What Is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is a food that grows on a climbing cactus called hylocereus, which you’ll find in tropical regions around the world. The plant’s name comes from the Greek word “hyle,” which means “woody,” and the Latin word “cereus,” which means “waxen.”
On the outside, the fruit has the appearance of a hot pink or yellow bulb with spike-like green leaves shooting up like flames around it. Cut it open, and you’ll find fleshy white stuff inside dotted with black seeds that are OK to eat.
This fruit comes in red- and yellow-skinned varieties. The cactus originally grew in southern Mexico and South and Central America. The French brought it to Southeast Asia in the early 19th century.
Central Americans call it “pitaya.” In Asia, it’s a “strawberry pear.” Today, you can buy dragon fruit throughout the U.S.
Dragon fruit is juicy with a slightly sweet taste that some describe as a cross between a kiwi, a pear, and a watermelon. The seeds have a nutty flavor.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition
In one 6-ounce serving of dragon fruit cubes, you’ll get:
Fat: 0 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Sugars: 13 grams
You’ll also get these vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A: 100 international units (IU)
Vitamin C: 4 milligrams
Calcium: 31 milligrams
Iron: 0.1 milligram
Magnesium: 68 milligrams
Dragon Fruit Health Benefits
Dragon fruit has many potential health benefits, including:
It’s rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, phenolic acid, and betacyanin. These natural substances protect your cells from damage by free radicals — molecules that can lead to diseases like cancer and premature aging.
It’s naturally fat-free and high in fiber. It makes for a good snack because it can help keep you full for longer between meals.
It may help lower your blood sugar. Researchers say this might be partly because it replaces damaged cells in your pancreas that make insulin, the hormone that helps your body break down sugar.
But the studies were done on mice, not people. It’s unclear just how much dragon fruit you’d have to eat to get these benefits.
It contains prebiotics, which are foods that feed the healthy bacteria called probiotics in your gut. Having more prebiotics in your system can improve the balance of good to bad bacteria in your intestines. Specifically, dragon fruit encourages the growth of the probiotics lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
In your gut, these and other helpful bacteria can kill disease-causing viruses and bacteria. They also help digest food.
It can strengthen your immune system. Dragon fruit is high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, which are good for your immune system.
It can boost your iron levels. Iron is important for moving oxygen through your body and giving you energy, and dragon fruit has iron. And the vitamin C in dragon fruit helps your body take in and use the iron.