Pitaya or dragon fruit is a species from cactus family and is native of Mexico. Many varieties of Pitaya are known but only sweet Pitaya or dragon fruit is most popular and widely used. The sweet pitaya is available with white, red and yellow colors.
Pitaya is a climbing plant putting aerial roots in addition to basal roots. Pitaya plant is grown from seeds as well as by cutting the healthy pieces and planting them in the soil which can take root in the soil.
You can consume the bland flesh inside the well ripe fruit. The fruit is mildly sweet with low calorie. Lot of seed are spread in the flesh. The tiny black seeds of the fruit are also eaten like nuts. Pitaya seeds are good in taste and rich in lipids.
Dragon fruit has lot of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. 100 gm. fruit provides vitamin-C 20.5mg (34.2% RDA), iron 1.9mg(1.%RDA), Carbohydrates 11gm(3.4%), fiber 3gm (12%), protein 1.1gm (2.1%), thiamine 0.04mg(2.7%),riboflavin 0.05mg(2.9%),niacin 0.16mg(0.08%) calcium 8.5mg(0.9%), phosphorous 22.5mg(2.3%) with water content of 87 gm.
Health benefits of Pitaya or dragon fruit
There are a number of health benefits of pitaya fruit due to the presence of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the fruit. Some of the particular benefits from the fruit are:
The fiber in the fruit stimulate production of digestive juices, strengthens the digestive tract and induce easy bowel movement. As the function of the bowel is improved, complications like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation are avoided. Uninterrupted movement of the bowels also prevent serious disease like cancer.
Pitaya or dragon fruit is unique because of high nutritional value with only very little fat. The fat in the fruit improves HDL cholesterol and simultaneously reduce LDL cholesterol thereby balancing well the cholesterol ratio at the desired level. Since LDL cholesterol is the culprit in thickening the walls of arteries, they are dangerous and Pitaya fruit help in reducing the same. The cholesterol balancing act of the fruit reduces cholesterol in the blood and prevents formation of plaques in the arteries and veins. Due to this, it eliminates the occurrence of heart attack, atherosclerosis and stroke.
Strengthens the immune system
The high level of vitamin C present in Pitaya strengthens the immune system. Vitamin C present in the fruit is three times of vitamin C present in the same quantity of carrots. Vitamin c stimulates the activities of other antioxidants in order to eliminate the free radicals produced as by-product during metabolism.
Retention of free radicals result in damaging the cells and cause cancer and heart attacks. As the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the seeds have laxative properties free radicals are easily eliminated by excretion.
Monounsaturated fat in Pitaya fruit is a boon to heart health. Other than improving the immune system and increasing the HDL cholesterol, pitaya protects the cardiovascular system. Moreover the flavonoids in the fruit prevents cardio problems.
Blood sugar level in diabetic patients is kept under control by the glucose present in the fruit. The glucose level in the blood of type-2 diabetics can also be kept under control by consumption of the fruit.
While the antioxidants in dragon fruit eliminates the free radicals from the body, the minerals and fiber in the fruit clears the body of toxins thereby preventing formation of colon cancer. Particularly, the pytoalbumin present in the fruit not only possesses anti-oxidant properties but are also effective in fighting free radicals. Presence of carotene in the fruit is anti-cancinogenics which can prevent tumors. The peel of the fruit is not generally eaten but the fact remains that certain forms of cancer are prevented by the contents in the peel.
Antioxidants in the fruit keeps the skin tight and firm. Vitamin C combined with phosphorous present in the fruit prevents premature aging.
In folk medicine, dragon fruit is beneficial for healing wounds, improving eye sight and memory. The fruit is also useful for weight loss due to low calorie value.
You can also use dragon fruit for treatment of hair to prevent from damage due to coloring. By applying the flesh of the fruit and allowing it to remain on the hair for about 15 minutes and then shampoo washing the hairs is effective in protecting the hair. A wash with the flesh of the fruit prevents the chemically colored hair from damage.
How to consume
You can consume fully ripe dragon fruit raw after peeling off the skin. However, you cannot eat the skin in spite of the health benefits it provides. You can also consume the tiny black seeds spread all over the flesh of the fruit together.
Pitaya fruit is also useful in preparation of jellies, salads, cakes, pudding, juice and shakes.
It is a matter of relief that consuming this exotic fruit is absolutely risk free. It is suitable for consumption by diabetic patients, pregnant and lactating mothers.