This Is The Next Big Healthy Food Trend, Says The Guy Who Started The Celery Juice Craze

Written by Gabi Conti

Image by Dreamwood / Stocksy

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Anthony William, otherwise known as the Medical Medium, is famous for launching the celery juice trend that the wellness world has gone crazy for (for our take on that, check out this piece). When I asked him what the next big superfood trend would be, he said a single word without hesitation: "pitaya."

While William is not an M.D., he is a New York Times best-selling author with a devoted fan base who have seen life-changing results from his superfood claims. "I truly started to learn what love is and especially self-love when I discovered @medicalmedium," posted @kieryncrisannalexander on Instagram next to before-and-after pictures showing her recovery from psoriasis, depression, low energy, and joint pain. "Your skin is ACTUALLY healing, like truly healing from the inside out, your migraines have subsided, no more brain fog, digestion on point, depression completely gone," posted thefreespiritfoodie with a before-and-after picture showing an incredible acne recovery. 

I'll admit, I didn't know much about pitaya or red dragon fruit. I knew this exotic crop's seedy chunks might make an appearance in a smoothie bowl. Sometimes I'd see this vibrant prickly produce at a farmers market, but I never realized this fruit had powers—besides being super photogenic.

According to William's Facebook page, the dragon fruit, specifically red pitaya (or red dragon fruit) can "rejuvenate the liver." And if there's one thing my liver could use right now, it's some rejuvenation. So I checked out William's latest book, Medical Medium Liver Rescue.

In it, he states, "The red pigment in the red-fleshed variety of pitaya is a rejuvenator for your liver, bringing cells back to life."

Let's take a deeper look at how exactly that happens—and if it's something you should try.

What is pitaya?

Dragon fruit, or pitaya, dates back to centuries ago when it was used by the indigenous people of Costa Rica. This fruit was brought by early missionaries to Asia, where it was renamed "dragon fruit" because of its skin's scales that resemble a dragon. From the cactus family, this tropical fruit comes in yellow, white, and red. But the claims that pitaya can heal the liver is connected specifically to the red variety. Red pitaya tastes like a less tart kiwi but tangier than a pear. It's also been described as tasting like an earthier watermelon.

There have been many health claims associated with the pitaya, specifically of the red variety that William stresses in his book. Red pitayas are rich in antioxidants like acai berries, which is where it earns in the title "super-fruit." In addition to being high in antioxidants, red pitayas are also rich in vitamin C, which supports skin health, and B1, B2, and B3 vitamins, which help transform nutrients into energy.

Since pitayas are high in fiber but low in sugar, these fruits have been linked to health benefits like helping with digestion and weight loss.

It's also been said that pitayas' anti-inflammatory abilities can help with arthritis and boosting the immune system. Since this fruit is high in vitamin C, it can help your body stay healthy, which is why you may see dragon fruit's pulp in anti-aging skin care creams.

How does pitaya help the liver?

According to William, red pitayas' abundance of antioxidants are how they help heal the liver. William writes in Liver Rescue, "When you consume antioxidants...the liver releases a compound that adheres to the antioxidants... The antioxidant-based softener performs a rescue operation for hardened, burdened scar tissue and other damaged tissue... Softening hardened adhesions and scar tissue allows new cells to grow, making liver restoration and resurrection possible. This translates to you getting better."

While pitaya doesn't have the highest amount of antioxidants compared to any other fruit around, William is convinced red pitaya is the best superfood to heal your liver because "it helps your liver produce cells faster so regeneration of the liver can occur. It's a fountain-of-youth fruit for the liver that slows down and stops liver aging by caring for its deep inner core, which in most cases succumbs to disease if left neglected for too long." Unfortunately, aside from William's followers, dragon fruit's effect on liver rejuvenation hasn't been tested on humans.

There have been a few animal studies on pitaya, according to Jill R. Baron, M.D., integrative and functional medicine physician in New York City. She explained that "there has been some research over the past several years using animals to show that drinking the juice of the dragon fruit might help treat a fatty liver, lower your cholesterol, decrease your chances of getting diabetes, lower your blood pressure, and potentially decrease breast cancer risk.

Similar to William's suggestion, this healing property is coming from the antioxidants in red pitaya specifically. Baron agrees as she explained to me, "These medicinal properties of the dragon fruit juice might be related to an antioxidant group called betacyanins, especially in the red pitaya."

Since there are no medical human studies testing red pitaya on the liver, if you want to see if this fruit can work for you, Baron suggests, "the optimal dose to treat fatty liver and other medical conditions is not yet known. Should you want to try it, it might be wise to eat the fruit or juice it, as you would other fruits and vegetables, and see how you feel."

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Is red pitaya really better for the liver than beets?

In his book, William poses a hot take that beets are actually not that helpful to your liver at all. Instead, he suggests, "Red pitaya...is much more liver-healing and blood-building than beets can ever be... Wild blueberries are far more cleansing for the liver than beets, as are asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Even apples have beets beat by a landslide." Personally, I found this fascinating. I can't tell you how many beet juices I've downed after a night of drinking in hopes of undoing last night's damage. Was it all for nothing? I took a closer look.

There are a lot of studies linking beetroot juice specifically to the detoxification of the liver. There have been several rat studies that resulted in beetroot juice reducing inflammation in the liver and increasing natural detoxification enzymes. But similar to tests with pitaya, beetroot's effect on the liver hasn't been tested on humans. I'm also not seeing any medical backing supporting William's claim that pitaya is better for the liver than beetroot juice, so maybe don't ditch the beets just yet. According to animal studies, It appears that both pitayas and beets can help support the liver, so it's really up to you what you prefer. A savory beetroot juice or sweet beetroot latte versus a red pitaya smoothie or smoothie bowl. 

So, how do you incorporate pitaya into your diet?

Depending on where you live, you can find red pitaya either fresh, frozen, or in powder form. I found it in the frozen section at Whole Foods; I used the Pitaya Plus brand, which has the frozen fruit already blended in packs, much like how you'd get acai. I simply blended the pack with wild blueberries, a banana, and coconut milk and put it in a bowl topped with granola and seeds. This is similar to what the medical medium suggests in his Liver Rescue Smoothie, from Liver Rescue.

In his book, William suggests you start your day with a glass of celery juice, let it "work its magic" for at least 20 minutes and then enjoy this "delicious blend of red pitaya and other healing fruit." According to William, having this smoothie daily will, "nourish your liver with bioavailable glucose and critical antioxidants. The liver thrives on the deep red of the pitaya (and the deep purplish reddish blue of the wild blueberries." 

He also provides two options, one that's just fruit, and another that adds some greens. Here are both recipes from Liver Rescue that you can try at home:

Liver Rescue Smoothie

Serves 1 to 2

Tips: If you don't have access to wild blueberries, substitute blackberries, cultivated blueberries, or cherries. Try adding at least one frozen element to your smoothie. This ensures that your smoothie stays nice and cold!

Ingredients - Option A

  • 2 bananas or ½ Maradol papaya, cubed
  • ½ cup fresh, 1 packet frozen, or 2 tablespoons powdered red pitaya (dragon fruit)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen or 2 tablespoons powdered wild blueberries
  • ½ cup water (optional)


Ingredients - Option B

  • 1 banana or ¼ Maradol papaya, cubed 1 mango
  • ½ cup fresh, 1 packet frozen, or 2 tablespoons powdered red pitaya (dragon fruit)
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ½ cup sprouts (any variety)
  • ½ lime
  • ½ cup water (optional)


Method

  1. Combine all ingredients in the blender.
  2. Blend until smooth. If desired, stream in up to ½ cup of water until desired consistency is reached.
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Related Class

Should you try pitaya?

Bottom line, you don’t know how red pitaya affects your body until you try it. Red pitaya may not have the power to magically transform your liver—but at least you know it is a superfruit that’s rich in antioxidants, high in vitamin C, low in sugar (and it’s bright pink color looks great on Instagram!).

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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