Meet the Dragon Fruit (and Make Dragon Fruit Recipes!)

With only 60 calories for about 3 ounces, this low-calorie fruit that can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a smoothie or fruit salad.
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Aptly named, this native South American fruit (also called the pitaya) looks like a mythical fire-breathing artichoke with its pink-to-reddish, or sometimes yellow, scale-like leaves. Dragon fruit is actually the flower from a plant that grows in tropical regions, which blooms at night just once! Cut it open and you’ll find the fairy tale continues: The inside of the fruit resembles and tastes like a cross between a pear and a kiwi. It’s slightly sweet, creamy and refreshing.

The nutrition stats on this strange fruit are not make-believe — it’s got an impressive antioxidant punch from vitamin C, along with energy-enhancing B vitamins.  The flesh has a fair amount of fiber, and healthy fats can be found in the tiny black seeds. With only 60 calories for about 3 ounces, it’s a low-calorie fruit that can be enjoyed on its own (we like it chilled and then scooped with a spoon) or as part of a smoothie or fruit salad.

Look for the whole fruit in specialty South American or Asian markets. Give it a tender squeeze: You want just a slight softness (like an avocado), so leave firm fruits to ripen. Or, take a shortcut and pick up pitaya puree in the freezer section.

Dragon Fruit Smoothie
1 medium banana
1/2 dragon fruit, peeled
2 large strawberries
1/4 cup light coconut milk
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Drink right away to get the most vitamin C benefit.

Per serving: Calories 220; Fat 5 g (Saturated 3.5 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 280 mg; Carbohydrate 47 g; Fiber 7 g; Protein 3 g; Sugars 25 g

Dragon Fruit Salad
1/2 dragon fruit, peeled and cut into a fine dice
2 large strawberries, cut into a fine dice
6 fresh mint leaves, torn
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch kosher salt

Toss all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Eat as a snack or top your frozen yogurt with it.

Per serving (about 3/4 cup): Calories 45; Fat 1 g (Saturated 0 g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 270 mg; Carbohydrate 9 g; Fiber 1 g; Protein 1 g; Sugars 6 g

Leah Brickley is a Nutritionist-Recipe Developer for Food Network Kitchen.

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