A bite of this nourishing tropical superfood may provide abundance of invaluable nutrients for the human body. Pitaya, also known as pitahaya or dragon fruit is a plant from the cactus species.
The most common form of dragon fruits which are smaller than melon, reddish pink, covered with sharp spicules, are known for their ability to prevent diabetes and aging.
Its native land is Central America and it is grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, Israel. The beautiful colors of pitahaya are seen only at night, so it is called “queen of night” and “moon flower”.
Over 80% of pitahaya’s content is water. It is rich in vitamin C and E, the minerals zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium fluorine etc. It contains unsaturated fatty acids – palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids. Dragon fruit is rich in fibers and anti-oxidants.
Although an exotic food, its consumption is safe even for pregnant and suckling mothers. The fruit is an exceptional treasure of vitamin C. Kevin Meehan, a holistic physician and owner of Teton Valley Health Clinic in Jackson, says in Medical Daily: “The numerous useful properties of dragon fruit are due not because of the richness of vitamin C, but because of the abundant amount of fatty acids and phosphorus in it”.
The anti-oxidants are of vital importance for maintaining a tight skin appearance.
Dr. Meehan reminds the consumers that perhaps one of the most neglected nutrients in this fruit is its stress dose of phosphorus: “Some of the key regulatory reactions in our cells require phosphorus, and phospholipids are basic components of cell membranes. The richness of phosphorus may help in preventing premature aging.”
- Cancer prevention
Except for vitamin C, dragon fruits contain carotene which is known with its anti-carcinogenic properties. Lycopene, which gives the red color of the super fruit, is proven to be linked with lowering of the prostate cancer risk.
A study from 2011, published in Asian Pacific, shows that an intake of less than 2498 mcg/day increases the risk of prostate cancer, while the higher intake of fruits, vegetables and foods rich in lycopene, as well as exercise, may significantly reduce the risk.
Moreover, pitaya’s peel contains polyphenols. “There is a possibility some of these polyphenols to bind with affinity to the estrogen receptors and thus to change the behavior of attachment of this and other hormones to their cell receptors” – which is one of the reasons for potential protective effect of dragon fruit against certain types of cancer.
- Cardiovascular diseases
Dragon fruits can help cardiac health, as they lower the levels of bad cholesterol. A study from 2010, published in the journal Pharmacognosy Research, shows that the consumption of pitaya leads to a reduction of the risk for development of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. This exotic fruit also is a good source of monounsaturated fats which keep our heart in a good shape.
The high amount of fibers in this exotic fruit may help stabilize blood glucose. In the same study, cited above (Pharmacognosy Research), scientists find that dragon fruit possesses a valuable effect on oxidative stress in diabetic rats. This means the regular consumption of the fruit may be useful for prevention of the main problems associated with diabetes.
In Taiwan, for example, diabetics use dragon fruit as an additive to rice in order to enrich it with dietary fibers.
Dragon fruit possesses significant amount of fibers. This means it improves the passage through the digestive tract and successfully fights conditions such as constipation, lazy bowel and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Immune stimulator
The high levels of vitamin C, found in dragon fruit, may boost the immune system of the organism while stimulating the activity of other anti-oxidants as well. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, as well as calcium, phosphorus, iron, protein, niacin and fibers also contribute to improvement of the functioning of the immune system.