Q: We love dragon fruit. Where is it from and how nutritious is it?
A: Also called pitahaya or pitaya, dragon fruit is the generic name for fruits that come from several different cactus species, most commonly Hylocereus undatus. Small-scale farmers in California and Florida grow dragon fruit, but most is imported from Central America and Southeast Asia. It’s sold dried and as juice, too.
This attractive fruit has large scales on its red skin; red, pink, or white flesh; and many little edible black seeds. Some varieties have yellow skin and white flesh. To eat it, cut the fruit in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. It’s mildly sweet—but can also be bland.
Dragon fruit has about 35 calories in 3 ounces and is relatively high in potassium and fiber. The red-fleshed fruit is rich in pigments called betalains, which are similar to pigments found in other red or purple fruits and vegetables and have antioxidant properties. Some people say that dragon fruit lowers blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol and even prevents memory loss and cancer, among other claims. But there’s no evidence that it has these effects or is any more healthful than other fruits and vegetables.
If you eat a lot of red-fleshed dragon fruit, be aware that it can turn your urine and stool red.