Dragon fruit, also known as pitahaya or strawberry pear, is a tropical fruit known for its vibrant red skin and sweet, seed-speckled pulp.
Its unique look and acclaimed superfood powers have made it popular among foodies and the health-conscious.
Luckily, you don’t have to live in the tropics to enjoy the many benefits of dragon fruit. In fact, you can find it fresh or frozen in supermarkets worldwide.
Dragon fruit is low in calories but packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains a substantial amount of dietary fiber.
Here’s a rundown of the main nutrients in a one-cup serving (227 grams):
- Calories: 136
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 29 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 18% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 9% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 4% of the RDI
Beyond essential nutrients, dragon fruit supplies beneficial plant compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids and betacyanins
Dragon fruit contains several types of potent antioxidants, including:
- Vitamin C: Observational studies have found correlations between vitamin C intake and cancer risk. For example, a study in 120,852 people associated higher intakes of vitamin C with lower rates of head and neck cancer.
- Betalains: Test-tube studies indicate betalains can combat oxidative stress and may have the ability to suppress cancer cells.
- Carotenoids: Beta-carotene and lycopene are the plant pigments that give dragon fruit its vibrant color. Diets rich in carotenoids have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Importantly, antioxidants work best when eaten naturally in food, rather than in pill form or as a supplement. In fact, antioxidant supplements may have harmful effects, and taking them without medical supervision is not recommended
While dragon fruit’s thick, leathery skin can be intimidating, eating this fruit is quite simple.
The trick is finding one that is perfectly ripe.
An unripe dragon fruit will be green. Look for one that is bright red. Some spots are normal, but too many bruise-like splotches can indicate that it’s overripe. Like avocado and kiwi, a ripe dragon fruit should be soft but not mushy.
Here’s how to eat a fresh dragon fruit:
- Using a sharp knife, cut it in half lengthwise.
- Scoop out the fruit with a spoon, or cut it into cubes by cutting vertical and horizontal lines into the pulp without cutting into the peel. Push on the back of the skin to expose the cubes and remove them with a spoon or your fingers.
- To enjoy, add it to salads, smoothies and yogurt, or simply snack on it by itself.
You can also find dragon fruit in the frozen section of some grocery stores, pre-peeled and cut into cubes. This is a convenient option for a tasty snack that packs a nutrient-dense punch.