Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts

Calories, carbs, and health benefits

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

Nutrition Facts

Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 6 ounces cubed fruit (170g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 102 
Calories from Fat 8 
Total Fat   0g 
Saturated Fat    0g  0%
Polyunsaturated Fat  0g 
Monounsaturated Fat  0g      
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium  0mg0%
Potassium 312mg9%
Carbohydrates 22g 7%
Dietary Fiber 5g20%
Sugars  13g 
Protein 2g 
Vitamin A 2% · Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 3% · Iron 7%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Carbs in Dragon Fruit

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. You'll get 13 grams of naturally-occurring sugar if you consume a medium-sized fruit. If you're trying to improve your diet, sugar that occurs naturally in foods (such as fruit) is generally less of a concern than sugars that are added to food as part of processing (called "added sugars").

The sugar in fruit comes bundled with fiber and vitamins that help to boost your health. 

The other carbohydrate in dragon fruit is fiber. You'll get 5 grams of fiber—or about 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of fiber—when you eat the whole fruit. Fiber boosts your health in many different ways.

Not only does it improve digestion and regularity, but according to the USDA, fiber also provides many other health benefits, including decreased risk of some types of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

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

Fats in Dragon Fruit

There is a very small amount of fat in dragon fruit. A cup of cubes (which is about the amount you'd get from a medium fruit) provides less than a gram of fat. The small amount is not likely to make a significant difference in your diet.

Protein in Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit also provides a small amount of protein.  A cup of cubes provides just 2 grams of protein. 

Micronutrients in Dragon Fruit

The pulp of a whole dragon fruit provides a dose of vitamin C, or about 3 percent of your recommended daily intake if you consume a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet.

The meat of a medium dragon fruit also provides about 17 percent of your daily recommended intake of magnesium—a mineral that is responsible for aiding in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body.

Eating a dragon fruit will also provide seven percent of your recommended intake of iron, and three percent of your recommended intake of niacin, calcium, and thiamin. 

Health Benefits

People who enjoy dragon fruit may gain certain health benefits when they include the food in their diets.

For example, vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is essential for good bone structure, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels. It aids in the absorption of iron, promotes wound-healing, and it may also help to prevent disease, although research is ongoing about the extent of the health benefits that it can provide. Vitamin C must be consumed in the diet because our bodies are unable to make it naturally.

 

You'll also get a healthy boost of fiber when you consume dragon fruit. Most of us don't get enough fiber in our diets. Fiber helps to boost satiety, improves digestive health, and may help to lower blood cholesterol. Current guidelines suggest that you consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day.

Common Questions

How should I select the best fresh dragon fruit?

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 reside.

Look for 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. 

When is dragon fruit in season?

Peak season for the fruit is summer to early fall.

Is there a difference between white dragon fruit and pink dragon fruit?

No, the taste and the 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.

Should I eat all of the dragon fruit? 

You should only eat the flesh (inside) of the dragon fruit. To peel a pitaya, 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. While you shouldn't eat the skin of a dragon fruit, the black seeds inside are edible.

Is dragon fruit juice just as healthy as dragon fruit?

When you drink the juice of dragon fruit, you still get important vitamins and minerals but you don't benefit from 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. For example, an 8-ounce serving of Welch's Dragon Fruit Mango cocktail blend provides 29 grams of sugar and is made with high fructose corn syrup as well as several fruit juices.

Cooking and Preparation Tips

You can eat dragon fruit just like you'd eat many other sweet fruits. Many people eat the fruit sliced or cubed. You can throw it into a green or fruit salad, or toss it 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, cantaloupe, 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. 

Or enjoy a smoothie with berries and dragon fruit, apples or pears with dragon fruit, and even avocado and 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).

Allergies and Interactions

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. Physicians who reported on one allergic reaction noted that the recent cases might indicate a higher incidence of sensitization to pitaya and the potential emergence of a wave of new cases of dragon fruit allergy.

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.

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.

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Article Sources
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