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Food Facts: What is Dragon Fruit?

Saturday, August 19th 2023 10:00am 4 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

The pitaya stands out as one of nature’s most extraordinary plants, boasting a blossoming flower and a fruit akin to a delicate pink rosebud. Popularly known as dragon fruit, it originates from Central America but is now cultivated and exported from various Southeast Asian nations, including Thailand and Vietnam. This captivating fruit belongs to the cactus family and shares its succulent stem characteristic with its cactus relatives, enabling it to thrive and produce a uniquely delectable fruit even in arid climates.

The appearance of dragon fruit is reminiscent of a tender pineapple adorned with spikes. Its skin can exhibit shades of pink, red, or yellow, while its flesh can be either white or red. The fruit possesses leaf-like scales or overlays akin to an artichoke and is teeming with small, edible black seeds. When savored, its taste is delicately sweet, reminiscent of a fusion between kiwifruit and pear, accompanied by a satisfying crunch.

Despite its initial peculiar appearance, preparing dragon fruit is a breeze. Begin by slicing the fruit lengthwise, allowing easy access to the flesh. Alternatively, quarter the fruit and peel away the leathery skin. Ensure that only the white portion containing the seeds is consumed, while discarding any remaining pink sections, as they tend to be bitter.

Dragon fruit boasts an impressive array of phytonutrients, making it a nutritious choice. It is rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, and houses carotene, protein, vitamin C (approximately 10% of the daily recommended value), beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids, and various B vitamins essential for carbohydrate metabolism. Furthermore, this tropical fruit is devoid of complex carbohydrates, which facilitates the breakdown of food in the body, particularly aiding vitamin B1 (thiamin) and other B vitamins.

Beyond its nutritional content, dragon fruit serves as a source of other vital nutrients such as calcium, which contributes to strong bones and teeth, iron for the formation of healthy red blood cells, and phosphorus that supports tissue and cell growth, maintenance, and repair. Notably, dragon fruit contains captin, a phytochemical known to be used in medicinal applications aimed at alleviating heart problems. Additionally, it aids in boosting the immune system, accelerating wound and bruise recovery, and reducing the risk of respiratory issues.

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