Prickly pear – I know, its name is a bit weird. But you know what’s weirder? People not knowing this amazing fruit! Well, actually, while it’s pretty normal that people don’t know this fruit, it is good to know that it is interestingly good for the health. Actually, there are various essential nutrients in prickly pear, all of which are essential to overall health. There are many important health benefits of prickly pears, including their ability to reduce inflammation, aid in losing weight, prevent certain types of cancer, strengthen blood vessels, boost immunity, stimulate bone growth, reduce the possibility of diabetes, improve digestion and lower the cholesterol levels. If you want to learn more about the prickly pear, give this article a read.
Prickly Pear: What is It?
The prickly pear, also called the cactus fruit, is common name of the drupe, which grows at the top of Nopales cacti leaves. This particular fruit is spread across South and North America. There are about 200 different species of Nopales cacti, all of which have different forms of the fruit, although not all of its varieties are edible. The most common of all its species, particularly when it comes to cooking and eating, is the Indian Fig Opuntia, scientifically referred to as O. ficus-indica.
The most fascinating thing about this particular fruit is that it is capable of growing at the edge of the spiny leaves of Nopales cacti. Remember, the nopales cacti are some of the toughest lowland cacti in the world, a trait that its fruit inherited. The prickly pear has an oval shape, and its color ranges from light green and yellow to orange, red or pink depending on the fruit’s ripeness and variety. Even though all cacti are native to the Americas, prickly pear has spread all over the world, including into Europe and the Middle East.
Since it is a type of cactus, this plant is capable of surviving in arid weather circumstances. It said to originate in Mexico and various northern countries in South America that fall into the semi-arid to arid climate class. In these areas, it has been a staple for over one thousand years. It has since been heavily heralded in the Indian and Middle Eastern subcontinents, too.
Nutritional Facts of Prickly Pear
Aside from the uncommon origin, appearance and name of this fruit, it possesses a distinct composition of nutrients, including dietary fiber, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and rich levels of vitamin C. When it comes to the organic compounds of this fruit, it has rich levels of betalains, polyphenols and flavonoids. All of the above positively impacts your overall health. Please refer to the table below to learn more about the essential nutritional content of prickly pear.
|Total lipid||0.51 grams|
|Vitamin C||14 milligrams|
|Vitamin B6||0.06 milligrams|
|Vitamin B12||0 micrograms|
|Vitamin A||2 micrograms|
|Vitamin A||43 International Units|
|Saturated fats||0.07 grams|
|Monounsaturated fats||0.08 grams|
|Polyunsaturated fats||0.21 grams|
|Total trans fat||0 gram|
Health Benefits of Prickly Pears
Here are some of the most astonishing health benefits of prickly pears:
- Helps reduce inflammation. In traditional medicine, prickly pears are mashed and topically applied to any body parts suffering from inflammation. When you consume it, the minerals and antioxidants in it may help lower inflammation. This is specifically helpful in relieving muscle strain, gout or arthritis.
- Possesses antioxidant properties. Prickly pears’ antioxidants are essential in protecting the skin, lowering the possibility of premature aging, increasing cognition, and improving vision, among other roles.
- Helps prevent cancer. This is one of the best health benefits of prickly pears. There is a high amount of betalains, polyphenols, and flavonoids in them which have antioxidant properties and help neutralize free radicals before they can cause any mutation or cause cancer.
- Helps protect the heart. Various components in the prickly pear are essential for heart health. First, the fibers in the fruit may help lower bad cholesterol levels. Second, the potassium content of the fruit may help lower blood pressure. Finally, the betalains are essential in making the endothelial walls of the blood vessels stronger.
- Aids in digestion. There is a significant level of dietary fiber in prickly pears. This is essential in bulking up stool and helping food pass through the digestive system easily, thus eliminating constipation, bloating and serious GI conditions.