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Dragon fruit is a nutritious — not to mention vibrant — fruit that can benefit your body and your taste buds, says registered dietitian Mira Ilic, MS, RDN, LD.
Ready to get a little adventurous? Here’s how to incorporate dragon fruit into your diet when it’s in season from summer to early fall.
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. It’s available everywhere around the world, but it’s indigenous to Mexico and South America,” Ilic notes.
What does dragon fruit taste like?
“If you like kiwi fruit and pears, then you’ll probably like dragon fruit. It’s sweet and crunchy.”
Dragon fruits come 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 including 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.
The benefits of eating dragon fruit
The flesh of the dragon fruit is low in calories and fat-free. It also contains plenty of:
Dragon fruit is an excellent source of fiber, Ilic says. The daily recommendation for adults is at least 25 grams — and dragon fruit packs 7 grams in a single 1-cup serving.
“Fiber, may benefit gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health,” notes Ilic. “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.”
Dragon fruit has a ton of beneficial vitamins and minerals, including:
- Carotenoids (may reduce cancer risk).
- Lycopene (may improve heart health and reduce cancer risk).
- Magnesium (important for cell function, and dragon fruit provides 18% of the recommended daily amount).
- Iron (important for healthy blood and energy, and dragon fruit contains 8% of the recommended daily intake).
- Vitamin C (helps your body absorb the iron and boosts immune system health).
Improves gut health
Healthy bacteria in your gut may help digestion and even reduce colon cancer risk. “Some studies appeared to show that dragon fruit promoted the growth of healthy gut bacteria,” says Ilic. “It may have a positive effect on the gut microbiome, the good bacteria in our intestines.”
How to cut and eat dragon fruit
If you can’t find dragon fruit in your local supermarket, you may have better luck in a specialty food store or Asian market.
To pick one out, Ilic recommends trusting your gut. “Follow your fruit know-how,” she says. “It should be slightly soft when you’re testing it with your finger. If it’s overly firm, you can still bring it home and leave it on your counter to ripen.”
Peel and cut it into sections when you’re ready to eat it. Much like an avocado, you eat the flesh and discard the skin. You could also cut it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon or melon baller.
Dragon fruit is best eaten raw, but you can throw it on the grill like some other fruits. Enjoy it on its own or add it to:
“Once you cut it up, wrap it tightly and put it in your fridge,” says Ilic. “When your dragon fruit starts to get mushy and brown, throw it away.”