Have you been hanging around a smoothie cafe? Or the frozen fruit aisle and making your own smoothie or bowls at home? In that case, you may have come across two popular smoothie bowl favorites- pitaya vs acai. Both are tasty, and exotic fruits packed full of antioxidants and nutrition. So what’s the difference between these two popular fruits? What are the health benefits of each? Do either provide weight loss benefits? Let’s dive in below and find out more…
The most obvious difference you’ll notice between pitaya bowls and acai bowls is how different they look. Pitaya (also called dragon fruit) has a vibrant bright pink color, and acai is a more dull plum color. Now let’s dive in beyond the beauty of these bowls for how each will benefit you.
In comparing pitaya vs acai, I used the two brands below from my local Whole Foods, but they can likely both be found at many grocery stores that cater to more health-conscious shoppers. You can find them in the freezer section alongside the other frozen fruits.
PitayaPlus Organic Dragon Fruit Smoothie Packs Vs. Sambazon Pure Unsweetened Organic AcaÎ Smoothie Packs.
Both brands are organic, have the same serving size (100 grams), and contain 4 smoothie packs per package. (Note the look of the packaging may have changed.)
Nutritional Comparison Chart for Pitaya vs Acai
(per 100 grams)
|Grams of Protein||1 gram||1 gram|
|Total Grams of Fat||0 grams||5 grams|
–Saturated 1 g
-Omega 3 45 mg
-Omega 6 585 mg
-Omega 9 2865 mg
Dietary Grams of Fiber
|Cholesterol||0 mg||0 mg|
|Sodium||0 mg||20 mg|
|Vitamin A||1 %||10 %|
|Vitamin C||4 %||0 %|
|Calcium||2 %||2 %|
|Iron||4 %||2 %|
*Notes on Sugars: Acai also comes in sweetened forms with added sugar the Sambazon brand adds 12 grams of sugar to its “original blend” packets. The sugar in pitaya is a natural sugar.
What is Pitaya?
First, let’s look at pitaya, a beautiful tropical fruit and also called dragon fruit. Pitaya is becoming more and more popular throughout the world. Pitaya fruit comes from an exotic cactus plant native to Central America. It is currently found throughout Asian countries and other tropical climates. When I was traveling in Asia, it seemed to be everywhere, so much so that I wasn’t sure if I could ever eat it again. It has only recently been becoming more popular in the U.S. due to the popularity of smoothies and frozen pitaya options. It is also possible to find pitaya as whole fruit in the supermarket, but, unfortunately, you’re likely to pay a premium price.
When opening pitaya fruit, you’ll notice the fruit is a bright pink vibrant color with little black seeds or white flesh with tiny black seeds. The seeds are softer and easy to eat while they also blend nicely in smoothies. The texture can be described as similar to kiwi, a more delicate flesh with soft seeds too. Taste-wise, dragon fruit is very sweet, more like a juicy, watermelon kind of sweetness.
What Does Pitaya Taste Like?
Pitaya is sweet and crunchy. A cross between kiwi and pears. When you blend pitaya with sweeter fruits such as berries and bananas, it’s going to be a very sweet treat and darker pink in color from the blue of the blueberries. Pitaya also compliments tropical fruit well, such as mango and pineapple nicely. Blended with these lighter-colored fruits will maintain a brighter pink color and have a sweet and tropical flavor.
Health Benefits of Pitaya
Pitaya is packed full of nutrients and high levels of antioxidants, containing magnesium, iron, vitamin C & E, and fiber. Pitaya also contains plant compounds polyphenols, carotenoids, and betacyanins. What does all this mean? These nutrients and antioxidants can help boost the immune system reduce blood sugar levels, support eye health, and lower heart disease risk among other potential overall health benefits
What is Acai?
Acai, which is pronounced ah-sigh-ee, is a dull plum, purplish color berry. Acai berries come from acai palm trees in South American rainforests. An acai berry is not actually a berry, but rather something called a drupe- as they have thin fleshy skin and a pit in the middle. Acai is found in the amazon regions of Central and South America. The problem that acai berries face is that they quickly spoil, so they are quickly processed into a frozen or powder form.
What Does Acai Taste Like?
The acai packs are sold as sweetened or unsweetened, so make sure to check the label! Especially if you are watching your sugar intake or just opting for a healthier choice. The unsweetened form is as close to its natural state as you can get. It’s going to have a much earthier taste, which is why some choose the sweetened version, but again it comes with a trade-off of higher sugar content.
I prefer buying unsweetened acai and pairing it with naturally sweetened fruits such as berries or a banana to sweeten the taste naturally to my liking, without adding unnecessary sugar.
Health Benefits of Acai
Although Acai is a fruit, it is lower in sugar than many other fruits and contains a fair amount of healthy fats, which gives them a unique nutritional profile. The fat and fiber content of acai berries may help to support heart health. If that’s not enough, acai is also packed full of antioxidants, trace minerals, and a great vitamin A source.
Which is Healthier Pitaya vs Acai?
Pitaya and acai are both excellent options as they are both powerhouse sources for antioxidants, which help ward off free radicals. Unsweetened acai has no sugar, and pitaya has only 8 grams of naturally occurring sugar. Acai contains some healthy fats and a good vitamin C source, and potassium. Pitaya is an excellent source of magnesium. Although acai has been marketed for weight loss, there are no studies to support this. Which is healthier? It’s really a personal choice based on which you will eat more of? And what are your individual health needs? They are both great options for supplying your body with antioxidants and nutrition while being low in calories and sugar.
What’s the Best Way to Enjoy a Piaya Bowl or Acai Bowl?
Let’s talk toppings because if you ask me, the fun of a bowl over a smoothie is all the variety of yummy toppings! I like to think of toppings like a kid decorating holiday cookies. Anything goes, have fun, be creative, make it your own!
Popular healthy favorites include topping such as fresh fruit, goji berries, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, or granola for adding in some crunch.
Hemp seeds and chia seeds are great if you are looking to add omegas and protein. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants.
Cacao nibs are rich in antioxidants and potassium, making them a great addition if you are looking to add some chocolate sweetness.
Anything goes; experiment and try something new each time! You might find these bowls are even tastier than ice cream, satisfy your sweet-tooth craving all while providing amazing health benefits!
Which Tastes Better Pitaya vs Acai?
Pitaya is naturally sweeter than acai- so I think the decision on which tastes better comes down to your taste buds and what you are mixing them with. I personally prefer pitaya with more tropical fruits when I’m in a more tropical kind of mood. PItaya is going to really appeal to those who like sweet fruits. On the other hand, I enjoy acai with berries and a banana for a more subtle sweetness. If you are craving a more substantial sweet fruit, try going with pitaya. If you like a more subtle sweetness, try acai unless the acai has added sugar- which will give it a very sweet taste and be less healthy.
Whichever you decide in the pitaya vs acai battle, next time you’ll know you can’t go wrong as they are both healthy and delicious options for your next smoothie or breakfast bowl!
Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about finding freedom with food here.