Dragon fruit is a vibrant, somewhat bizarre-looking, delicious tropical fruit that can add some variety to your regular routine. Not only will it be a flavor change-up, but it is full of vitamins and minerals that everyone needs. In this post below, we will discuss dragon fruit's origin, potential health benefits, and how you can enjoy this delicious tropical fruit.
What Is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit, commonly referred to as "pitaya" or "strawberry pear," is a tropical fruit that traces its origins back to the Americas. It is extensively cultivated in Southeast Asia and various regions with warm climates. This fruit develops on the Hylocereus undatus cactus, a climbing variety indigenous to southern Mexico and northern Central America. Each fruit cycle of this cactus features a bloom that lasts only one night. Dragon fruit is a member of the cactus family, distinguished by its distinct and striking appearance.
The fruit has a bright, leathery skin that's typically deep pink or red with green scale-like protrusions, resembling a dragon, hence its name. The most common variety is a bright pink oval with green-tipped scales, but the inside is bright white with hundreds of tiny black seeds. The inside of the fruit features either white or vibrant magenta flesh dotted with small black seeds. Dragon fruit's distinct look and mildly sweet taste make it a popular choice in various culinary applications, from fresh consumption to inclusion in smoothies and desserts.
What Does Dragon Fruit Taste Like?
Dragon fruit, with its striking appearance, offers a taste experience as unique as its look. Upon first bite, you'll be greeted by a mildly sweet and subtly earthy flavor reminiscent of a blend between a kiwi and a pear. The texture is refreshingly light and slightly crunchy, owing to its multitude of tiny, edible seeds, much like a kiwi. Some varieties lean towards a more watermelon-like sweetness, while others offer a faintly tangy twist. Its gentle sweetness and delicate texture make dragon fruit a delightful and exotic treat, perfect for invigorating the palate with a hint of tropical elegance.
Different Types Of Dragon Fruit
All dragon fruit looks a bit outrageous, and there are many varieties of dragon fruit you can find on the market.
Pink Skin with White Flesh - Pink dragon fruit is the most well-known variety of dragon fruit, but it's also the least sweet. Varieties with this appearance and flavor are Alice, Cosmic Charlie, and Guyute.
Pink Skin with Red or Pink Flesh (red dragon fruit) - This variety is larger in size and sweeter and can be found in grocery stores under the names Red Jaina and Bloody Mary.
Pink Skin with Purple Flesh - This dragon fruit tastes similar to the other dark flesh varieties and is called American Beauty.
Yellow Skin with White Flesh - Often just called Yellow Dragon Fruit, this variety is the hardest to source but tastes the sweetest. This variety often has thorns on the fruit, but the skin of the dragon fruit isn't eaten anyway.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition facts
Based on a serving size of 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces)
Protein: 1-2 grams
Fat: <1 grams
Carbs: 11-13 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Vitamin C: 5% of the DV
Iron: 1% of the DV
Magnesium: 2% of the DV
Health Benefits Of Eating Dragon Fruit
Good For The Gut
Dragon fruit is packed with dietary fiber, which plays a crucial role in promoting digestive health. The daily fiber recommendation for adults is a minimum of 25 grams, and dragon fruit takes care of 7 grams of that in a single 1-cup serving.
Fiber aids in regular bowel movements helps prevent constipation and supports a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, the fiber in dragon fruit contributes to a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management and appetite control. Moreover, a diet rich in fiber has been linked to various health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels and reduced risk of heart disease.
This exotic fruit is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense choice for any diet. Rich in vitamin C, dragon fruit boosts the immune system, absorbs iron, and enhances skin health through its antioxidant properties. It also provides B vitamins, which are vital for energy metabolism and maintaining good health.
Dragon fruit is packed with iron. A cup of dragon fruit contains 8% of the daily recommendation of iron. Iron is important for healthy blood and increased energy. Iron, present in dragon fruits, is great for boosting the hemoglobin levels in anemic individuals. It also aids in the production of red blood cells (RBCs), which then helps in the proper oxygenation of vital organs.
Additionally, dragon fruit contains significant amounts of iron and magnesium, minerals crucial for overall bodily functions, such as oxygen transport and muscle and nerve function. The presence of antioxidants, including betalains and flavonoids, further elevates its health profile, helping to combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Loaded in Antioxidants
Dragon fruit is packed with powerful antioxidants like betalains, hydroxycinnamates, lycopene (only in red flesh dragon fruit), and flavonoids. These compounds are essential in neutralizing harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress, and preventing cellular damage. The antioxidants in dragon fruit play a crucial role in combating inflammation, supporting heart health, and potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Promote healthy gut
Dragon fruit, a unique and nutritious tropical fruit, offers a lesser-known but significant health benefit: it's a natural source of probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut microbiome, essential for good digestion, nutrient absorption, and a strong immune system.
Some studies have shown that dragon fruit promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in our guts. All nutrition begins in the gut, and a healthy gut microbiome lets you digest and use as many nutrients as possible from the foods you eat.
Consuming dragon fruit can help maintain the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which is crucial for overall digestive health. Regular intake of dragon fruit can aid in preventing gastrointestinal issues, enhancing gut flora, and potentially boosting immune function.
How Do You Eat Dragon Fruit?
The outside appearance of dragon fruit may look intimidating, but it's really very easy to cut into it and eat it, and it's rather similar to an avocado. There are many ways to cut a dragon fruit, and here are some examples:
Choose a ripe dragon fruit. It should be slightly soft with evenly colored skin. If it's too firm, leave it on your counter to ripen for a few days. If finding dragon fruit in your grocery store is a struggle, try looking in an Asian market instead.
Use a sharp knife to slice the fresh dragon fruit in half simply.
Use a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. The seeds are perfectly fine to eat, just like the tiny black seeds in kiwi.
It can then be eaten however you'd like. Most people eat dragon fruit like they'd eat any other fresh fruit. You can top salads with it or add them to a Greek yogurt parfait. Some even throw it on the grill, similar to pineapple. It pairs particularly well with fish, such as cod, tuna, and mahi mahi. You can add it to smoothies, smoothie bowls, and cocktails or use the juice to make dragon fruit juice.
Picking The Perfect Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is only in season from summer to early fall. Although you might find it in stores during other times of the year, it will not be as sweet (or as affordable!) as when it's in season.
Like other tropical fruits, the color of the fruit is a good indicator of its ripeness. The green scales will remain green, but the color of the rest of the fruit will become a deeper and deeper pink or yellow as the fruit ripens.
Although the green scales will not change color, they also are a good indicator of ripeness. The fruit is probably ripe once those scales start to droop and wither. Try to buy a dragon fruit with green scales that have begun to brown and dry out.
Perfectly ripe dragon fruit should feel similar in texture to a ripe mango or avocado. It should feel soft and yield to light pressure. If it's too firm, it's not ripe. If it's mushy, it's too far along.
How To Store Dragon Fruit
Avoid cutting your dragon fruit until you're ready to eat it. Once cut, it must be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. This fruit can pick up the flavors and odors of other food, so protection is necessary. Depending on how ripe it is, it can remain fresh for a day, possibly a little longer. Once the flesh turns brown and gets mushy, it's time to toss it.
Ripe dragon fruit can sit on the counter for a few days. Place the fruit in a sealed container and store it in the refrigerator to store it longer.