Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Singapore. Moving to a new place, especially a totally different continent, even for a few weeks presented its own challenges to an ardent home cook like me. Initially, I kept looking for the familiar fruits and veggies I am used to cooking with in the U.S., but the fresh produce section in grocery stores as well as numerous farmers' markets offered a markedly different assortment. Dragonfruit, which I had hardly thought of adding to my grocery basket in the U.S. because it's not easily available, showed up everywhere in Singapore--promptly wearing its resplendent, scaly, hot pink coat. Soon enough, this colorful dragon fruit breakfast smoothie bowl became my go-to breakfast a couple of days a week.
What is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit, commonly known as pitaya or pitahaya, is a fruit from the Cactaceae family. There a a few varieties of the fruit. The two I found in Singapore were elongated- and round-shaped. While both fruits share the common scaly, bright pink appearance, the elongated version has white flesh and the round version hot pink. There is a subtle difference in the taste as well--the round version is slightly sweeter than the elongated one. Overall, the dragon fruit flavor profile doesn't match its intense color. However, it is easy to get hooked onto its unique slightly sweet, slightly tarty flavor. In the U.S., it is available fresh during the summer months; however, in the winter months you can find it in the frozen produce section. If I were to choose between the two varieties, I would choose the round version for its slightly more intense flavor as well as the hot pink flesh, which offers a visual treat. Don't we often we eat with our eyes first?
Apart from its dazzling appearance, dragon fruit is a nutrient-rich fruit. It is high in betalain (remember Demystifying Beets). Betalain is high in antioxidants and offers anti-inflammatory benefits. Dragon fruit is also super high in vitamin C--a vitamin essential to the synthesis of collagen--an insoluble, fibrous protein that gives skin its strength and elasticity and keeps us looking young. Last but no the least, the fruit offers plenty of fiber to keep your gut healthy.
A note on making truly healthy smoothies
- Fruits offer the maximum health benefit when eaten on an empty stomach; therefore, this smoothie bowl is a great choice first thing in the morning after you have had your warm glass of water, preferably with some fresh lemon juice (more on this later). If you choose to have fruits between meals, give it enough time (1-2 hours) after a meal. Also, it's best not to add any dairy to your fruit smoothies. For example, the biggest NO-NO in Ayurveda is mixing milk and banana. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, a leading authority on Ayurveda, fruits shouldn't be mixed with yogurt as well. My grandmother and mom, likely following the practice of their ancestors, followed the same protocol with the exception of allowing milk with ripe mangoes. In my own practice, eating largely plant-based, I don't need to worry about adding dairy to my smoothies.
- It is a common practice to add frozen fruits or ice cubes to make smoothies. However, foods at cold temperature don't digest as well as those at warm temperature. Therefore, it is best to make smoothies with liquids and fruits/vegetables that are at room temperature.
- The best liquid to make smoothies is filtered water followed by nut or seed milk. I frequently use homemade almond milk.
- All of the above is more likely to affect us as we grow older, as our digestion is not as robust as it is in our 20s and 30s. In a nutshell, if you have any digestive issues, following the above-mentioned smoothie-making guidelines can be helpful.
Let's make the dragon fruit smoothie bowl
Add cubed dragon fruit, banana, coconut milk, and almond milk to a blender and voila you can enjoy this smoothie bowl within minutes. Add a dollop of additional coconut cream for extra smooth taste. To make it more filling, add nuts and seeds of your choice. After eating this smoothie bowl, you don't need to eat anything else for breakfast.
If spooning semi-liquid smoothie is not your thing, try making the regular smoothie version by adding more milk to the recipe (see the recipe below). This recipe is best enjoyed fresh, right out of your blender. Enjoy!
Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowl
To make smoothie bowl
- 1 cup dragon fruit* (red variety, can also sub with white)
- 1/2 banana (medium)
- 1/2 cup Homemade almond milk (or any other type)
- 2 tbsp coconut milk (canned, or sub with 1 tbsp unsweetened dried coconut or fresh coconut cream)
- 2 dates**
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds (or sub with equal amount ground flex seeds)
- 1/2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (optional, can sub with melon or sunflower seeds)
- 1/4 cup grapes (optional)
- 1/4 cup kiwi (optional, about 1/2 medium kiwi)
- 1 tsp coconut milk
- Add all the ingredients to make smoothie bowl in a blender and blend on high speed till well mixed. Add the desired toppings. Enjoy!
 Delwich, J. F., (2012). You eat with your eyes first. Physiology & Behavior, 107(4), 502-504
 Lad, U. Lad, V. (2016). Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-healing. The Ayurvedic Press; 2nd edition
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