Introduced in India only during the early 1990’s, Dragon fruit ‘Pitaya’ is fast becoming one of the staple ‘Indian’ fruit due to its distinct taste, culinary usage and potential health benefit.
Flowering on a cactus plant, dragon fruit gets it name for its scaly outer layer. Being a cactus family, dragonfruit cultivation in India has taken root in the cactus suited agro climatic region of South, West and North East parts of India. Though at present, only around 400 hectares is dedicated to the fruit plantation in India, but the ever increasing demand is predicting it to be one of the biggest fruit in demand, in the times to come.
Dragon fruit is a juicy fruit that has a pink or yellow bulb with spike-like green leaves shooting up. The internal fleshy part is white, dotted with black seeds. It has a mild sweet taste and the seeds have a nutty flavour. The taste depends on the species, size, and shape; it can be either sweet or sour.
Nutritional Facts of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is a high source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It also contains phytonutrients.
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 100 gm of dragon fruit contains 264 calories, 3.57 gm of proteins, 3 gm of fiber, 82.14 gm of carbohydrates, 107 mg of calcium, 39 mg of sodium, and 6.4 mg of vitamin C.
Potential Health Benefits of Dragon fruit ‘Pitaya’
1/5. Boosts Immunity
1. The high content of flavonoids and vitamin C in dragon fruit boosts the immune system.
2. The antioxidants present in dragon fruit helps to fight against the free radicals thus, boosting the immune system.
3. Vitamins B1, B2, and B3 and minerals such as iron, phosphorus, niacin, and calcium present in the dragon fruit help in the smooth functioning of the immune system.
2/5. Lowers Blood Sugar
1. Thecarotenoids, glucosinolates, polyphenols, thiols, and tocopherols content of dragon fruit helps in lowering blood sugar levels.
2. The high fiber content of dragon fruit aids in preventing high blood sugar and avoids spikes among people suffering from diabetes.
3/5. Prevents Cancer
1. Enzyme lycopene, vitamin C, and carotene present in dragon fruit possess anti-carcinogenic properties. They can prevent the multiplication of cancer cells.
2. The antioxidants, hydroxycinnamates present in dragon fruit helps prevent cancer.
4/5. Promotes Heart Health
1. The monounsaturated fats present in dragon fruit promotes heart health.
2. The black seeds of dragon fruit offer omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which reduce triglyceride levels.
3. The red pulp of dragon fruit contains betalains which decrease the bad cholesterol.
4. The flavonoids in dragon fruit possess a positive impact on heart health.
5/5. Other possible Benefits
Dragon fruit produces several health benefits, apart from the health benefits mentioned above, it also produces few more such as aids digestion, slows down aging process, supports bones health and density, improves metabolic rate, aids weight loss, boosts cognition, improves respiration, good for skin care, good for digestion, fights ageing skin, good for hair health, boosts iron levels, suppresses arthritis, prevents acne, and boosts low iron levels.
A very recent addition to the Indian palette, it is fast become an integral part of the Indian Kitchen. Dragon fruit ‘pitaya’ is rich in fiber and antioxidants, they both contribute to keeping the heart healthy and young.
How to incorporate Dragon fruit into the Diet?
Dragon fruit can be easily incorporated into a healthy diet. It is easily consumed in the fresh form. Some of the ways by which dragon fruit can be enjoyed in the diet are as follows:-
- Used in cocktails.
- Consumed as a snack.
- Used to prepare desserts.
- Added to yogurt, salads, and smoothies.
- Can be chilled, grilled, or blended into various dishes.
How to prepare Dragon Fruit Shake?
Take 2 banana and 1 full dragon fruit. Slice them into small pieces and put them into the blender.
Add 1 glass of milk into the blender, 3 glasses of water, and 3 spoons of sugar. Blend it till it turns smooth. (If it appears thick then, add more milk or water).
Pour the mixture in a glass and add 2 crushed cashews and enjoy the dragon fruit shake.