Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach once said “we are what we eat.”
And, with that principle in mind, it seems increasingly obvious that the average American diet isn’t a good one.
As a result, in part, of the typical American diet, it is estimated that more than 133 million Americans (that’s a whopping 40% of our population) is affected by chronic disease.
What’s worse? This number is expected to continue rising, even to 157 million with 81 million having multiple conditions.
In response, the pharmaceutical companies seem to be on top of things, right? Or, are these remedies simply applying colorful band-aids to problems while potentially creating other problems at the same time? Perhaps a bit of both?
Your view on this truly depends on your philosophy of medicine, I suppose. And, speaking of philosophy, let’s sneak in one more quote before moving on: Hippocrates is credited with saying, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
And, that’s what leads us to our topic – dragon fruit.
Spoiler alert, it’s not hype!
So, let’s explore this mystical and delicious member of the cactus family and find out why this food can truly be “thy medicine.”
Dragon Fruit: Nutraceutical Or Strange Fruit
If you’ve ever seen dragon fruit, you probably read that heading and answered, “strange fruit!”
No doubt, the appearance of this fruit is peculiar. Personally, its appearance intrigues me, as if it calls to my grocery cart, shouting “try me!”
If you’re of a similar mindset upon seeing this fruit, perhaps that’s nature’s way of signaling to us that we’d certainly benefit from giving it a try.
The dragon fruit is a tropical fruit, actually a type of cactus, that goes by a few aliases such as the strawberry pear or the pitahaya.
The type of dragon fruit we most often find in our markets has a bright pink hue with seemingly curled spikes. The inside of this variety of dragon fruit is typically white with tiny black seeds, a bit reminiscent of kiwi seeds in texture.
Other varieties of the fruit feature a deep reddish-purple center, complete with those signature black seeds.
The white pulp varieties tend to be slightly less sweet than the red-purple hued pulp, both incredibly juicy and delicious!
Many folks add dragon fruit to smoothies, make it into sorbet, infuse it into their water or tea, and of course you can enjoy it as-is!
But, what about those healthy aspects of this fruit?
We’ll get to a list of the benefits in a moment, but first let’s answer the question – can dragon fruit really be called a nutraceutical?
A nutraceutical is nature’s version of what man attempts to create.
- Pharmaceuticals are compounds manufactured for use as medical drugs.
- Nutraceuticals are foods that naturally contain benefits to our health, even medicinal benefits.
So then, what about dragon fruit? Does this food truly possess properties that can benefit the health of a consumer as much as (or more than) pharmaceutical drugs?
Take a look at the list below, and decide for yourself…
Bountiful Science-Based Benefits Of The Dragon Fruit
1- Antioxidant Powerhouse
Dragon fruit is loaded with antioxidants.
The variety with the highest amount of these natural disease-fighters is the type with the deep reddish purple flesh or pulp.
But overall, each variety of dragon fruit contains:
Betacyanins & betaxanthins – known for their ability to combat free radical damage, a known cause of cell damage and contributor to most disease, specifically cancer
Vitamin C – this vitamin is associated with a decreased risk of cancer, with high levels (when consumed) being associated with a lowered risk of neck and head cancer
Hydroxycinnamates – another powerful antioxidant with proven anticancer properties
Carotenoids – these contribute to the pigment of the dragon fruit, but diets rich in these antioxidants are known to reduce both cancer and heart disease
A study found in the Nutrition and Cancer Journal stated that dragon fruit (due to its antioxidant properties) was found to slow the growth and reproduction of breast cancer cells.
Using dragon fruit, scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute were able to kill off cancer cells in vitro.
And, according to the World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services “the antioxidant activity of dragon fruit can be helpful in preventing inflammatory conditions in the body.”
2- Heart Healthy
Dragon fruit also contains a phytochemical called captin, a compound often used in heart medication.
And, the seeds of this fruit, which are edible, are loaded with omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids, both of which are known to benefit the health of your heart.
3- Loaded With Vitamins & Minerals
The nutrient content of dragon fruit is powerfully impressive.
- It contains roughly 18% of the daily recommendation for magnesium in just one cup of the fruit. Magnesium is needed by your body to break down food for energy, is needed in more than 600 chemical reactions within your body, and even aids in the creation of DNA.
- Dragon fruit contains iron, which is needed so that your body can transport oxygen, and it breaks down food so you can use it for energy.
- The vitamin C content of dragon fruit helps your body absorb iron, fights infection, and aids in your body’s battle against disease.
- This fruit contains carotene, a precursor for vitamin A, which helps to keep your eyes healthy.
- Dragon fruit contains phosphorus, which protects the health of your bones and teeth, aids in cell repair and regrowth, and helps your body metabolize fats and carbs.
4- Dragon Fruit For Diabetes
The fiber content of dragon fruit is said to play a crucial role in helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
And, some studies showed the use of this fruit to be helpful in regrowing pancreatic cells which produce insulin.
In animal studies, the antioxidant content of dragon fruit contributed to diabetes prevention, though more studies are needed to confirm this in humans.
5- Improves Gut Health
A healthy gut means a healthy body, as your gut health is linked to mood, mental health, inflammation, immune system health, cancer, skin conditions, and much more.
Dragon fruit contains prebiotics called oligosaccharides, which encourage the growth of healthy bacteria within your gut.
Most physicians believe pre and probiotics (aiding in the growth of good bacteria within the gut) support all aspects of human health and wellness.
6- Boosts Digestive Health
Dragon fruit contains 7 grams of fiber per cup. Fiber helps to soften and increase the size of your stool, making it easier to pass, reducing the risk of constipation.
Fiber also keeps you from having loose stool, which can prevent your body from absorbing needed nutrients.
And, the prebiotic content of dragon fruit may reduce the risk of infection within the digestive tract.
7- Strengthens Immune System
As the prebiotics in dragon fruit work to balance your gut bacteria, your immune system is strengthened.
And, the vitamin C content of this fruit protects infection-fighting white blood cells within your immune system, while the B vitamins present in dragon fruit support your immune health as well.
8- Fountain Of Youth
Dragon fruit even has age-defying properties!
We mentioned that antioxidants are crucial in fighting disease as they combat damage done to your cells by free radicals, but such damage also contributes to aging.
Antioxidants can keep your skin firm, giving you a youthful glow. And, the phosphorus content of dragon fruit also aids in cell repair, keeping your skin looking youthful and healthy.
*While we’re not suggesting that you rush to your medicine cabinet and ditch all pharmaceutical meds (seriously, you should consult a physician prior to starting or stopping any medications), we are pointing out that this mystical fruit is rightly called a superfood!