Fruit of the dragon | Daily News

Fruit of the dragon

When it comes to the beasts of myth and folklore, the dragon is truly the king of beasts. For centuries man has come under its spell. It has enchanted and fascinated people to such an extent, that some even believe that the beast is real. According to legend the Dragon fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During a battle when the dragon breathed fire the last thing to emerge would be the Dragon fruit. Green Thumbs speaks to Institute of Indigenous Medicine, Department of Dravyaguna Vignana, Senior Lecturer, Dr. S. D. Hapuarachchi, on the fruit that comes after the fire.

Hapuarachchi pointed out that the Dragon fruit is indigenous to Central America, it is now grown all over the world, including Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. In Sri Lanka, Dragon Fruit can be cultivated in the low country wet zone, intermediate zone and the dry zone. Its taste has been described as a slightly sweet cross between a kiwi and a pear. Other common names for dragon fruit include pitaya and strawberry pear. The dragon fruit has many health benefits, it would be strange if it did not, coming from the belly of the dragon!

“The dragon fruit is a rich source of antioxidants and ranks low in calories, making it the perfect ingredient for your morning fruit bowl. Including it regularly in your daily diet is said to lower cholesterol, maintain blood pressure and heart health. The fruit, the pink scaly outer skin encloses a white or red fleshy inner specked with black seeds, which is sweet in flavor and extremely refreshing. The seeds too are rich sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for the body,” said Hapuarachchi.

In Hapuarachchi’s thorough research she has found that although there are very few such reports, some people have had anaphylactic reactions after eating dragon fruit. (Anaphylactic reactions are sudden, widespread, potentially severe and life-threatening allergic reactions)

“How common is this? Probably not very common at all. Nonetheless, you can have allergic reactions to just about anything, so it’s always good to be aware. Another potential side effect, though not anything to be fearful of is called pseudohematuria. It is a condition in which eating too many dragon fruits can turn your urine or stool a pink or red color. Do not worry it is harmless and temporary,” stated Hapuarachchi.

According to its fans, it has a refreshing, remarkably subtle, and refined taste, punctuated by an enticing and mild sweetness. Inside the most popular varieties of this fruit is a white pulp with small black seeds. Some say that it looks like the Oreo milkshake of the plant world.

“Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit that grows on the Hylocereus cactus, otherwise known as the Honolulu Queen. This plant is pretty exotic-looking, as you might expect from a Honolulu Queen. It’s a sprawling cactus that grows along nearby rocks and trees like a vine. The cactus opens its large, white flowers only at night, earning them the nicknames “Lady of the Night” and “moonflowers.” The fruits start to grow on the plant after the cactus flowers,” explained Hapuarachchi.

According to one John Doe or Jane Doe, when you think of a dragon, you might think of a brightly colored, fire-breathing creature with green scales. If you’ve ever seen a dragon fruit, the description kind of fits, minus the fire-breathing part, of course!

“Cacti require very little water to grow and can sustain itself in harsh desert climates. Many produce farmers have switched to growing Dragon Fruit instead of avocado or citrus groves because it requires so much less water. In foreign countries, freezing temperatures will kill it, but many home gardeners enjoy growing dragon fruit in greenhouses or pots that can be brought indoors for the winter. If dragon fruit doesn’t grow near you, then it may need to travel quite a distance to get to your grocery store,” pointed out Hapuarachchi.


Dragon Fruit Benefits

* It contains prebiotics, which are good for your gut health - Prebiotics play the role of fertilizer for the good bacteria in your digestive system. Red flesh dragon fruit contains an abundance of oligosaccharides, which are a type of prebiotic. Research shows that the oligosaccharides in Dragon Fruit can trigger the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, two important probiotics.

* It is good for your digestion - Fiber is essential for digestive health. And dragon fruit is packed with high-quality fiber. Particularly, a form of fiber that can reduce your risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and obesity. One cup of dragon fruit contains seven grams of fiber. This is almost one-quarter of your recommended minimum daily fiber needs.

* It boosts your immune system - Dragon fruit pulp is rich in antioxidants, like vitamin C, which is great for your immune system. Antioxidants help your body stave off cell damage and degenerative diseases.

* It helps prevent and fight cancer - Dragon fruit contains antioxidants called hydroxycinnamates, which can help prevent cancer. It also contains lycopene, a powerful compound also found in tomatoes, which has been shown to be beneficial in protecting against chemical and natural toxins.

* It helps stabilize your blood sugar - Not only is the fiber in dragon fruit great for your digestive health, but it also maintains blood sugar balance. Adding dragon fruit to your diet could help steady your blood sugar after eating other glucose-spiking foods.

* It is heart healthy - Dragon fruit is a good source of flavonoids, which are antioxidant pigments that have a positive impact on heart health. And dragon fruit with red pulp is particularly high in betalains, which provide its color and can reduce LDL cholesterol levels. And the edible and tasty seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-9 fats, which are good for your heart and provide many other benefits.

* It is healthy for your skin - The vitamin C in Dragon Fruit does more than boost your immunity. It also boosts collagen production, which can help keep your skin looking healthy and young.

* It can boost your iron levels - Six ounces of chopped dragon fruit provide 1.26 mg of iron. Iron is important for transporting oxygen throughout your body and to your organs. It’s also necessary for metabolism, growth, and development, among many other intricate processes in the body. If you’re looking to boost your iron stores naturally, you may want to consider adding Dragon Fruit to your diet. Vitamin C helps enhance your iron absorption, so having both nutrients in a Dragon Fruit makes for a sweet package deal.

* It can help support healthy bones - Dragon fruit contains magnesium, an essential mineral for maintaining a strong skeletal system. One cup provides 80 mg of magnesium, which is one-quarter of the minimum daily recommendation. (Provided by Dr. Hapuarachchi)

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