Everything You Need To Know About Dragon Fruit

If you've ever gone to the market, it's likely you've seen an exotic-looking, pink fruit which may have piqued your curiosity — that would be the pitaya, also known as dragon fruit. While the dragon fruit is indigenous to Central America, it's now grown all over the world, including Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

According to Aztec literature, pitaya fruits date back to the 13th century. So, while it may seem to you like dragon fruit is just now beginning to have its moment in the health food spotlight, dragon fruit is by no means a new type of fruit. It's a wonder we went without it in our diets for so long! It's likely that once you try it, dragon fruit will quickly become one of your favorite foods. It's an ultra-healthy and ultra-tasty fruit. Isn't that just a winning combination?

There are different varieties of dragon fruit

Typically, the hylocereus variety, with red skin and white flesh, is what we see in supermarkets. However, did you know there are two other kinds of dragon fruit? Then there's the selenecereus megalanthus, which has yellow skin with white flesh. Last but not least, there's the hylocereus sp. variety, with red skin and red flesh.

Aside from their different looks, different varieties of pitaya have subtle variations of flavor.

What does dragon fruit taste like?

One of the most intriguing things about pitaya is its look, and its unique appearance certainly lends itself to a lot of speculation about what it must taste like. Susan Schenck, nutritionist and author of The Live Food Factor, likens the flavor of pitaya to kiwi.

"There are both sweet and sour pitayas," according to Tehzeeb Lalani, nutritionist at Scale Beyond Scale. This all depends on the species, shape and size of the fruit. If you're looking to try a sweeter variety, perhaps if you're just trying out the fruit for the first time, Lalani suggests trying the yellow variety. "The differences in flavor are quite subtle," she says, so if you can only find one variety at your local grocery store, don't worry too much about it not tasting sweet enough.

How to tell if pitaya is ripe

If you're curious about trying the pitaya, you're going to want to know how to choose them. The easiest way to tell if dragon fruit is ripe is to feel it. According to nutritionist Susan Schenck, a ripe dragon fruit should feel a little bit soft because you won't be able to cut through the flesh of a hard fruit. Make sure the fruit isn't too soft, though. She said if you touch it and your imprint stays on the fruit even after you remove your finger, the dragon fruit is likely too ripe, which means it might be not good to eat for much longer. So when you buy your first dragon fruit, get to (gently) squeezing!

Pitaya is high in fiber and iron

Dragon fruit is high in fiber, which makes it a good addition to your diet. "Diets that are high in fiber can help reduce the risk of heart disease," nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalanisays. She added that fiber will also help "control blood sugar levels, maintain bowel health and normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels and aid in achieving healthy weight."

It's also a good source of iron. Iron carries oxygen to your entire body which is vital for brain and muscle functionality, so it's important to have iron in your diet.

Dragon fruits are packed with vitamins

If you're looking to add more vitamins to your system, it might be time to start eating dragon fruit.

Pitaya, according to nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani, is also rich in vitamins C and B2. The human body needs a daily dosage of vitamin C and B2, since they cannot be stored in the body. It's also important that we get a daily dose of these vitamins because they play a major role in energy production and represent an essential nutrient in our diets.

Perhaps this fruit could even be your start at age-defying skincare. Other vitamin C benefits may include protection against skin wrinkling. More importantly though, Lalani said having vitamin C in your diet can prevent "immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, and eye disease."

Need to Relax? Try pitaya

If you're looking for a natural way to help yourself chill out and relax, eating dragon fruit may be the solution you're looking for. Nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani says pitaya is rich in magnesium, which helps increase your energy. Magnesium is also important for regulating sodium, potassium, and calcium levels. To top it off, she said magnesium also helps relax muscles, nerves, and anxiety. With your muscles and nerves relaxed, and your anxiety alleviated, all of this can lead to better sleep and muscle recovery a wonderful benefit to eating delicious fruit, if you ask me.

It's easy (and pretty!) to eat

According to nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani, whether you prefer your fruits served as juice, part of a fruit salad, or perhaps a smoothie — any and all options could definitely be elevated by a touch of pitaya — both in taste and beauty.

And it's not hard to work with either. In order to present it like this photograph is pretty easy. In order to get those perfect little blocks of dragon fruit, while still preserving the skin to use as a bowl, simply take a spoon and scoop out the "meat" of the fruit — think scooping out an avocado — then cut up the fruit and place it back in its skin with a mix of other fruits you like. And there you go, instagram-worthy, healthy fruit salad!

Pitaya is good in savoury dishes

Dragon fruit can be great for sweet recipes, but if you're looking for a more versatile ingredient to include in your savory meals, you can certainly add dragon fruit to that list. Savory dishes including vegan fried rice, colorful dragon fruit salsa, and even dragon fruit vinaigrette for all of your salads — are great for mixing up your menu. It provides that balance of sweet and savory in some seriously delicious recipes.

When it comes down to it, though, nutritionist Susan Schenck says that if you so choose, there really is no need to do anything with it, because, "it tastes incredibly delicious all by itself!"