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Dragon Fruit: Types, Nutritional Health Benefits And How To Eat It

Known for its unique appearance, sweet taste, crunchy texture and nutritional value, dragon fruit is a tropical fruit that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, pitahaya, strawberry pear or cactus fruit, has a bright pink skin with green scales on the outside and has white pulp with tiny black seeds inside. Its pink skin with green scales resembles a dragon, hence the name dragon fruit.

Dragon fruit grows on the Hylocereus cactus, also referred to as the night-blooming cactus whose flowers only open at night. The cactus is native to Southern Mexico and Central America and today it's grown worldwide [1]. Dragon fruit is an exotic fruit that has a sweet, fresh taste and several health benefits.

Types Of Dragon Fruits [2]

  • Pitaya blanca (Hylocereus undatus) - It is the most common variety of dragon fruit. It has a vibrant pink skin, white pulp and tiny black seeds inside.
  • Pitaya amarilla (Hylocereus megalanthus) - This is another variety of dragon fruit, which is known as yellow dragon fruit that has yellow skin with white pulp and black seeds.
  • Pitaya roja (Hylocereus costaricensis) - This type of dragon fruit has a reddish-pink skin with red or pink flesh and black seeds.

Nutritional Information Of Dragon Fruits

According to a research study in the World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, dragon fruits are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin E and contains a good amount of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. The fruit also has calcium, copper and iron in smaller amounts [3].

Dragon fruits are also high in beneficial plant compounds like polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, betaxanthins and betacyanins [4].

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Health Benefits Of Dragon Fruit


1. Boosts immunity

The presence of vitamin C and flavonoids in dragon fruit may strengthen your immune system and prevent the body from harmful infections. As vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, it can help protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals [5].


2. Aids digestion

Dragon fruit contains a good amount of fibre which helps in regulating the digestive system and keeps gastrointestinal problems like constipation and acid reflux at bay. According to a study in the Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, dragon fruits are rich in prebiotics that helps enhance digestion and promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria. The fruits contain oligosaccharides which works as prebiotics that helps improve digestion and gut health [6].

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3. Lowers diabetes risk

Studies have shown the anti-diabetic effects of red dragon fruit that can be attributed to its antioxidant and dietary fibre content [7]. A study published in PLOS ONE reported that dragon fruit can help improve blood sugar levels in people with pre-diabetes, however, the effects of dragon fruit on type 2 diabetes in people are inconsistent and more studies are needed in this area [8].

Another study found that dragon fruit was effective in controlling oxidative damage and reducing aortic stiffness in diabetic rats [9].


4. Reduce inflammation

As dragon fruits are rich in antioxidants, it neutralises free radicals, thus prevents cell damage caused by oxidative stress and reduces inflammation. A study showed that the antioxidant activity in dragon fruit can also prevent inflammatory diseases such as gout and arthritis [10].

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5. Improves heart health

The presence of betaxanthins and flavonoids in dragon fruit can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2004 study found that dragon fruit contains betaxanthins that prevents LDL (bad) cholesterol from becoming oxidised or damaged. When LDL cholesterol becomes oxidised or damaged it can lead to heart disease [11].

Dragon fruits have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol [12].


6. Helps in weight management

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology pointed out, mice that were fed a high-fat diet received dragon fruit extract which resulted in less weight gain and reduction in liver fat, inflammation and insulin resistance, thanks to the presence of betacyaninsin it [13].

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7. May manage cancer

Dragon fruit possesses a lot of antioxidants that can help neutralise free radicals and may prevent cancer. Studies have shown that carotenoids and betaxanthins present in dragon fruit may lower the risk of cancer [14].

A study showed that the antioxidants in the flesh and peel of white and red dragon fruits exhibited antiproliferative effect on several cancer cell lines [15].


8. Enhances skin health

As dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants, eating it can help keep your skin tight and firm, which can help preserve a youthful appearance and prevent premature ageing.


9. May support eye health

Dragon fruit is a rich source of vitamin A, an essential vitamin that plays an important role in keeping your eyes healthy. Vitamin A lowers the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration [16].


10. May treat dengue

Anecdotal evidence suggests that eating dragon fruit can help treat dengue, which could be due to the antiviral activity of the compounds found in dragon fruit. An in vitro study found that betacyanins in red dragon fruit exhibit antiviral activity against dengue virus type 2 [17].


11. May improve brain function

Consuming dragon fruit can help improve your brain function as per studies. An animal study showed that red dragon fruit extract helps improve learning ability and memory after exposure to lead [18].


12. Prevents anaemia during pregnancy

As dragon fruit is a good source of iron, consuming it can prevent iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy. A 2017 study reported that consumption of red dragon fruit juice increases haemoglobin and erythrocyte level, which can help treat anaemia among pregnant women [19].


13. Prevents endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the endometrial tissue that usually forms the lining of your uterus grows outside of the uterus. A 2018 study showed that red dragon fruit peel extract can stop the progression of endometriosis [20].


Side Effects Of Dragon Fruits

Consumption of dragon fruit is generally considered safe. However, in rare cases, some people may have an allergic reaction after consuming the fruit. Studies have shown that people with no history of food allergies developed anaphylactic reactionsafter having a mixed fruit juice containing dragon fruit [21] [22].

If you experience swelling, itching and hives after eating dragon fruit, stop eating it immediately.


How To Eat Dragon Fruits?

  • Choose a ripe dragon fruit that is bright red or pink without any bruises on the outer skin.
  • Take a sharp knife and slice it in half lengthwise.
  • Scoop out the pulp with a spoon and eat or you can peel off the outer skin and cut the pulp into cubes and enjoy it.
  • You can chop up some dragon fruit and add it to your salad, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, baked goods and chicken or fish dishes.

Dragon Fruit Recipes

Dragon fruit smoothie [23]


  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup dragon fruit
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ piece of fresh ginger
  • A handful of fresh baby spinach
  • Method:

    In a blender, add all the ingredients and blend until smooth.