How often do you eat fruit or better still how often should we eat fruit? I suppose we should make it a priority to include at least 5 portions of fruit in our diets on a daily basis as part of 5-A-DAY programme recommended by World Health Organization. Just try making it a habit to eat as much fruits as possible on a daily basis and I bet you will be glad to have adopted such a healthy habit.
Clearly, fruits have remained an utmost source of food and nutrients for human beings and we cannot deny the fact that we are blessed and surrounded by countless fruits that are of great value to us. Fruits are so priceless and interestingly, they are always around us, easily accessible, cheap and acceptable by everybody. I doubt if anyone dislikes fruit but peradventure you do, please thumbs-up!
Fruits contain several chemical compounds that are essential for the metabolic functioning of our bodies in various proportions. This suggests why they are used for both consumption, nutritional, medicinal and therapeutic purposes.
One of such important fruits to include in our diets is pitaya which is popularly known as the dragon fruit.
The word "dragon" shouldn't scare you away! Don't just think that I might be referring to one monster like that.
Far be it from me or better still our ancestors that gave such scary name to this amazing fruit. I believe that “Dragon” in the context of this fruit symbolizes power and strength. This suggests the magnificent benefits of pitaya and why we shouldn’t overlook this fruit.
Also known as pitahaya, pitaya or pitaberry, the dragon fruit is among the lists of fruits that have gained global recognition as a result of its invaluable nutritional contents. Pitaya is a fruit from cactus species that belongs to the family of Cactacea, subfamily of Cactoidea and the genus Stenocereus or Hylocereus.
It is originally from Mexico, South America and Central America before spreading to other parts of the world such as Cyprus, Israel, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hawaii, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam etc.
Pitaya is a colourful fruit with leathery-leafy skin, shining flowers and cactus flower shape. The fruit can come in red, white, pink or yellow colour with the thin rind covered in scales.
When cut open, the inner part of the fruit consists of white, pink or red sweet fleshy, juicy pulp that is packed with numerous tiny black seeds.
Three main types of pitaya are;
Red-fleshed pitaya or pitaya roja (Hylocereus polyrhizus) ~ This specie is characterised by dazzling red skin with red-coloured flesh that suggests the presence of higher amount of betalains and phenolic compounds in the fruit.
Betalains are water soluble pigments that comprise of yellow betaxanthins and red violet betacyanins which give colours to fruit and flowers.
White-fleshed pitaya or pitaya blanca (Hylocereus undatus) ~ This specie is characterized by red skin with white flesh and this is the most popular pitaya fruit.
Yellow pitaya or pitaya amarilla (Hylocereus megalanthus or Selenicereus megalanthus) ~ This type of pitaya is characterised by yellow skin and whitish flesh.
Nutritional Contents of Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)
Pitaya (dragon fruit) is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, iron, sodium, phosphorus, polyphenol, protein, niacin, thiamine, kobalamin, carbohydrate, carotene, phenolic, flavonoid, glucose, phytoalbumin, pyridoxine and betacyanins.
The increasing popularity of the pitaya fruit is due to its numerous nutritional contents and outstanding health benefits.
Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Pitaya has quite a high amount of antioxidants in comparison with other subtropical fruits due to the presence betalains in this fruit. Antioxidants are important for eradicating free radicals in the body.
These free radicals are the leading cause of detrimental health challenges such as cancer. The anti-oxidizing properties of both the skin and flesh of pitaya is due to its metal chelating activity, strong hydrogen donating ability and scavenging abilities on free radicals.
Pitaya seed oil is also a rich source of antioxidants as a result of its constituent of sterols, phenolics and tocopherols. Moreover, the phenolic compounds contribute to the anti-oxidizing abilities of this fruit.
Boosts the Immune System
Pitaya helps to detox the body in other to maintain a stronger and healthier immune system. It contains essential elements that can help to boost the immune system and fight off sickness. Pitaya is packed with numerous phytonutrients that are capable of warding off diseases, infections and sickness thereby keeping the body in a more healthier state.
Pitaya seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for preventing inflammation and the onset of autoimmune diseases.
Due to the anti-oxidizing properties of the pitaya fruit, it can be taken to keep the skin glowing and looking younger. To prevent your skin from aging, eat more pitaya fruits.
You can equally apply a pitaya paste on your skin by blending the fruit to form a smooth paste then mixing with spirulina and honey and applying topically on the skin.
Treatment of Indigestion
Due to the high fiber content of pitaya, this fruit can be eaten to prevent and treat indigestion. It is worthy to note that the skin of the pitaya fruit contains a higher proportion of the dietary fiber and as a result, eat both the skin and the flesh to tackle your indigestion problem. Moreover, high fibre intake helps to eradicate waste products from the digestive system thereby keeping the body cleaner and healthier.
To shed excess weight, eat more pitaya because it contains very low calories. Besides, it easily quenches hunger and reduces your food cravings thereby resulting in weight loss and ultimately healthy weight.
Pitaya is a sweet fruit that is remarked by its distinctive taste and aroma. It has a similar taste with the kiwifruit and can be eaten alone or used for making beverages, jams, drinks, flavorings, smoothies and for garnishing salads. Pitaya skin can be used as a natural colorant. The peels can be blended and used as a food thickener.
Regulation of the Cholesterol Level
Studies reveal that including the pitaya fruit in our diets is essential for regulating the cholesterol level and tackling dyslipidemia. Dyslipidemia is an anomalous amount of lipids such as fat and cholesterol in the blood. Dragon fruit can help to keep your cholesterol level under control.
Maintains Healthy Hair
The nutritive content of pitaya is very effective in keeping the hair follicles open, shiny and healthy. You can achieve this by crushing some dragon fruits and then rubbing the mixture into the scalp and hair. You can then wash off the rub after thirty minutes.
Treatment of Respiratory Disorders
Pitaya fruit is an awesome fruit for tackling respiratory problems such as cough, asthma, flu, cold and bronchitis. Due to its high constituent of vitamin C, this fruit can be effective for fighting infections and boosting the immune system.
Regulates the Sugar Level
The high fiber content of this fruit makes it essential for regulating the blood sugar level thereby preventing the body from unexpected sugar spikes. This fruit is highly recommended for people suffering from diabetes.
Researchers reveal that the pitaya peels contain antibacterial properties and as such can be used for fighting against bacteria.
Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Daily consumption of the pitaya fruit is very important for reducing the onset of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and high blood pressure. Pitaya helps to reduce high levels of oxidative stress, which is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases.
Due to the colourful and attractive nature of the pitaya plant, it can be grown for ornamental purposes to decorate the house, gardens and the environs.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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