On the outside scaly and exotic, on the inside soft and sweet. These are characteristics of the pitaya, known worldwide as dragon fruit. Still little appreciated by Brazilians, this food has a composition rich in water and nutrients important for human health.
According to the nutritionist at Oba Hortifruti, Renata Guirau, this fruit strengthens the immune system, due to vitamins and zinc. Furthermore, this mineral also acts as an antioxidant.
But after all, how can you take advantage of these and other benefits of pitaya? Simple: just consume the fruit daily, either fresh or making homemade and healthy recipes with it, such as ice cream and popsicles.
Check out what types of this fruit are, how to use it in the kitchen and if it loses weight. Also take the opportunity to learn other information about consumption, such as possible contraindications.
What are the benefits of pitaya fruit?
Prevents cardiovascular disease
The pitaya is considered a source of antioxidants such as flavonoids. These substances are the body’s allies in the fight against free radicals, unstable molecules that, in excess, can cause damage to the body, causing degenerative diseases to arise.
Among the problems caused by them are cardiovascular diseases, such as ischemic injury, arteriosclerosis, hypertension , cardiomyopathies, congenital heart disease and stroke. ( 1 )
protects the skin
In addition to preventing chronic diseases, antioxidants can also “prevent damage that causes premature aging of the skin”, warns Renata Guirau. That’s because dragon fruit is rich in vitamin C , an important nutrient in collagen synthesis , protecting and strengthening the skin. ( 2 )
Improves bowel function
“We also found a large amount of fiber and water, which helps with satiety and good bowel function”, says the specialist in Clinical and Sports Nutrition.
These nutritional compounds reduce the risk of diseases that manifest in the large intestine and prevent constipation, popularly called constipation. According to the recommendation of the World Health Organization, fiber intake should be 25 grams per day. And in just 100 grams of the fresh fruit, there are approximately 11 grams of the recommended amount. ( 3 , 4 )
Helps in the treatment of diabetes
Fiber also contributes to diabetes control as it transforms complex carbohydrates more slowly. As a result, sugar absorption slows down and blood glucose levels decrease. ( 3 )
However, pitaya still manages to reduce other rates in type 2 diabetics. In a study carried out in China, researchers stated that consumption of this fruit lowers the levels of total cholesterol, triglyceride and bad cholesterol (LDL), while increasing the levels of levels of good cholesterol (HDL). ( 5 )
Improves the health of pregnant women and babies
Among the medicinal properties of dragon fruit is vitamin A. ( 6 ) Essential nutrient for the health of the pregnant woman and, especially, the baby.
This relationship occurs because the vitamin is essential in embryonic growth and development. In the form of retinoic acid, the substance is present in the development of the spine, the vertebral skeleton, and the cardiac, visual and auditory apparatus. ( 7 )
Pitaya loses weight?
“Pitayas are great fruits for weight loss processes because they have a low caloric value and a large amount of fiber and antioxidants, which give satiety
and help to regulate the metabolism”, explains nutritionist Renata Guirau.
Fiber-rich foods require more chewing than normal, so after meals it’s common to feel full, even though you eat less. In addition to this fruit, such nutritional compounds can be found in large amounts in flaxseed, sesame, pod peas, whole grain bread , etc.
But of course, no food, no matter how natural and healthy, is able to promote weight loss alone. Therefore, if the intention is to lose weight, it is important to combine physical activities with a balanced diet.
How do you eat this exotic fruit?
According to the nutritionist, the consumption of this fruit per day will vary between individuals. “We can think of a portion of pitaya as ½ fruit. It can be consumed daily, in greater or lesser amounts, depending on the person’s overall diet”, he explains.
pitaya ice cream
Renata also recommends an ice cream recipe with frozen fruit pulp and banana, as well as a little cream. Just blend everything in a blender and serve.
To make the juice, the nutritionist recommends mixing the pulp with as little water as possible in a blender.
“The same goes for making homemade popsicles (just beat the pulp and put it in popsicle molds). It is also possible to combine pitaya with other fruits, such as kiwi, strawberry , red fruits, banana , etc.”, says the specialist.
Types of pitaya
According to nutritionist Renata Guirau, there are three types:
- White pitaya : with pink skin and white pulp
- Pink pitaya : with pink skin and pulp
- Yellow pitaya : with a pink skin and white pulp (harder to find in Brazil).
“The nutritional differences come down to the type of antioxidant present in the pulp, with the white pulp containing a large amount of flavonoids and the pink pulp, a large amount of anthocyanins. Both are important functional compounds, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action , acting in the prevention of diseases throughout life”, he explains.
More information about dragon fruit
The scientific name of this fruit is Hylocereus undatus and it only started to be cultivated in Brazil on a commercial scale in the 1990s. Its pulp is full of seeds and the taste is very compared to kiwi fruit, slightly sweet and juicy. ( 8 )
But even though it is so beneficial and tasty, it comes at a high price. While the national one is purchased at the price of up to R$ 60 per kilo, the imported one can reach R$ 100 in the same amount.
Although exotic, it has no worrying contraindications. “Only in case of allergy, which is very rare in the case of most fruits”, comments Renata. Also, dragon fruit skin should not be consumed as it can be very difficult to digest.