Dragon fruit (botanical name Hylocereus undatus) is also known as red pitaya. This tropical fruit is a member of the Cactaceae family's sub-family Cactoidea, which belongs to the tribe Cactea. Apart from having an attractive appearance, dragon fruit is very tasty and its flavour bears some resemblance to that of melon and kiwi.
The fruit itself is very beautiful, even the flowers of the plant are stunning and come in intense forms and hues. Generally, the dragon fruit has a deep red color, but some varieties of this fruit are also found to have yellow or pink colors. The dragon fruit's skin comprises a very thin rind. Usually, the skin of this fruit is covered with scales and, in the center, the fruit has a white or red, flavourful pulp.
The origin of the dragon fruit still remains unknown, as botanists are yet to ascertain its native habitat. Nevertheless, it is believed that this fruit has its home in South America. It is also believed that the French took the dragon fruit with them to Vietnam several hundred years back. Initially, dragon fruits were grown in Vietnam only for consumption by members of the royal families and wealthy people. Currently, this tropical fruit is found in abundance in several states in the United States, including Texas. In addition, this plant is also grown in Mexico and various countries in South America, including Peru and Argentina.
These days, dragon fruit is extensively cultivated in all the tropical regions across the globe. The height of dragon fruit plant usually varies from just a few centimetres or inches to 20 feet (about six meters). This plant grows best in regions having hot climatic conditions and receiving plenty of rainfall. Sporadic cold spells actually kill this plant. It has a preference for high temperatures, which is common in countries in the tropical regions of the world.
The blooms of the dragon fruit plant have a unique feature - they only bloom during the night and are open only for one night. Hence, pollination also occurs during the night, resulting in the emergence of the fruit. These flowers have a wonderfully pleasing fragrance and their aroma can fill the air at night, indicating the presence of the plant.
Like most fruits, ripened dragon fruits are eaten directly from hand. The method involves cutting the fruit into half and scooping out the flesh using a spoon. The flavour of this fruit is not only sweet, but also very refreshing. Apart from directly consuming the ripened fruits, you can also extract their juice and add it to alcoholic beverages to prepare a highly appetizing drink.
Dragon fruit offers a number of health benefits. Consumption of this tropical fruit helps to perk up the immune system. This fruit is loaded with vitamin C and dietary fibers, which help to promote our overall health.
Consumption of this fruit also promotes digestion. Since this fruit contains high levels of dietary fibers, dragon fruit promotes digestion of ingested foods. Findings of several studies have suggested that eating dragon fruit encourages growth and development of probiotics.
It has been found that eating dragon fruit also helps to bring down the levels of blood sugar in people enduring from type 2 diabetes. Findings of several studies undertaken to ascertain the health benefits of the dragon fruit also hint that the glucose present in dragon fruit helps to regulate the levels of blood sugar in diabetics.
Another attribute of dragon fruit is its ability to prevent formation of free radicals that are responsible for development of various forms of cancer. As this fruit encloses high levels of minerals and dietary fibers, it is effective in promoting digestion, and getting rid of toxic substances, thereby putting off the chances of developing colon cancer.
Dragon fruit also possesses antioxidant properties. As it contains elevated levels of vitamin C, phytoalbumin and various essential minerals, it is considered to be very effective in combating free radicals, thereby helping us to avoid falling sick.
This tropical fruit also aids in regulating the levels of cholesterol in the blood stream. Dragon fruit encloses high amounts of flavonoids. It has been established that flavonoids are useful in preventing diseases related to the cardiovascular system.
As discussed earlier, the dietary fiber content of dragon fruit is very high. Interestingly enough, dried dragon fruit contains more dietary fiber compared to the fresh ones. Consuming 100 grams of freshly obtained dragon fruits provide you with as much as 1 gram dietary fiber, whereas 100 grams of dried dragon fruit supplies you with 10 grams of dietary fiber. It has been found that the rind of this tropical fruit is also packed with dietary fiber. If the fruit is in excellent condition and does not have any black spots, molds and has a fresh smell, you should try consuming the skin too. Dragon fruit is very beneficial for people suffering from irregular bowl syndrome (IBS) or chronic constipation. In addition, consumption of dragon fruit is also beneficial for the health of the liver, as this fruit works to put off urinary tract infection or UTI.
Dragon fruit possesses the ability to neutralize toxins present in our body. Eating dragon fruit helps to reduce the effects of toxic substances like heavy metals significantly. Although a number of heavy metals like copper and zinc are beneficial for our health, they are only required in trace amounts. In case these heavy metals build up inside the body and they reach a precarious level, they can lead to various severe ailments. On the other hand, heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic do not have any health benefits. On the contrary, their presence in our body leads to various serious illnesses.
Dragon fruit also encloses significant amounts of carotene, which is useful for sustaining as well as improving our eyesight. In fact, people who loathe eating carrots may try eating dragon fruit for the health of their eyes.
As dragon fruit contains elevated levels of vitamin C, it is useful for preventing as well as treating cough and asthma. In fact, these are very widespread respiratory problems, especially in children and aged people. Therefore, it is advisable that they try eating this tropical fruit to avoid as well as cure these conditions.
People with high cholesterol levels in their blood stream are generally vulnerable to several health conditions, including diabetes and heart diseases. Therefore, consuming food containing elevated levels of cholesterol not only increases the blood cholesterol level, but also makes one more susceptible to various ailments. It has been found that some people are more liable to have higher blood cholesterol levels owing to their genetic tendencies. Dragon fruit is low in cholesterol content and, hence, eating this tropical fruit helps to bring down the cholesterol levels in the blood stream. Therefore, it is recommended that people with elevated levels of cholesterol should consume dragon fruit with a view to bring down their cholesterol levels in the blood.
Eating dragon fruits on a regular basis not only helps to eliminate low density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol), which is responsible for heart diseases, including strokes and heart attacks, but also boosts the health of our heart. The seeds of dragon fruit enclose non-saturated fats that are also beneficial for the heart's health. When you eat dragon fruit, you actually augment the amounts of good fat in the body, thereby facilitating the body to combat bad cholesterol.
Dragon fruit also possesses potent antioxidant properties and, hence, consumption of this fruit helps to neutralize wrinkles making you look youthful once again. Antioxidants are effective in neutralizing the detrimental free radicals formed in our body, thereby helping in holding back the normal aging process. Consumption of dragon fruits helps to give you a natural youthful look without having to use cosmetics to make you appear younger.
The high levels of dietary fiber present in dragon fruits not only perk up digestion and improve bowel movement, but also help to eliminate all toxic substances from the body. When one's bowel is clear, it means that all waste substances and toxins are regularly excreted. People enduring constipation will find dragon fruit extremely beneficial, as eating this fruit promotes digestion and bowel movements, thereby alleviating constipation. Dietary fiber is also useful for clearing the digestive tract, thereby ensuring that the system is free from toxins. It also results in an overall improvement in your health.
This tropical fruit is also rich in a number of vitamins, especially vitamin C, which aids in combating acne. Thus, eating dragon fruit helps to keep your skin clear, smooth as well as flawless. It also imparts a good complexion to your skin. Apart from preventing acne, consumption of dragon fruit also aids in avoiding as well as removing sunburns. Dragon fruit also contains a number of B-complex vitamins like vitamin B3, which help to ease and moisten the dehydrated sunburned skin. Apart from eating the fruit, you can also prepare a paste from the pulp of this tropical fruit and apply it directly to the acne affected skin areas or the areas that have been sunburned. Allow the paste to remain for roughly 20 minutes and subsequently rinse off the area with tepid water.
Dragon fruit is also beneficial for people who are tying to lose weight. Since this fruit is rich in dietary fiber content, consuming it gives you a feeling of fullness. Thus, it decreases your craving for food and you only take small meals. Moreover, dragon fruit has very low cholesterol, it is ideal for incorporation into weight loss diets. Apart from helping to lose weight, dietary fiber also facilitates the metabolic process and accelerates the digestive process, thereby eliminating all undesirable nutrients from our body even before they can be converted into fat and stored up inside the body.
Dragon fruit also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which aid in alleviating inflammation that may be attributed to arthritis and similar conditions. People enduring arthritis may, therefore, consume dragon fruit with a view to eliminate joint aches and inflammations as well as the symptoms related to these conditions.
When you are looking to purchase dragon fruits in stores, you will find them in the exotic produce section. Usually, dragon fruit is available in spring and autumn. Similar to some other tropical fruits grown in the United States you may find it difficult to obtain dragon fruits during summer and winter.
Before you buy dragon fruits, you should closely examine the exterior of these fruits. Never buy a dragon fruit that is either bruised or discoloured. This is also true for dragon fruits with noticeable mold. In addition, the pink color of this exotic fruit's skin should be even. Smell the dragon fruit to ensure that it has a gentle, tropical aroma. In case a fruit has a moldy scent, don't buy it, as the fruit may have molds that are invisible.
Hold a dragon fruit in your hand and press its sides with your thumb. A good quality dragon fruit ought to yield somewhat when you press it in this manner, but it should not be mushy. Also keep away from dragon fruits that are solid as rocks, because chances are high that they will be unripe. However, if you have no option, but to buy such solid dragon fruits, ensure that you keep them at home and give them enough time to ripen.
If you have bought a dragon fruit that is unripe, allow it to remain at room temperature till the skin of the fruit becomes completely yellow and it yields when pressed slightly. When this happens, you can be certain that the fruit has ripened and is ready for consumption. However, if the dragon fruit is already completely ripened at the shop, avoid storing it at room temperature. Instead, you should eat it right away or undertake a long-term storage process to keep it viable.
If you store a completely ripened dragon fruit in your refrigerator, it will remain good for up to five days.
Before you cut a dragon fruit into halves or slice it into small pieces, it is important to wash the surface of the fruit meticulously. Next, peel off the fruit's rind and cut it into pieces for use in fruit salads, smoothies and other such foods. On the other hand, you may also cut the fruit into halves and scoop out the flesh using a spoon.
Storing a fresh dragon fruit in a refrigerator will help it to remain viable for some days. Apparently, storing the fruit in a refrigerator is the best way to keep it fresh for some time before the flavour and quality of the fruit begins to decrease. However, the flavour of dragon fruit is said to be best just after a ripened fruit has been plucked from the tree. Therefore, it is advisable that you opt for fresh completely ripened dragon fruits and eat them at the earliest.
It may be reiterated that preferably you should always buy ripened and fresh dragon fruit and eat it as soon as possible. Many would prefer to buy fresh, completely ripened dragon fruits, straight from the vine, but it is important to remember that they are somewhat perishable. On the other hand, when you purchase a raw fruit, it will certainly last longer. Nevertheless, raw dragon fruits will never be as flavourful as vine-ripened fruits.