NUTRITION CORNER: Dragon fruit is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals: DOST

The dragon fruit, a crop belonging to the Cactaceae family, is known in Ilocos Sur and other provinces in Northern Philippines as “saniata”, an Ilocano word for “beautiful lady”. It is called pitahaya in Central and South America where it originated and also cultivated in Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, and Southeast China.

The dragon fruit is becoming popular in Ilocos Sur and neigboring provinces because the farmer or investor can easily get back a return of his investment in just the second year of cultivation. The crop can be grown even in marginal upland areas and sand dunes.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) says the dragon fruit is a rich source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytoalbumins.

Two health specialists cited one special health benefit of this crop: it helps control levels of glucose blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes.

It also has lots of dietary fiber with almost 1 gram of fiber per 100 grams of the fresh dragon fruit. The dietary fiber in dried dragon fruit is even much higher at 10 grams per 100 grams of the dried fruit.

Fiber, as we all know, improves digestion and reduces fat.

Dragon fruit is both low in cholesterol and has little or no unhealthy cholesterol producing fats so there is no need to worry about cholesterol levels if we eat this delicious and nutritious fruit. It does have a small amount of fats because there are many seeds in the edible part of the fruit but these are mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fats and none of the dangerously unhealthy trans fats that we can get from eating junk foods and processed foods.

As with all natural sources of vitamins, the amount of  Vitamin C is high in dragon fruit.  One can get close to 59% of the recommended daily Vitamin C intake requirements in 100 grams of the dried dragon fruit and approximately that amount in 1 kg. of the fresh fruit.

It contains high amounts of Vitamin B1 which helps metabolize carbohydrates and produces energy; Vitamin B3 which moisturizes and smoothens skin and decreases cholesterol level; and B-Sitosterol, which reduces hypertension. It has carotene which maintains the health of the eyes and helps improve the memory.

It is also rich in calcium which enhances body metabolism and strengthens bones and teeth development.

The dragon fruit is also a good natural source of anti-oxidants such as phythoalbumin which help to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals that can cause cancer and other health problems such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases.#