Pitaya is the Prettiest Superfood Ever—But Does it Live up to the Health Hype?

PItayaPhoto: Golubka Kitchen

It’s not very often that we get excited about fruit, but hear us out: Pitaya—aka dragonfruit—isn’t your run-of-the-mill produce.

To start, pitaya is just pretty. With its hot-pink skin and polka dot inside flesh, if this superfood was an accessory it would be by Charlotte Olympia.

Thusly, the color lends the fruit perfectly to social media, which is why you’ve seen the snack popping up in #foodstagrams of smoothie bowls, salads, and sliced up whole. Seriously, just search #pitaya on Instagram and you’ll be amazed by all the different ways digital foodies are serving it.

If you haven’t tried it, we’re pretty sure you’ll be a fan: The flavor is subtly sweet, and is quite similar to kiwi fruit in both taste and texture.

pitayaPhoto: Getty

Aesthetics aside, there’s another key reason why dragonfruit is worth trying out, and that has everything to do with its health benefits.

Julie Montagu is an expert in superfoods and thinks the pitaya craze is 100 percent justified. She’s a certified health counselor, yoga instructor, and has received a certification in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University. She blogs at The Flexi Foodie, and her new cookbook, Superfoods: The Flexible Approach to Eating More Superfood is a best-seller in the UK and has just hit bookshelves locally.

Ahead, she broke down five major ways the superfood can be beneficial to your health—from anti-aging to disease prevention.

It fights disease.

Not only does pitaya look and taste good, but it contains important elements that can help you avoid sickness. “This fruit is a powerhouse,” Montagu explained. “It’s one of the most phyto-nutrient dense fruits around.—and the more phyto-nutrients, the healthier the body as photo-nutrients help fight diseases.”

It has anti-aging properties.

You’ve heard it before, but superfoods packed with antioxidants are a powerful way to keep your skin looking young. Montagu explains: “Pitaya is so rich with antioxidants that it helps keep the skin tight and young—it even gives acai berry a run for its money with the amount of antioxidants it contains.”

If you don’t like the taste, Montagu recommends using it to make an at-home, anti-aging face mask: “Simply mash the fruit into a small bowl, add a good squirt of honey and add add half a teaspoon of spirulina for a true superfood mask.”

It improves digestive health …

To make the most of all the fibre in dragonfruit, eat the entire fruit: “When eating a pitaya, try to eat the skin and the seeds as this is where the bulk of the fibre is.  And the more fibre, the cleaner our digestive system which in turn helps keep our bodies clean.”

… And supports weight loss.

Although one small pitaya has just 60 calories (less than a boiled egg), it’s extremely filling and can help support weight management. “Pitayas are also extremely low in calories but, thanks to all of the fibre, are still quite filling, which is great for weight loss.”

It keeps hair healthy.

If you have dry, brittle, or colored hair that’s in need of a little love, Montagu recommends trying the food as a hair mask. “Yes, seriously! Just mash some pitaya and then massage into the hair and scalp.  The nutritional composition of the pitaya helps to keep the hair follicles open so that your hair stays healthy and smooth.”

So, how—and how often—should you be eating (and Instagramming) it? Try making it one of your daily serves of fruit by dicing it up into salads or as an extra ingredient in smoothies. If your grocery store doesn’t stock pitaya, you can order smoothie packs online right here.

MORE: The 5 Superfoods to Eat For 5 Common Health Problems