Though it sounds exotic, dragon fruit — aka pitaya — is now commonplace in most grocery stores. This member of the cactus family has either white or bright pink flesh, and it is the latest superfood being researched for its role in things such as cancer prevention, immunity, increased energy and gut health. Here are five ways to enjoy this tasty, vibrant treat.
1. As a cancer-preventive condiment
Research published in the Journal of Food Science revealed that the polyphenol and flavonoid content of both white and red dragon fruit contain cancer-preventative substances that help combat breast, ovarian, lung, liver and skin cancers.
Dragon-Fire Salsa: Add 1 cup chopped dragon fruit, 1 chopped green onion, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, 1 chopped and seeded jalapeño pepper, and 1 tablespoon lime juice to a bowl. Stir to combine and add salt (to taste). Serve with tortilla chips or on top of fish.
2. As a muscle-building meal maker
Dragon fruit contains a healthy dose of magnesium, which is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle contractions, blood sugar regulation and energy production.
Red Dragon Rice
- 2 cups cooked rice
- ½ dragon fruit, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 red chili pepper, finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ green onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add all ingredients except rice and saute. Add rice and stir until combined. Serve with chicken, shrimp or lean beef.
3. As a B-heavy breakfast
A wealth of B vitamins are found in dragon fruit, including B1, B2 and B3 for improved immune function as well as vitamin B12 for energy, concentration, improved mood and red blood cell production.
High-Pro Smoothie Bowl: Blend together 1 cup frozen mango cubes, 1 cup frozen pineapple cubes, 1 packet frozen pitaya puree, 2 handfuls spinach, ½ peeled kiwi, ½ cup almond milk and 1 scoop plain or vanilla protein powder. Top with granola or fresh fruit.
4. As an anti-aging treat
Phosphorous helps protect and repair cells to preserve skin’s youthfulness and prevent premature aging. Dragon fruit contains 22.5 grams (per 100 grams) of phosphorous, as well as a ton of vitamin C — almost three times the amount as carrots — which boosts collagen production and fights free radicals.
Happy Skin Sorbet: Blend 2 chopped dragon fruits (peeled) with ¾ cup water, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Pour into a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer. Stir every 2 hours for 8 hours, then allow to freeze overnight.
5. As a good-gut side
The oligosaccharides found in dragon fruit act as prebiotics, improving digestion and gut health, controlling weight gain, and preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancer, according to research published in 3 Biotech. Dragon fruit also contains 1 gram of fiber (per 100 grams), aiding digestion and normalizing blood sugar.
Dragon Fruit Salad: To a large bowl, add 2 cups chopped dragon fruit, 1 pint halved strawberries, 1 pint blueberries, 1 pint blackberries and 6 fresh mint leaves, finely shredded. Whisk together 2 tablespoons honey and 1/8 cup olive oil, then drizzle over salad. Stir gently and refrigerate 1 hour.