Dragon fruit comes from a type of climbing cacti. Multiple types of dragon fruit are cultivated, so it can easily be found in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Different types of dragon fruit have different nutritional values. However, their flavor is generally the same, and most types of dragon fruit can be used in similar ways.
What Is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit traditionally has a round or bell-shaped appearance and bright, reddish-pink skin that flares out. It's also available in violet- and yellow-skinned varieties. On average, a dragon fruit weighs about 300 to 600 grams (10.5 to 21 ounces).
Dragon fruit goes by several names. It's often known as pitahaya or roja pitaya fruit throughout Central and South America. Scientifically, it's known as Hylocereus, but its species name differs based on the type of dragon fruit (essentially differentiating them based on the color of both their outer skin and inner flesh ). Many types of dragon or pitaya fruit are commonly cultivated, but the most popular are:
- Hylocereus undatus, which has white flesh with reddish-pink skin
- Hylocereus polyrhizus, which has red flesh with reddish-pink skin
- Hylocereus costaricencis, which has violet-red flesh and reddish-pink skin
- Hylocereus (Selenicerus) megalanthus, which has white flesh with yellow skin
Dragon fruit is considered to be a fairly refreshing fruit with a sweet or mildly tart flavor. It can be easily eaten on its own, used in a fruit salad or added a smoothie. It is also increasingly in demand as a component of desserts, whether this is in the form of sorbets or candies. The pulp of the fruit is filled with tiny black seeds that can be eaten along with the fruit or isolated and turned into oil.
Read more: 6 Easy Smoothie Breakfast Bowls
Dragon Fruit Nutrition Facts
As you might imagine, different types of dragon fruit have different nutritional values. Two of the most commonly consumed types of dragon fruit are Hylocereus undatus and Hylocereus polyrhizus. Red-colored dragon fruits such as these are rich in antioxidants, and all dragon fruits have seeds that are rich in essential fatty acids. The oil from these seeds is a better source of linoleic acid than other common oils, including sesame, flaxseed and rapeseed oils.
According to the USDA Branded Food Products Database, 100 grams of dragon fruit contain approximately:
- 60 calories
- 1.2 grams of protein
- 13 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
- 10 percent of the daily value (DV) for magnesium
It also has trace amounts of other nutrients, like B-complex vitamins and vitamins A and C as well as calcium and iron. The USDA doesn't specify the type of dragon fruit that is detailed in its nutritional analysis.
The world's current leading exporter of dragon fruit is Vietnam, but dragon fruit is so extensively cultivated that it can come from just about any continent. You should be aware that dragon fruit nutrition can vary widely. According to a 2014 study in the International Food Research Journal, the nutrition of dragon fruit can differ substantially simply based on where it is grown or even between dragon fruits of the same type.
Besides the location, other factors have been found to affect dragon fruit nutrition. These factors include the season when it is grown, the climate where it is grown, the agricultural practices used during cultivation, and the way the fruit is handled and stored after it is harvested. Although dragon fruit is delicious, its nutrition can have quite a lot of variety.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition Differences Worldwide
Dragon fruit has become increasingly popular around the world and thus is grown in a variety of subtropical and tropical climates, including Central America, South America and Southeast Asia. While this fruit is extensively cultivated in places like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, it's also grown in many other parts of the world, from the Caribbean to Hawaii.
Depending on whether dragon fruit is grown in Australia or Malaysia, its calorie content per 100 grams may range from 36 to 63 calories. Similarly, the carbohydrate content of dragon fruit can range from 8.5 to 13 grams, respectively. Both the Australia- and Malaysia-grown dragon fruits are of the same type, with pink skin and red pulp. The only difference is their country of origin.
In comparison to the nutrition facts listed by the USDA, 100 grams of an Australian dragon fruit contain approximately:
- 0.41 gram of protein
- 10 percent of the DV for vitamin A
- 10 percent of the DV for potassium
Australian dragon fruit typically has a no fiber and contains trace amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium and vitamin C. In contrast, 100 grams of the average Malaysian dragon fruit contain about:
- 1.45 grams of protein
- 2.65 grams of fiber
- 5 percent of the DV for magnesium
Malaysian dragon fruit also contains trace amounts of iron, potassium, zinc, calcium and vitamins A and C. As you can see, the nutrition stats provided in the USDA listing are more similar to those of the Malaysian dragon fruit.
Dragon Fruit Benefits to Health
Regular consumption of dragon fruit is believed to have a variety of positive effects on your health. These benefits, which can come from various parts of the fruit (pulp, seeds and exterior stems), include:
- Improving gastrointestinal health
- Improving cardiovascular health, from reducing high blood pressure to helping bleeding problems
- Improving respiratory system function
- Helping to prevent diabetes
- Helping to prevent cancer, particularly colon cancer
- Removing heavy metals from the body
- Reducing cholesterol
However, many of these benefits haven't been studied well. The primary benefits of dragon fruit seem that it is rich in antioxidants and filled with oligosaccharides that allow it to act as a prebiotic. Its effects on the gastrointestinal system are undoubtedly positive since your gut and brain are connected. The health of your gastrointestinal system can affect many aspects of your body, influencing everything from your energy levels to your mental health.
- Annals of Gastroenterology: The Gut-Brain Axis: Interactions Between Enteric Microbiota, Central and Enteric Nervous Systems
- African Journal of Biotechnology: Pigment Identification and Antioxidant Properties of Red Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus Polyrhizus)
- International Food Research Journal: Digestibility, Fecal Fermentation and Anti-Cancer of Dragon Fruit Oligosaccharides
- Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry: Dragon Fruit: An Exotic Super Future Fruit of India
- American Journal of Applied Sciences: Proximate Analysis of Dragon Fruit (Hylecereus polyhizus)
- International Food Research Journal: Variability in Nutritional Composition and Phytochemical Properties of Red Pitaya (Hylocereus polyrhizus) From Malaysia and Australia
- National Library Board of Singapore: Dragon Fruit
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: Full Report (All Nutrients): 45291867, Dragon Fruit Bite Size Fruit Cubes, UPC: 853687004058
- Food Chemistry: Essential Fatty Acids of Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) Seed Oil