Whenever I hear someone refer to superfoods as only rare and expensive items, often available in powders and tinctures, I always roll my eyes. Please. To me, superfoods are abundant everywhere. My definition of superfoods are that they are whole plant foods that have numerous health benefits, and include a whole array of phytonutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. “Superfoods” have powerful healing qualities and should be a core staple of our daily diet… but once again, they are abundant everywhere. To me, spinach is a superfood. So are kale, lemons, sunflower seeds, etc. They do not have to come from across the world.
All that being said, I still like to talk about “exotic” fruits as well, which too can fall into the superfoods category. By exotic, they may grow in some far off places resides the US, but I guess it mostly means that they look a whole lot different than typical oranges and apples. It can be fun to mix different plant foods into your diet, and it is also good to get a wide range. I was thinking about this one in particular, Pitaya, aka dragon fruit, because I saw it here in Los Angeles. Seeing it reminded me of also eating it in Thailand, where I would get it (along with a bounty of other Asian fruit) at the street markets practically every day I was there.
It is one weird looking and oddly beautiful fruit. On the outside, Pitaya has a deep pinkish red color (although one variety of the fruit is golden yellow) with green scaly leaves. On the inside (the part you eat) you will find flesh ranging from white to deep red spotted with small seeds.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition
Grown in California, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia, Pitaya is the fruit of a cactus plant. Nutrition for the dragon fruit includes:
- 60 calories per 100 gram serving
- 1 gram of fiber per serving
- 9 grams of carbohydrates per serving
- The fruit’s edible seeds contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Studies show dragon fruit is a significant source of antioxidants, which can prevent free radical damage that can lead to premature aging and disease.
- The fruit is high in many important micronutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin A.
Pitaya Health Benefits
There are interesting studies featuring this exotic fruit, which show that pitaya may have other health benefits, as well.
- One study showed that dragon fruit had a notable impact on oxidative stress and aortic stiffness in diabetic rats, suggesting the fruit may be beneficial at preventing complications associated with diabetes.
- The same study indicates regular consumption of dragon fruit may lower the risks of developing heart disease and developing high blood pressure.
- Dragon fruit is high in antioxidants. Studies show that antioxidants may be effective at lowering risk of certain types of cancer.
- The seeds contain omega-3 fats. A great deal of research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can fight inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
- Because of its nutritional makeup, including antioxidants, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber, pitaya is a beauty-enhancing fruit.
Because pitaya is a fruit, it moves very rapidly through your digestive system. In The Beauty Detox Solution, I recommend eating fruit first thing in the day or on an empty stomach so your body can make the most of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes. You don’t want fruit to get stuck beyond a heavier food, where it can begin to ferment in your system and create toxins. This same rule goes for dragon fruit.
You can eat pitaya alone, or you can include it in delicious smoothies.
- Flesh of one dragon fruit
- 1 cup banana
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1″ ginger nub water
You can also eat the pitaya by itself. To prepare a pitaya:
- Cut the fruit in half, lengthwise.
- Using a large spoon, scoop out the pitaya’s flesh.
- Trim away any extra inedible skin.
- Cut into cubes and eat or use in smoothies or fruit salads.
Taste and Texture
Dragon fruit has a pretty mild taste, especially in contrast to its rather extreme looks! It is similar to melon in its taste and texture, and it’s not too sweet. The flavor is quite delicate with pear-like notes. If you buy a pink-fleshed pitaya, your smoothies will have a vibrant, beautiful color.
Where to Buy
I’ve seen dragon fruit in the produce aisle at many grocery stores. You can also find it at Whole Foods, in produce stands, or in its dried form at many natural food stores. I recommend buying organic dragon fruit and reading dried fruit labels to ensure no sugar or chemicals have been added.