Goji berries had their turn in the spotlight; pomegranates and acai have become household staples. Now it’s time for the pitaya. Also known as dragon fruit, pitaya is gaining widespread popularity for its health benefits.
Pitaya, or dragon fruit, is a cactus fruit native to South America, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Pitaya is a real eye-catcher, with bright pink to reddish skin, highlighted by long green to yellowish leaves that are spiny and scalelike. In fact, the leaves are why pitaya is also known as dragon fruit – because they look like a dragon’s scales.
Cutting a pitaya open reveals a soft white flesh, speckled with tiny black seeds. The taste is similar to kiwi, but with a surprisingly juicy, sweet taste. Whether it is eaten fresh or dried, pitaya is just as beneficial for your body.
So what makes it a superfruit? Like many of the others in this category, the pitaya is packed with nutrients giving you more of a power punch from health-giving properties. It’s rich in fiber, calcium, magnesium and loaded with vitamin C. The tiny black seeds are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats. In addition, pitaya helps lower cholesterol, and in some countries it’s used to help regulate blood sugar levels for diabetics.
For now, pitaya can be found mostly at specialty grocers. When selecting your pitaya, the best will have a firm, bright pink skin, a flexible stem, bright green leaves and a fresh tropical smell.