February 21, 2023

Dragon Fruit: What It Is and Why It’s Healthy

The fanciful fruit is a good source of fiber and antioxidants

Dragon Fruit Health Benefits

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Dragon fruit is a nutritious — not to mention vibrant — fruit that’s full of fiber and may improve your gut health.

Ready to get a little adventurous?

Registered dietitian Joyce Prescott, MS, RD, LD, explains the benefits of dragon fruit and how to incorporate the fruit into your diet.

What is dragon fruit?

Dragon fruit, also called pitaya or strawberry pear, looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: On the outside, it’s a pink oval with green scales (hence, the “dragon” name). Inside, it has white flesh with tiny black seeds. The fruit’s strange appearance also gives off “psychedelic artichoke” vibes.

“It’s a tropical fruit that comes from a cactus,” Prescott explains. “It’s available everywhere around the world, but it’s indigenous to Mexico and South America.”

Dragon fruit is in season from summer to early fall. It comes in a variety of shapes and colors:

  • Pink skin with white flesh. This is the most well-known kind, but it’s the least sweet. It’s sold under the names Alice, Cosmic Charlie and Guyute.
  • Pink skin with red or pink flesh. Bigger and sweeter than its white-fleshed cousin, this variety is sold in stores under names such as Red Jaina and Bloody Mary.
  • Pink skin with purple flesh. Look for the name “American Beauty” in stores.
  • Yellow skin with white flesh. Yellow dragon fruit is the hardest to find, but it’s also the sweetest.

“If you like kiwi fruit and pears, then you’ll probably like dragon fruit,” says Prescott. “It’s sweet and crunchy.”

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Dragon fruit nutrition

Is dragon fruit healthy? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 1-cup serving of dragon fruit contains:

  • 103 calories.
  • 0 grams of fat.
  • 5.6 grams of fiber.
  • 27.4 grams of carbohydrates.

Dragon fruit health benefits

The flesh of the dragon fruit is low in calories and fat-free. Dragon fruit benefits also include the following:

It’s a good source of fiber

Dragon fruit is an excellent source of fiber, Prescott says. The daily recommendation for fiber in adults is at least 25 grams — and dragon fruit packs 5.6 grams in a single 1-cup serving.

“Fiber may benefit gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health,” she adds. “Fiber is also filling, which is helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. People who eat whole, fiber-rich foods are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.”

It may improve your gut health

Healthy bacteria in your gut may help digestion and even reduce colon cancer risk. Dragon fruit is a prebiotic that boosts the growth of probiotics lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

“Some studies appear to show that dragon fruit promoted the growth of healthy gut bacteria,” says Prescott. “It may have a positive effect on the gut microbiome, the good bacteria in our intestines.”

It’s rich in antioxidants

Dragon fruit contains a few different kinds of antioxidants, which work to neutralize free radicals. Those free radicals can damage cells and cause inflammation, which can lead to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.

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Vitamin C, an antioxidant, helps your body absorb iron and boosts immune system health. Carotenoids may reduce cancer risk. And lycopene, a type of carotenoid, may improve heart health and reduce cancer risk.

Does it matter if dragon fruit is fresh or frozen?

Because of its popularity over the last few years, you can typically find dragon fruit either in the produce department or the frozen food section of your local supermarket.

While dragon fruit is best eaten raw, you can also throw it on the grill like some other fruits. Enjoy it on its own or add it to:

  • Cocktails.
  • Desserts.
  • Fish, especially cod, tuna and mahi-mahi.
  • Salads.
  • Smoothies.

“Overall, the health benefits of dragon fruit make it an ingredient worth exploring,” encourages Prescott. “So, have fun and shake up your breakfast, make a new snack or try out a fun dessert with it.”

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