The Buzz: Dragon Fruit (Pitaya)

What’s the buzz?
Hot pink is the new green (smoothie).

What does the science say?
The vivid pink smoothie bowls that have taken over your Instagram feed get their eye-popping color from dragon fruit (a.k.a. pitaya), which is native to Mexico, Central and South America, and grown in some parts of Asia as well as in California, Florida, and Hawaii. The plant bearing this spiky fruit is part of the cactus family, and although dragon fruit carries an intimidating exterior, what you’ll find on the inside will give you the heart eyes.

The bright pink or white flesh, speckled with tiny black (edible!) seeds, boasts antioxidants and is also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. It’s beloved by smoothie enthusiasts for its mild flavor, which plays nicely with other fruits and vegetables, as well as for its magnificent pink hue (if you get the pink-fleshed variety).

You can find fresh dragon fruit in some Asian or other specialty markets; the frozen or puréed flesh is more widely available. Add it to smoothies (or bowls) or let it thaw and add it to a tropical-themed fruit salad with mango and pineapple. (Those vibrant tropical colors are made for social media!) When blending in a smoothie, include a source of protein like Greek yogurt or silken tofu along with a moderate amount of healthy fat from seeds (chia, hemp, pumpkin, flax), nuts of any kind, or avocado to help you feel sated for longer.

What’s the takeaway?
Dragon fruit can be a good way to add antioxidants and other nutrients to your morning or post-workout smoothie. But, like other “superfoods,” eating dragon fruit won’t undo an otherwise poor diet — you can get many of the same nutrients from eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Just like with açai bowls and other smoothie bowls, you’ll need to be mindful about portion sizes and toppings (we see you, toasted coconut) as the calories can add up quickly!

Read more on how to make a healthy smoothie here. Or, make your own dragon fruit bowl with this recipe.