Dragon fruit (pitaya): properties, health benefits and how to eat it

The pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, is a fruit that resembles a fireball and grows spontaneously in places with a tropical climate. Discover the properties, benefits, uses and botanical characteristics.

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya or pitahaya, grows from Hylocereus Undatus, an epiphytic plant. It is a climber and uses some trees as support, even reaching a height of ten meters. To take care of its pollination are bats and moths. In fact, its flowering occurs during the night and can happen several times in a year.

The plant that offers us the nutritious dragon fruit is a Cactaceae, that is, it belongs to the category of succulents. It loves tropical climates and tolerates temperatures up to 45 ° very well. On the other hand, it can die when the very cold climate reaches temperatures below freezing.

It is not easy to find dragon fruit, however in some fruit and vegetable markets that are particularly rich in choice, it is possible to buy them. Without a doubt, if you happen to visit the countries where it is grown, such as Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, China or Central America, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to taste some of it.

The red pitaya has an envelope that goes from dark pink to red, inside instead it is usually white (although there are varieties of pitaya with red pulp and yellow pitaya that has a yellow skin) with black edible seeds. The weight can vary a lot, from 150 to 600 grams. Now let’s see what are the beneficial properties of this exotic fruit.

Pitaya: calories and nutritional values

Dragon fruit is a good source of vitamin C, B1, B2, B3 and vitamin E (mainly contained in pitaya seeds). For a fruit it also has decent amounts of protein, contains antioxidants, minerals (including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and potassium) and fiber.

As with other fruits, pitaya’s calories are low. 100 grams, in fact, provide only 60 Kcal, which makes it a perfect fruit also for slimming diets.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of pitaya:

  • Kcal: 60
  • Proteins: 1.18 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.94 g
  • Fibers: 2.9 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Soccer: 18 mg
  • Magnesium: 40 mg
  • C vitamin: 2.5 mg
  • Niacin: 0.353 mg
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

Pitaya: the health benefits

Thanks to vitamins, minerals and antioxidant compounds, the pitaya proves to be a precious ally for our health, with no contraindications (if not those due to over-use). Let’s now see an in-depth analysis on the main properties of the dragon fruit.

✓ Antioxidant

As we have mentioned, dragon fruit contains some antioxidant compounds. Specifically, in this exotic fruit we find good amounts of vitamin C, carotenoids and betaine, a compound that has shown good ability in fighting oxidative stress. The presence of these molecules, therefore, makes the pitaya an excellent ally in countering the excess of free radicals, a phenomenon at the basis of cellular aging and numerous diseases, including inflammatory ones.

✓ Gives energy

Pitaya is a good natural source of magnesium, vitamins and carbohydrates, which make it an energetic fruit, therefore ideal in those times when you feel down in the dumps and stress and nervousness prevail. Also perfect for sports enthusiasts or those who want to start practicing a physical activity. Likewise, consumed in the summer it helps to replenish the liquids and minerals lost in sweat.

✓ Beneficial for the intestine

Being a fruit rich in fiber, the pitaya also regulates the functions of the intestine, fighting constipation. Additionally, regular consumption of 25-30 grams of fiber per day has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Dragon fruit also contains prebiotic substances, i.e. compounds that promote the well-being of the intestinal bacterial flora and, consequently, the well-being of the whole body. In particular, pitaya favors the growth of two families of “good” bacteria: lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.

✓ Supports the immune system

The numerous vitamins (especially vitamin C) and the carotenoids contained in the pitaya, go to support the work of the immune system, providing additional help in the prevention of attacks by bacteria and viruses, responsible for various flu diseases.

✓ Diuretic

Thanks to the presence of water and potassium, dragon fruit promotes diuresis, helps regulate blood pressure and has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.

✓ Other benefits of pitaya

On an aesthetic level, dragon fruit offers numerous benefits. It protects the skin and prevents epidermal aging (property mainly due to vitamin C), helps to counteract water retention and cellulite.

The pitaya and its role in weight loss

Every 100 grams of pulp, they contain about 60 kcal. This fruit can be safely included in a weight loss diet, following the doses recommended by your dietician. However, like any other food, it does not have miraculous properties. It offers its contribution in a low-calorie diet, but in no way can it replace it.

It is highly appreciated from this point of view above all because it is low in fat and cholesterol. It also gives the energy needed to face the day, without weighing down the body or compromising digestion.

Finally, the pitaya has a good satiating power and, if consumed as a snack, it helps to avoid arriving too hungry for lunch or dinner.

Particular attention should be paid, instead, to the dried pitaya as it contains about 270Kcal / 100gr, therefore it is clear that, in the case of a low-calorie diet, it is necessary to pay attention to the quantities and limit oneself to a limited use and possibly far from the main meals, in order not to overload the body with calories.

How much dragon fruit to eat

The dragon fruit, as you can guess, belongs to the food category of fruit and, as such, a portion is equivalent to about 150 grams. More practically, we can consider a portion equal to a medium-sized fruit. Due to its beneficial qualities, it can also be consumed several times a week as an alternative to other fruit.

What does dragon fruit taste like

The creamy pulp of the dragon fruit has a flavor that can be comparable to that of kiwi and pear mixed together, or that of prickly pear. It is however a delicate and refreshing taste.

Uses of dragon fruit

Dragon fruit can be eaten fresh. Just open it halfway and with a teaspoon take out its soft body. To enhance the taste, many people decide to season it with lemon and the addition of sugar. Alternatively, you can simply peel and cut it into cubes to eat fresh.

Pitaya is also used for making smoothies and cocktails. A very good drink and very popular in the countries where the mother plant is born spontaneously, is the agua de pitaya. Preparing it is very easy.

Just extrapolate all the content of the fruit, put it in a glass and add lemon and sugar. Quick mix until a uniform mix is ​​obtained.

Where can dragon fruit be found

The pitaya is an exotic fruit that has only recently been making its appearance even in the most well-stocked supermarkets. If you are lucky you can find dragon fruit in the exotic fruit department. However, it is generally easier to find it in online shops specializing in the sale of tropical fruit and fruit. The price can vary significantly but it is still a fruit that is sold at a higher price than other fruits, even costing 15/18 USD per kilo.

The fresh fruit, finally, it is possible to buy the pitaya also in the form of dried fruit.


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