Fire up the dragon fruit — it’s good for your health

This tropical cactus fruit traces back to Central and South America and ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

SHARE Fire up the dragon fruit — it’s good for your health
Look for dragon fruit during peak season, about June through October. Choose those with brightly colored skin and few, if any, brown spots.

Look for dragon fruit during peak season, about June through October. Choose those with brightly colored skin and few, if any, brown spots.

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Fortunately, the dragon fruit’s only shared trait with its fierce, fire-breathing namesake, is its wild appearance. This bright red or yellow fruit with leathery skin and green scale-like spikes surrounds a mildly sweet and beautiful pink or white flesh.

This tropical cactus fruit traces back to Central and South America and ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

It has been coveted as a gift from the gods in some Asian cultures and is given as a gift and used in religious ceremonies, as it’s thought to bring good fortune. Today, dragon fruit is grown all over the world and is widely exported in its popularity.

Also known as pitaya or strawberry pear, dragon fruit is the fruit of a cactus in the Hylocereus family.

The most common varieties are oval shaped and red skinned surrounding a pink or white flesh speckled with tiny edible black seeds. There is also a yellow skinned variety with white flesh and sweeter taste.

A one-cup serving of cubed dragon fruit delivers a host of healthful nutrients, like 14% DV (DV=Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day) of dietary fiber and 10% DV of antioxidant vitamin C, as well as many naturally occurring plant compounds that have been linked with health benefits.

Dragon fruit is a good source of health protective plant compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and betacyanins, which contribute to its high antioxidant activity.

Eating dragon fruit may therefore have positive effects on stress-related and inflammation issues and may help in the prevention of diabetes, stomach and intestinal problems, colon cancer, and reducing blood pressure (Molecules, 2021).

A recent study suggests that regular consumption of dragon fruit may positively impact risk of cardiovascular disease due to its high betalain content (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2022).

Look for dragon fruit during peak season, about June through October. Choose those with brightly colored skin and few, if any, brown spots. Ripe fruits give slightly when gently squeezed and have a mild kiwi-pear-like flavor.

Dragon fruit is also available frozen, dried and as a freeze-dried powder.

Slice fresh fruit in half and scoop flesh with a spoon, being sure to avoid skin, which is inedible. Cut into cubes and enjoy as is, add to salads, smoothies, yogurt and frozen treats.

Try dried dragon fruit or dragon fruit powder in baked goods, granola, trail mix and hot cereals, or in any recipe for a pop of color and nutrients.

Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts.

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