What is dragon fruit?
Dragon fruit is a food that grows on a climbing cactus called Pitaya, which can be found in tropical areas around the world. The plant's name comes from the Greek "hyle," meaning "woody," and the Latin "cereus," meaning "wax."
From the outside, the fruit appears as a pink or yellow bulb surrounded by spiky green leaves that grow like flames. Cut it open and you'll find something fleshy and white inside, speckled with black seeds that are ready to eat.
The fruit comes in red-skinned and yellow-skinned varieties. Cacti originally grew in southern Mexico and South and Central America. The French brought it to Southeast Asia in the early 19th century.
Central Americans call it "dragon fruit." In Asia, it's "strawberry pear." Nowadays, you can buy dragon fruit across the United States
Dragon fruit is juicy and slightly sweet, and some describe it as a cross between kiwi, pear and watermelon. The seeds have a nutty flavor.
Dragon fruit nutrition
In a 6-ounce serving of dragon fruit cubes, you get:
- Calories: 102
- Fat: 0g
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 22 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Sugar: 13 grams
You'll also get these vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A: 100 international units (IU)
- Vitamin C: 4 mg
- Calcium: 31 mg
- Iron: 0.1 mg
- Magnesium: 68 mg
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit has many potential health benefits, including:
- It is rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and betalains. These natural substances protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, molecules that can cause diseases such as cancer and premature aging.
- It is naturally fat-free and high in fiber. It's a great snack because it helps you stay fuller longer between meals.
- It may help lower blood sugar. Researchers say this may be partly because it replaces damaged cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body break down sugar. But these studies were conducted on mice, not humans. It's unclear how much dragon fruit you need to eat to get these benefits.
- It contains prebiotics, which are foods that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut called probiotics. Having more prebiotics in your body can improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Specifically, dragon fruit can promote the growth of probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium . In your gut, these and other good bacteria kill disease-causing viruses and bacteria. They also help digest food.
- It strengthens your immune system. Dragon fruit is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, which are good for the immune system.
- It can boost your iron levels. Iron is important for carrying oxygen into your body and giving you energy, and dragon fruit contains it. The vitamin C in dragon fruit helps your body absorb and utilize iron.
Health Risks of Dragon Fruit
Although studies have reported isolated allergic reactions, dragon fruit is generally safe to eat. Symptoms include tongue swelling, hives, and vomiting. This reaction appears to be very rare.
If you eat enough red dragon fruit, your pee may turn pink or red. This symptom may seem more alarming than it actually is. The same thing happens if you eat a lot of beets. Once the fruit leaves your system, your urine will return to its normal color.
How to prepare dragon fruit
Before purchasing dragon fruit, give it a gentle squeeze. It should have a little bit to it, but not feel too soft or mushy. Avoid fruit that is bruised or has dry leaves - this is a sign that it is overripe. If it feels firm when pressed, let it mature on the counter for a few days before eating.
To prepare the fruit, cut it into quarters. Either peel off the skin or use a spoon, ice cream scoop or melon scooper to remove the pulp. Don't eat the skin.
How to eat dragon fruit
You can eat dragon fruit in several ways. Add it to a fruit salad with other tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. Cut it into salsa. Stir it into ice cream. Squeeze it into juice or water. Use it as a topping for Greek yogurt. Or freeze it and blend it into smoothies.
How to store dragon fruit
Place remaining dragon fruit in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months.