The Pitaya is native to Central America. According to Aztec literature, Pitaya fruits have been recorded all the way back to the 13th century.
Pitaya (pronounced Pi-tah-yah) Pitahaya in Spanish is the fruit of a cactus species indigenous to South & Central America. You may be more familiar with its cousin which goes by the name Dragon Fruit.
Similar to it asian relative it is flecked with the trademark miniscule black seeds, but Pitaya differs in that it has an amazingly deep magenta flesh. It is higher than its cousin in its nutritional qualities, and of course has a much richer trademark pink colour. These fruits are found across Central America in many parts of South America including Colombia and of course is found in the vast and fertile lands of Brazil.
Pitaya is high in fibre and is low in calories, which means it will help you stay feeling full for longer. It’s known as the ‘beauty fruit’ as eating Pitaya regularly is thought to detoxify the body with powerful antioxidants and improve the quality of your skin, teeth, eyes, and bones. This may have something to do with the fact the seeds contained in the flesh are a good source of omega-3, but the fruit itself also contains vitamins A, B2, B3, and C as well as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium.
The Pitaya fruit is suitable for all diets as it is an amazing source of fiber. People who have high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity have all attested to its nutritional goodness. Recent findings have shown that if someone with obesity eats Pitaya on a regular basis, it naturally reduces their weight considerably, without compromising their health. For people suffering from diabetes Pitaya aids blood glucose control. You can keep yourself healthy by eating either dried or fresh Pitaya flesh. In Taiwan for instance, the Pitaya fruit is used by diabetics to substitute food for rice and to enhance the fiber content of their diet. Similarly, the fruit is also high in phytoalbumins, these nutrients are vital, and renown for their antioxidants which help in the prevention of the formation of free radicals which cause cancer.
Importance of eating Pitaya
- Carotene helps maintain and improve the health of our eyes
- The fibre enhances digestion in our bodies
- The fibre content reduces fat
- The protein found in Pitaya fruit enhances the body’s metabolism
- Calcium reinforces bones and aids in formation of healthy teeth
- Vitamin B2 acts as a multi-vitamin to recover and improve appetite
- Vitamin B1 assists in production of energy as well as metabolising carbohydrates
- Vitamin B3 lowers bad cholesterol level and enhances the appearance of the skin by moisturising it
- Vitamin C ensures bruises and cuts heal faster and improves the general immune system of our bodies.
- Phosphorus aids in tissue formation.
The Legend of Pitaya/Dragonfruit
According to the legend the fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During a battle when the dragon breathed fire the last thing to emerge would be the fruit. When the dragon was slain the fruit was collected by the victorious soldiers and presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure.
The soldiers would then butcher the dragon and eat the flesh. It was believed that those who feasted on the flesh would be endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon and that they too would be coveted by the Emperor.
It could be that the story came into popular folklore when the pitaya was first introduced into Asia from South America as a way of making this new and strange looking fruit their own.