Pitaya ‘Dragon Fruit’ Health Benefits & How To Eat One!

Sliced pitaya filled with fruit.

Every now and then we in the West catch wind of some truly miraculous plant. Almost immediately, it’s hailed as a panacea and the bringer of all that is good and pure and true on this earth… sometimes it may come from the Orient, and sometimes from the Middle East. Either way, this is not the case with the cacti known as pitaya. It’s a very “down to earth” type of plant, and it is also one of the healthiest summer fruit around.

This is not about jumping on any trend, or about glorifying something which doesn’t merit it. If there is a reason why this plant and its fruit are trending, it’s because they’re worth it. And if it is considered a glorious addition to your salad, it’s because it can actually provide results. Included in this post are a few things which are awesome and highly beneficial about it. But first a little bit of a back story to this plant, its origin, and its role in health and wellness.

What Is Pitaya? Where Does It Come From?

Many pitaya growing.

Pitaya growing.

Pitaya belongs to the cactus family, and the name ‘pitaya’ is the plant’s mexican name. The name stuck, because the pitaya cactus is indigenous to Central and South America. In China, it’s known as “fire dragon fruit”, and some countries and cultures know it by that name. Pitaya – the plant – can reach up to 20 feet or more, depending on where or what it latches onto. Its fruit have a leathery outside, white or red flesh on the inside, and dark seeds. Its flavor is reminiscent of watermelon, but – much like watermelon – you could have a good one or a mediocre one, and not know until you bite into it. It’s a gamble, sometimes.

There are different strains of pitaya, and controlled breeding (not genetic modification or alteration, just selection of certain fruit for later crops) is making it so the coming years will bring us some of the most amazing pitaya around. Researchers in Israel, for example, are working to minimize the amount of water needed in the cultivation of pitaya, and they are coming up with some great results which will all but guarantee pitaya’s steady spread! Pitaya comes with some serious health benefits, and here are a few of them.

Health Benefits Of Pitaya Explained

Sliced pitaya and whole pitaya on black background.

Sliced pitaya.

First off, the nutrients themselves. Pitaya’s fruit is high in fiber and antioxidants, and is a good source of magnesium, vitamin B12, and vitamin CThe fruit joins others which are also being hailed as helpers of digestion and immune system boosters. This will certainly not fit into everyone’s checklist, but reports of better gastrointestinal health are not uncommon. It can also help you with your metabolism. Studies are still being conducted on this fruit as well as others in that category, though, so it’s a highly subjective experience. But then again, since when do you need a clinical researcher to find out if something is acting in your benefit? If you see positive results, just go with it and keep it in moderation.

The flavonoids and antioxidants can help your skin look better and younger, and reduce signs of aging. Making a face mask which includes pitaya is another option, as it can help to prevent aging symptoms from presenting themselves in the first place. I feel prevention is at the core of the best beauty routines. Sunburned? Make a soothing paste of pitaya pulp, honey, and cucumber or avocado, and apply to the affected area. This can help to treat the burn, and aid the skin in the rejuvenation process. These are just to name a few of the known health benefits of pitaya fruit. 

Where Can You Find Pitaya?

Pitaya laid out in the market.

Pitaya in the farmers market.

Well, you could probably haul yourself over to Central America and pick fresh ones from the fields. But in case you don’t want to do that…

Online and offline vendors alike possess this wondrous fruit pretty much all year round. Amazon and other websites have it in stock (dried and fresh) most of the time. If you’re looking for it fresh, seek out Central American or Asian shops in your area, or farmer’s markets in summer. Costs vary, and in some shops there is no harm in asking for a taste. Occasionally, the shop owner will have one already sliced open for your sampling pleasure. Like I said, better to taste first if you have the option.

Store your pitaya on the counter for a few days if you want, or (for longer storage) put it in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge. If you cut it open already, and you want to save the fruit for later, peel the rest and put the fruit’s flesh into a sealed container. Again, fridge storage in a bag or container will help it survive longer.

Conclusion

Stick it in a salad, juice it, make it into a smoothie, turn it into a sweet and spicy salsa, or throw it into your next cocktail for an electric pink addition. This is one of those fruits hailed as a “superfood”, but it really is all about proper consumption. When eaten as part of a healthy and balanced diet, there is no reason why all of those benefits won’t work their magic on you. It’s not necessarily a superfood, it’s just a great fruit to have around consume.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s a magic fruit. Those who are trying to market it as such are doing their best, but ultimately it is a fruit. One packed with positive attributes, to be sure, but a plant nonetheless. If you do get some, keep them within reach. Don’t just stick them in the back of the fridge.

Use it, eat it, love it, and keep coming back to it, because you know what? When you bite into one which is juuust right it makes your mouth sing with delight. Totally worth it. And if you keep getting bummed out about them, it’s either not to your taste, or you have to switch vendors and try someone else’s.