Pitaya: properties, nutritional values, uses and contraindications of dragon fruit

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Have you ever heard of the pitaya? It is a very particular exotic fruit and also known as dragon fruit. Let's discover all the properties and uses of this food.

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Have you ever heard of the pitaya? It is a very unique exotic fruit and also known as dragon fruit. Let's discover all the properties and uses of this food.

It is not easily found in our markets but it is much easier to find it in shops that sell food, fruit and vegetables from distant countries. We are talking about the pitaya, a fruit with a decidedly characteristic appearance and interesting properties.

Although the pitaya is native to the American continent it is today particularly widespread also in China and more generally in Asia and in tropical countries where there is a climate suitable for its growth. The fruit that produces this succulent plant vaguely recalls the prickly pear and internally the kiwi.

It is characterized by having a very bright color, its external part is in fact fuchsia, scaly and with green parts while the interior is white and pulpy studded with numerous black seeds. This is the most common type of pitaya but there are actually other species of pitaya, one with red flesh and another with yellow skin.

The pitaya can be more or less large, the weight of a fruit fluctuates between 150 and 600 grams. The shape is somewhat reminiscent of pear, the flavor is delicate, sweet at the right point and the texture is soft.


Pitaya, property

Given the nutritional composition of pitaya, it is no surprise that it offers a very wide range of health benefits which we can summarize as follows:

  • Antioxidant: the antioxidant content of this fruit is similar to that of acai berries, which is why dragon fruit is often considered a super food.
  • Digestion: thanks to the conspicuous presence of fibers, dragon fruits promote digestion and help in case of constipation.
  • Reduces cholesterol: thanks to the monounsaturated fats present in this fruit, pitaya helps heart health by helping to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Benefits for Diabetes: Regular consumption of dragon fruit is linked to a reduction in blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for type 2 diabetics and prediabetics.
  • Weight loss: again thanks to the richness in fibers that promote the sense of satiety and help stabilize blood sugar levels, these fruits are allies of those on a diet.
  • Anti-inflammatory: the active ingredients of pitaya give it powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help, for example, those suffering from arthritis.
  • Helps the immune system and energy level: thanks to its nutritional composition this fruit offers support to the immune system and also helps to keep the body's energy level high.
  • Prevents anemia: thanks to the richness of iron and vitamin C (which as we know promotes their assimilation), pitaya helps to counteract anemia.
  • Stimulates cell regeneration: these fruits help cells to reproduce better and accelerate the healing of wounds and injuries.

Pitaya, nutritional values ​​and calories

A pitaya contains on average about 60 calories and the nutritional values ​​of this fruit are very interested. It is in fact rich in vitamins (including vitamin C, B1, B2 and B3) and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. It is also a good source of essential fatty acids as well as fiber and protein.

This is the nutrients present in 100 grams of fruit:

  • Water 87 g
  • 1,1 g protein
  • Fat 0,4 g
  • G carbohydrates 11,0
  • Fiber 3 g
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) 0,04 mg
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0,05 mg
  • Vitamina B3 (niacin) 0,16 mg
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 20,5 mg
  • Calcium (Ca) 8,5 mg
  • Ferro (Fe) 1,9 mg
  • Phosphorus (P) 22,5 mg

Pitaya, usi

The pitaya is eaten as it is by simply removing the outer peel or by cutting it in half and tasting it with the help of a teaspoon a bit like you would with a kiwi.

There are also those who serve it sweetened with a little sugar and enriched with lemon juice or in fruit salads but it also lends itself to the creation of desserts, cocktails, smoothies and drinks such as the "agua de pitaya ".

In Asian countries it is the protagonist of numerous dishes which also serve the flowers of the plant used as a side dish to fish and meat dishes or in traditional dishes. The same pulp can also be boiled, steamed or seared in a pan and then combined with savory dishes.

Then there is the dry powder of dragon fruit that can be added to DIY juices and extracts. It can also be added to muesli, yogurt or raw desserts to enrich them and improve their nutritional intake.

You can also find dried pitaya which can make a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Not even the peel of this fruit is thrown away from which you can make jam or you can use it to prepare an herbal tea.

Finally, for those who want to make this fruit a real natural remedy in the treatment of some ailments, there are real supplements based on pitaya available in tablets.

Pitaya for beauty and body care

Many people use pitaya pulp in DIY creams and recipes to fight acne, congested skin, or to soothe sunburn. The antioxidants of dragon fruit, in fact, help fight the signs of aging by reducing the harmful effects of free radicals in the body and help to soothe various skin problems. Being rich in vitamin C, these fruits also favor a brighter and younger skin.

Eating fresh dragon fruit or adding extract powder to your daily diet also helps keep hair nourished and healthy, improving texture and restoring shine.

Aside from the fruit, dragon fruit peel is also useful in some pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutraceutical formulations.

Pitaya, where to find it

As we have already said it is practically impossible to find pitaya in common supermarkets but it is much easier to find it in markets or in exotic and ethnic food shops. The dried version, powder and dragon fruit supplements are also available online.

Pitaya, contraindications

The pitaya does not actually have major contraindications, only possible and rare allergies to the fruit. As always we must not exceed in the consumption of any food, in this case it could for example have a strong laxative effect.

If you notice a color that tends to pink in the urine and feces after the consumption of this fruit, do not worry, some active ingredients present in the dragon fruit are responsible for it and everything will return to normal within a couple of days.

Pitaya, curiosity

Legend has it that the fruits known as pitaya are actually dragon eggs (for this reason it is also known as dragon fruit). The peel of this fruit, which is characterized by having scales similar to those of a dragon, has helped to associate the fruit with this mythological animal.

You may also be interested in the properties of other exotic fruits:

  • mango
  • papaya
  • avocado
  • passion fruit
  • ananas

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