Is this the new açaí?

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You've seen it in all its glory on Instagram and Pinterest: an nearly-neon smoothie sprinkled with your favorite toppings. But while health bloggers are posting up a storm about their "pitaya" creations, you're thinking: what does that even mean?

Pitaya—aka dragon fruit—is a tropical fruit from a type of cactus. It's available in the summer and early fall, so you may have recently spotted it in the produce section of Whole Foods or a specialty food market. But you wouldn't necessary know what you were looking at: a whole pitaya fruit is oval, spiny and pinkish-green. Like a psychadelic artichoke.

The flesh inside is white or red and speckled with edible black seeds. As far as the taste, expect crisp, refreshing and lightly sweet...like a cucumber crossed with a watermelon, but with the texture of a honeydew (though some argue it's more kiwi-esque). Either way, it's definitely something you'll want to dig into after a hot, sweaty run.

The health perks make this exotic fruit a superstar. "A vibrant color is a good indication that there are powerful nutrients inside," says McKel Hill, MS, RD, of NutritionStripped (@nutritionstripped). Pitaya's red-pink color comes from lycopene, an antioxidant known for its cancer-fighting properties, and it has vitamin C, which is needed for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. The fruit also has fiber (in the seeds and flesh), is a good source of magnesium (a mineral involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in your body, from your muscles to your nerves) and is relatively low in sugar.

Take a look at the eye-catching fruit, then learn three ways to eat it:


Raw: Simply slice in half and scoop out the inside with a spoon. Pitaya chunks makes a summery oatmeal topper, or a funky addition to that fruit salad you're bringing to the BBQ, says McKel.

Dried: Stash a bag of dried dragon fruit slices at your desk for a sweet afternoon pick-me-up. One serving of these from Nativas Naturals has 110 calories, 2 grams of protein and is a good source of magnesium.

Blended: Whip up a pitaya smoothie bowl. Frozen packs from Pitaya Plus allow you to skip the chopping, and they contain zero added sugar. Compared to a smoothie pack of its sister-superfood, açaí, a pitaya smoothie contains nearly half the calories, half the sugar and fewer carbs. Here's how to make one:

  • Combine a frozen pitaya pack with milk, nut milk or coconut water in a blender. Add yogurt if you'd like, as well as a banana or a handful of spinach.
  • Blend, then pour into a bowl.
  • Add toppings. Opt for lower-sugar choices like berries, unsweetened coconut flakes, chia seeds or slivered almonds.

Talk about feasting with your eyes—and best of all, it tastes as good as it looks.

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