Dragon Fruit For Mood Enhancement

  • Janam VadgamaBSc Neuroscience/Neuropsychology, King's College London, UK
  • Olga GabrielMaster's degree, Forensic Science, Uppsala University, Sweden

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Introduction 

Did you know that by eating dragon fruit, you can increase your energy levels and feel healthier? A myriad of nutrients found in this delicious and unique-looking fruit work in many ways to help your body and mind. So, if you want to find out how to elevate your mood, then keep reading! 

It can be confusing and intimidating to live in a generation where there is constantly a new, trendy organic product advertising numerous health benefits. How can you decide which will benefit you the most? And how is dragon fruit any different from the rest? To help you discover if dragon fruit is right for you, in this article we will be discussing a series of concepts such as:

  • what dragon fruit is
  • the composition of dragon fruit
  • the importance of mood enhancement and how it can be affected by dragon fruit
  • the use of antioxidants in our bodies
  • how to practically incorporate dragon fruit in your diet

The importance of this article is to highlight the specific benefits of dragon fruit on mood enhancement and how you can boost both your natural emotional state and overall well-being.

The nutritional profile of dragon fruit

Description of dragon fruit

Dragon fruit, is a tropical fruit that has gained popularity not only for its unique appearance and taste but also for its positive effects on mood and overall health benefits. It is a distinctive fruit native to southern Mexico, where its name has been derived from a fire-breathing dragon: alluding to its bright pink exterior and scale-like leafy protrusions.1 When ripe, it has a sweet taste, similar to a mixture between pear and kiwi2, so if you are an avid eater of either of these fruits, it is likely that you will love this one!

Key nutrients found in dragon fruit

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture3, a single dragon fruit contains a multitude of nutrients. To list the core ones:

  • 42.8kcal of energy
  • 0.27g of protein
  • 0.105g of fat
  • 2.32g of fibre
  • 6.75mg of calcium
  • 5.25mg of magnesium
  • 0.135mg of iron
  • 3.22mg of vitamin C
  • 5.25 micrograms of folate

To highlight the exceptional nutritional content, dragon fruit contains high levels of energy. To put this into context, a single dragon fruit would sustain you through a 30-minute workout without feeling drained!4

Dragon fruit is also relatively high in fibre which help you to feel full and satisfied throughout the day. It helps to maintain energy levels and mood by promoting healthy bacteria in our gut.5

Its magnesium component is especially interesting as it helps ensure the correct functioning of all cells, but also helps to minimise symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression, therefore a vital nutrient for healthy mood promotion.6

Another important component of dragon fruit is its high antioxidant composition. Antioxidants are used in the body to delay cellular damage caused by many external factors, such as air pollution and industrial chemicals. We produce antioxidants naturally in the body, but supplementation of crucial nutrients such as vitamins E and C is required as we can’t naturally produce these.7 Luckily, dragon fruit is rich in these specific nutrients, therefore a great source of dietary antioxidants that is advantageous for your health!

Adding on to the already glamorous list of dragon fruits’ nutrient profiles is vitamin C! Now most of us have learned or heard that vitamin C is an essential vitamin needed for healthy bones and teeth. While this is still true, vitamin C has another significant function. Above, in the nutritional contents table, vitamin C and iron are listed together, which is due to their co-dependent relationship. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron in the blood and helps to boost your energy levels throughout the day.8

Presence of antioxidants in dragon fruit

As previously mentioned, dragon fruit contains a wide variety of antioxidants such as magnesium, vitamin C and folate which help to fight off the bad guys (free radicals) in our bodies. They also help to boost your immune system and produce the feel-good hormones so that you feel both mentally and physically healthier!

Link between nutrition and mood

The relationship between what we eat and how we feel is complicated, however, there are studies that provide a link between these two concepts. Food fuels both our mind and our body, so its importance is essential in our daily lives, therefore we need to have a balanced diet and eat in the correct proportions to function and feel as best as possible.

Theoretical mechanisms for mood enhancement

The gut-brain axis links our digestive system and our mind, so it follows that what we eat directly influences our mood. Serotonin, a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter is massively produced in our gut, roughly 95% to be specific. Although it primarily regulates our digestive processes, the serotonin produced can also influence neural pathways in our brain to regulate mood.9

An example of a negative impact of food on the gut-brain axis is eating excessive refined sugars. This can cause both damage to your body via inflammation and worsening of mood disorders like depression.10 Therefore, ensuring a balance of different food groups in the right proportions is vital for a healthy and balanced lifestyle, as well as regulating and improving our mental health.

Antioxidants in dragon fruit

Explanation of antioxidants and their role in mood regulation

We briefly covered the function of antioxidants in the body, but how do they affect our mind? Neurotransmitters released in our brains, like serotonin, are partially formed from local reactions using antioxidants such as folic acid and B12. These are essential for regulating our mood and studies have shown that a reduction in these antioxidants has a correlation with depression and mood disorders.11

Moreover, vitamins such as vitamin D (which helps to regulate calcium) have been shown to improve and prevent mood disorders by maintaining serotonin levels. Abnormal calcium levels in neurons have been associated with depression and a vitamin D deficiency, but when vitamin D was implemented into the diet, mood symptoms were improved through the regulation of calcium levels.

Antioxidants also have been proven to reduce inflammation by helping your body to remove free radicals which can be harmful to cells.

Practical incorporation into diet

Recommended servings of dragon fruit for mood benefits

A recommendation for dragon fruit servings would be to incorporate one a day, just like an apple, it will help to keep the doctor away! 200g of dragon fruit (a cup) is also more than sufficient to fill you with all the health benefits that come with this delicious fruit, so depending on how much you love it, you can adjust your portion intake.12

Creative ways to include dragon fruit in meals

  • Blend into a smoothie
  • Make a sweet dragon fruit salad
  • Create dragon fruit ice cream
  • Create a food bowl with mangos, bananas, and pineapple
  • Make a yoghurt parfait13

Summary

In conclusion, whether you are obsessed with dragon fruit, or never want to hear about it again, here are some of the key takeaway messages from this article:

  • Dragon fruit contains spectacular mood-enhancing nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C, and folate
  • They fight free radicals, reduce inflammation and boost your immune system
  • They help in the production of ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin which help maintain and regulate your mood
  • Dietary approaches to mood enhancement are important, as seen in the gut-brain axis
  • Incorporating dragon fruit into your diet can reduce fatigue and tiredness which helps your mood! 

References

  1. Ruder DS. The Foodie Physician. 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Dragon fruit vs Pitaya. Available from: https://thefoodiephysician.com/dragon-fruit-vs-pitaya-whats-the-difference/
  2. Food Network [Internet]. [cited 2023 Nov 27]. What does dragon fruit taste like? Available from: https://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/food-network-essentials/what-does-dragon-fruit-taste-like
  3. Fooddata central [Internet]. [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2344729/nutrients.
  4. Avenue 677 Huntington, Boston, Ma 02115. The Nutrition Source. 2018 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Bananas. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas/
  5. University of Nebraska Omaha [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Brain food: 5 foods that help with mood. Available from: https://www.unomaha.edu/nebraska-medicine-uno-health-center/health-matters/brain-food-5-foods-that-help-with-mood.php
  6. CentreSpringMD. CentreSpring MD. 2021 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. The benefits of magnesium for mood + mental health. Available from: https://centrespringmd.com/the-benefits-of-magnesium-for-mood-mental-health/
  7. Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Phcog Rev [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2023 Nov 27];4(8):118. Available from: http://www.phcogrev.com/article/2010/4/8/1041030973-784770902
  8. Avenue 677 Huntington, Boston, Ma 02115. The Nutrition Source. 2012 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Vitamin c. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-c/
  9. Appleton J. The gut-brain axis: influence of microbiota on mood and mental health. Integr Med (Encinitas) [Internet]. 2018 Aug [cited 2023 Nov 27];17(4):28–32. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6469458/
  10. MD ES. Harvard Health. 2015 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
  11. Huang Q, Liu H, Suzuki K, Ma S, Liu C. Linking what we eat to our mood: a review of diet, dietary antioxidants, and depression. Antioxidants [Internet]. 2019 Sep 5 [cited 2023 Nov 27];8(9):376. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/8/9/376
  12. Mewada P. 10 health benefits and recipes of dragon fruit(Pitaya) [Internet]. PharmEasy Blog. 2022 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Available from: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/10-health-benefits-and-recipes-of-dragon-fruit-pitaya/
  13. Insanely Good Recipes [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. 20 best dragon fruit recipes. Available from: https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/dragon-fruit-recipes/

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Janam Vadgama

iBSc Neuroscience/Neuropsychology, King's College London, UK

Hello, my name is Janam Vadgama, a fourth-year medical student at King's College London. Currently, I'm immersed in the world of Neuroscience and Neuropsychology as I intercalate into these fields, delving into the study of chronic pain through a dissertation, as well as writing numerous essays on multifaceted neuroscientific concepts.

During my time at medical school, I have engaged in a spectrum of roles, encompassing clinical placements in hospitals and positions within the hospitality sector. These diverse experiences have sparked my interest in medical communication and fluency. Throughout my university journey, I've actively engaged in various societies and mentoring programs, honing my ability to convey complex topics to a wide audience.

My passion for effective communication led me to discover Klarity, a platform I believe is perfect for sharing valuable insights with both healthcare professionals and the public. So far, my Klarity experience has been both enlightening and enjoyable. It's not only broadened my medical knowledge but has also equipped me with the skills to articulate these insights in articles, making them accessible for everyone.

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