Is dragon fruit a ‘superfood?’
For me, “superfoods” are foods that strengthen our bones, teeth and our immune systems while providing the building blocks of healthy cell repair and regeneration for glowing skin and healthy, lustrous hair.
They have nothing to do with whether a food is super expensive, rare, comes from a tiny little pocket of the world that you may not exactly be able to pinpoint on a world map without Googling it first :)…but rather the intrinsic qualities of the food itself. That’s why, to me lemons, purple cabbage and spinach are all bonafide superfoods. Superfoods exist in abundance and in different forms all over the world, as I believe abundance is everywhere. And just because something is “common” never means we should take it for granted! (Just as we should never take for granted the love of our closest loves, you know what I mean??)
Since we as a society are really awakening to the reality that a true connection with the foods we consume is the most direct and effective way to maintain a strong and healthy body, increased mental clarity and beauty no matter our age, there is always the need to identify these foods so they stand out in the confusing sea of choices we are bombarded with every time we set foot in our supermarket.
Once we are able to determine the highest value foods for our bodies, we can begin to build delicious, satisfying menus around them and create a food plan that will give us the most bang for our buck.
Let’s take a closer look at the Pitaya, or Pitahaya, as it is known in its native land and see…
So with all that being said (my rambling sentiments setting the groundwork in the above), I do want to talk about pitaya, which is not a common food for most of us. It does actually fall into the category of being “exotic” to an extent.
Probably the first thing you will notice about the pitaya (dragon fruit) is its distinctive look. Coming in 3 color variations, yellow or pink with white flesh and red with red flesh, the typical dragon fruit is a truly curious looking thing. It has fish-like, thick scales on the skin which signal its membership in the succulent family, and tender inner flesh which is peppered with a multitude of tiny black seeds. So pretty!!!
The skin is not typically considered edible because it can be quite leathery and a bit bitter, but it is sometimes brewed as a tea to extract valuable nutrients such as Lycopene (shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer), which gives it the vibrant red color.
Once you have sliced it, you can scoop out the flesh and enjoy the taste and texture of the fruit with the seeds. Eating the seeds is part of the experience and should be enjoyed for the textural component they offer as well as the nutritional value of the polyunsaturated fatty acids they contain.
When I was in Korea for 3 weeks last year I ate pitaya daily in huge amounts, as it was part of the breakfast buffet of the Conrad, the hotel where I stayed. At first it tastes really mild, but if you combine it with other fruits (I like to blend it with strawberries) and as your diet really purifies, your tastes may detect more of the sensitive delicacies of pitaya’s subtle flavors. Now I have to say that I truly love it!
Speaking of nutritional value and health benefits…
Not only is the humble pitaya an object of exotic beauty, but it truly packs a substantial beauty and nutritional punch (our favorite kind of punch, not Manny Pacquiao style!). A 100-gram (3.5 oz) serving of white-fleshed dragon fruit provides an estimated 21 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 34% of the recommended daily value.
While this doesn’t compare to oranges which provide more than twice this amount, it still offers more than triple the vitamin C found in an equal serving of carrots.
Why is this so important? Because when we infuse our diets with foods that are rich in vitamin C, like the dragon fruit, we are boosting our body’s natural ability to flush out heavy metals and other toxins, aiding in the rebuilding of cells, contributing to the natural beauty of the skin, and enhancing our ability to cope with stress. This is only a small example of the way our bodies use the foods we eat.
But wait, there is much more…
The bounty of nutrition doesn’t simply stop with vitamin C. Along with being a moderately good source of iron, the dragon fruit also contains essential B vitamins which our bodies use to perform a host of other duties, like helping to metabolize carbohydrates, lowering bad cholesterol levels, and nourishing the skin. Great for hair and nails also!
It also contains phosphorous which plays an important role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats. Phosphorous is a necessary nutrient which our bodies use to make protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues.
It helps the body make ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy, and phosphorus also works with the B vitamins, aiding in healthy kidney function, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and healthy heartbeat.
Any superfood worthy of the name needs fiber…
One serving of dragon fruit offers about 12% of your daily recommended amount of dietary fiber, so from this standpoint I really appreciate this little beauty! As you are of course aware, I am a huge proponent of the benefits of cleansing in maintaining a healthy body and a robust immune system, so this is a good start. But that is definitely not all!
The crunchy little seeds, while not digestible unless chewed, offer a healthy source of polyunsaturated fatty acid which have been shown to have a naturally mild laxative effect, thus fostering regular, healthy movement of the bowels and reducing the risk of colon cancers.
They also reduce the risk of breast cancer, support increased cognitive and behavioral performance, and decrease the risk of A.L.S. (Lou Goehrig’s disease) – all of these are added benefits of a diet containing a healthy amount of polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Naturally low in calories, too? (Not that we are counting)
I do not advocate calorie counting, as that is not part of the Beauty Detox program. I think we have to always look at foods’ qualities in a holistic way (Whaaa? Just because Diet Coke has 0 calories does not mean it’s okay to drink, b/c it’s not!). But I want to point out that pitaya is actually a very light, high water fruit that is low in calories and sugar. A very healthy snack option for anyone, dragon fruit has been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. And while the fresh fruit is delightful, many people have learned to enjoy the dried version.
Once dried, this amazing cactus fruit’s nutritional properties are not lost, but actually amplified, so eating 1.5 ounces of dried dragon fruit will deliver the vitamins, nutrients and fiber of a full pound of fresh fruit, making it a great take-along snack.
Dragon fruit is actually considered is a “low energy density” food, or a food which has a low calorie content per gram compared with higher energy density foods. Simply put, a person can consume a larger amount of this food for less calories, preventing them from getting hungry as often and helping to control weight without missing out on the nutrition of a healthy diet. The Centers for Disease Control recommend a diet rich in low energy density foods for weight reduction and healthy weight maintenance.
Is that all?
Dragon fruit is a yummy beauty treatment!
Eating pitaya is like giving yourself a mini beauty treatment from the inside out. This is because the tiny black seeds in the pulp are loaded with essential fatty acids like omega 3 and Omega 6, making it just what nature ordered for beautiful shiny hair and firm, glowing skin. Omega 3 fats are vital to the body’s production of collagen, which is part of the skin’s connective tissue.
This is what gives skin its firmness and helps to renew skin cells while slowing the development of wrinkles and sagging skin. Collagen is also great for your ligaments and joint health. Your hair will thank you since Omega 3s help to keep it lustrous and shiny, adding moisture to prevent dry flaky scalp, and keep hair stands moisturized and healthy looking.
Essential fatty acids also benefit brain health for better focus, memory, and concentration. Eat pitaya everyday as a delicious way to prevent cardiovascular problems and reduce bad cholesterol such as triglycerides.
If you want great hair get your daily dose of vitamin C. I think the dragon fruit passes our test – this is starting to sound like a true superfood to me! If only it had its own legend…
OH wait it does. The Legend of the Dragon Fruit
Who doesn’t love legends and stories? I love them all. Especially the ones from Asia, the ones I would hear all those months when I was backpacking on the road. No good fruit is without its own mythology, and with a name like “Dragon Fruit,” it is practically expected. The Pitaya carries with it an intriguing legend that has possibly helped to raise it from relative obscurity to the present day leading fruit export of Vietnam.
According to the legend, the strange looking fruit could only come from the mouth of a fearsome dragon during battle. It is said that the last thing to come out of the dragon’s mouth in battle while it was spewing flames was this curious looking fruit.
Once the dragon was slain, the brave warriors would collect this rare and precious evidence of their victory and present it as an offering to the Emperor who would cherish it as a coveted treasure.
According to the legend, the warriors were endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon, and they too would be cherished by the Emperor for the rest of their lives.
Well, that settles it!
I think we have a superfood on our hands. Go ahead and make dragon fruit a part of your healthy meal plan, secure in the knowledge that while you are enjoying the delicate flavor, it is working hard to keep you strong and healthy.
As many of you know, I am a big fan of the smoothie for preserving all of the nutrients and fiber of whole food as well as providing a refreshing, filling treat, so please try this recipe as you integrate dragon fruit into your regular diet. Feel free to make delicious substitutions to any of the ingredients, and please let me know your thoughts.
A great way to cool down now that summer is near is my Pitaya Plus Radiance Parfait!
Pitaya Plus Radiance Parfait
Author: Kimberly Snyder
- 1 Pitaya Plus organic packet
- ½ cup unsweetened frozen strawberries
- ½ cup coconut water
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- Stevia or coconut nectar, to sweeten
- Sliced banana
- Coconut flakes (bigger size preferred)
Blend together the Pitaya Plus packet, the strawberries, coconut water, vanilla extract and stevia or coconut nectar together. Pour about half of the mixture into a clear glass. Top with a layer of banana, blueberries and coconut flakes. Pour the other half of the mixture on top. Top with another layer of the banana blueberries and coconut flakes. Enjoy immediately!
To Your Excellent Health,
Challenge Yourself: Take a close look at the foods you generally gravitate toward as snacks. Can you take any one of these out of the lineup and substitute dragon fruit – either fresh or dried for 2 weeks? I would really love to hear if at the end of the 2 week period you choose to keep the dragon fruit as a regular part of your snack lineup, or if you went back to your original items.