puncture the vitamin E capsule and squeeze its oil into the dragon fruit paste. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Apply the pack to the sunburned area. Keep it on for 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off with cold water and let your face air dry.
  5. 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).

Conclusion

  • 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.

35 sources

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Annie Jangam

Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."
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