Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Dragon fruit annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Dragon fruit—also called pitaya, pitahaya, or strawberry pearis a member of the Cactaceae family (cactus species). The bright pink, bulb-shaped fruit is known for its sweet, fresh taste and unique, ornamental appearance (its spiky scales give it its name). The meat of the dragon fruit may be either pink or white.

It is grown primarily in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. While the fruit is popular throughout Asia and Central America, it is less commonly consumed in the United States. But dragon fruit can be a healthy and delicious addition to your diet, as it contains vitamins, fiber, and even iron and healthy fats (unusual for a fruit).

Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one 6-ounce (170g) serving of cubed dragon fruit.

  • Calories: 102
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugars: 13g
  • Protein: 2g

Carbs

Dragon fruit is a naturally low-calorie food, with most of the calories coming from carbohydrate. There are two types of carbohydrate in dragon fruit: naturally occurring sugars (13g per 6-ounce serving) and fiber. You'll get 5 grams of fiber—or about 20% of your recommended daily intake—in a 6-ounce serving.

The exact glycemic index (GI) of dragon fruit has not been recorded, although one study estimates the glycemic index to be similar to that of a banana—or about 48 to 52. As a reference, foods with a GI of 55 or more are considered high glycemic foods.

Fat

There is a very small amount of fat in dragon fruit. Its edible seeds do contain healthy fatty acids.

Protein

Dragon fruit provides a small amount of protein, about 2 grams per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Dragon fruit provides vitamin C and riboflavin, along with about 17% of your daily recommended intake of magnesium—a mineral that is responsible for aiding in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. Dragon fruit also contains iron, niacin, and calcium.

Health Benefits

Like many fruits and vegetables, dragon fruit contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have beneficial qualities.

Helps Build and Heal Cells

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is essential for good bone structure, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels. It promotes wound healing, and it may also help to prevent disease.

Vitamin C must be consumed in the diet because our bodies are unable to make it naturally. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, and dragon fruit is one of the rare fruits that contains some iron (about 1mg per 6-ounce serving, or 7% of the daily value).

Reduces Inflammation

Dragon fruit is rich in flavonoids, one of the many types of antioxidants that can help repair cell damage caused by oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. In turn, this can help the body ward off some chronic diseases.

Improves Digestive Health

Fiber helps to boost satiety, improves digestion and regularity, and may help to lower blood cholesterol. Current guidelines suggest consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Fiber also provides many other health benefits, including decreased risk of some types of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Helps Manage Blood Sugar

Some research in animals shows that dragon fruit can improve insulin resistance and decrease blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes. A 2017 review of research in humans showed more promise for dragon fruit reducing blood glucose levels in people with prediabetes, rather than type 2 diabetes.

Allergies

There have been limited reports of allergic reactions to dragon fruit or to fruit juice containing dragon fruit. Reported symptoms included itchy, swollen red skin, swelling around the mouth, and severe itching.

If you suspect an allergy to dragon fruit, speak to your health care provider to get a proper diagnosis. If you or someone near you experiences a severe reaction after consuming the fruit, experts recommend that you call 911. Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) can be life-threatening, so it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Adverse Effects

There has been only been limited research into whether or not dragon fruit interacts with medications. Study authors recommend that patients speak with their healthcare provider to get the most personalized information regarding their medications and possible interactions.

Varieties

There are three main types of dragon fruit: white flesh with pink skin, red flesh with pink skin, and white flesh with yellow skin. The taste and nutritional benefits of the fruit are the same, regardless of color.

Many people describe the flesh as having a pear-like taste with hints of berry and watermelon. The flesh has a texture that is often compared to kiwi, and the small black seeds are edible, just as in kiwi.

Dragon eye fruit is not the same as dragon fruit. Dragon eye fruit is another name for the longan, which is related to the lychee.

When It's Best

Peak season for dragon fruit is summer to early fall. The hardest part about buying dragon fruit may be finding it in your local market. Typically, American grocery stores do not carry the fruit but many Asian markets sell the fruit and some farmers markets may have them as well, depending on the part of the country where you live.

Look for fresh fruit with a bright pink color. Avoid any dragon fruit with wilted stems or brown markings. The flesh should yield slightly when pressed. But if there are none available that are ripe, you can buy a firm fruit and let it ripen for a day or two. 

Sometimes dragon fruit juice is more readily available than whole fruits. The juice contains important vitamins and minerals, but it doesn't have the fiber that the fruit provides. Also, some dragon fruit drinks are actually mixes of several different types of juice and can provide a substantial amount of sugar. Or they are marketed as "dragon fruit flavor," but don't actually contain dragon fruit.

If you can't find whole dragon fruit in your local market, you can also buy frozen cubed dragon fruit, which is just as healthy. But be sure to check the ingredients list to make sure that you are buying just the fruit (with no added syrups or sugars).

Storage and Food Safety

Ripe dragon fruit will keep at room temperature for a few days. Or, store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Avoid cutting the fruit until you are ready to eat it; once cut, it should be refrigerated in an airtight container. If your dragon fruit starts to turn brown or mushy, discard.

How to Prepare

You should only eat the flesh (inside) of the dragon fruit, not the skin. To peel, simply cut it into quarters and peel the skin back. You can also remove the skin from a whole fruit with a paring knife or cut the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

You can eat dragon fruit just like you'd eat many other sweet fruits. Throw slices or cubes into a green or fruit salad, or toss in the blender when you're making a fruit smoothie. Some people also use dragon fruit as a garnish for cocktails or other fresh summer drinks.

Dragon fruit pairs well with other tropical fruits like banana and pineapple. If you're looking for new and interesting breakfast ideas, toss dragon fruit on top of Greek yogurt and sprinkle a tablespoon of granola on top. Or make a batch of whole wheat pancakes and enjoy them with cubed mango and dragon fruit instead of syrup. 

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