The pitaya cactus bears a very healthy and nutrious fruit known as dragon fruit. The cactus was originally endemic to certain regions in Mexico and Central American but since the fruit has gained fame on the world stage due to its nutritive value. Today, there are areas in the Philippines, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka that cultivate the pitaya cactus and it is providing good business to growers in these regions.
As far as plant characteristics go, the pitaya cactus is unique in that it has vine-like properties. Where most cacti species stand tall in most desert and desert-like regions, the pitaya cactus has thrived in more tropical locations. The weather patterns in the regions where the plant has grown combines with the plant variety to produce a wide array of dragon fruit characteristics from sour to refreshing, juicy, or those with a stronger taste. This in turn dictates the importation patterns of the dragon fruit depending on the preferences of the importer.
Sour dragon fruit varieties are primarily taken out of the Sonoran desert in Arizona. The fruits from these locations are perfect for making dragon fruit juices flavored with honey and other sweeteners. The more tropical regions in Southeast and East Asia produce sweeter varieties which are ideal for using the dragon fruit as a snackable food.
As already mentioned, the recent success of the pitaya cactus and dragon fruit can be traced to its generous amounts of healthy nutrients. The more popular red-skinned white-fleshed dragon fruit has generous amounts of fatty acids including oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid. These fatty acids are important for metabolic purposes and are great sources of healthy fats that balance the excess saturated, unhealthy fat from our meat-heavy diets.
In addition, the dragon fruit also boasts significant concentrations of vitamins and minerals. The pitaya is a great source of Vitamin C for boosting immunity, as well as in fiber which is great for a healthy digestive system. Its main claim to minerals lies with phosphorus, calcium and iron. In addition, the dragon fruit is also famous for its high antioxidant content which is essential for lowering one’s risks to cancers and heart ailments. In certain countries, dragon fruit from the pitaya cactus are even being used as a rice substitute for patients with diabetes in order to better control blood sugar levels.
The pitaya cactus may not be a world-famous plant but the continuing emphasis on healthy eating has slowly but surely brought the dragon fruit to the mainstream consciousness. Its multiple health benefits and high nutrition content make it an ideal addition to any diet. With it, the popularity of the pitaya cactus is sure to follow.