When it comes to edible cactus fruit (prickly pear), it is a sweet and delightful treat that may also have health advantages.
For centuries, it has been utilized in Mexican cuisine, and its popularity is expanding in the American Southwest and beyond. Many parts of the plant are edible, and the fruit of the prickly pear tree is used in a variety of cuisines, including cocktails, juices, jams, and other preserves.
The nutritional profile of the prickly pear is excellent, and it may be beneficial in promoting health and protecting against certain illnesses, in addition to its culinary applications.
This page discusses the nutritional value of prickly pear, as well as its potential advantages and drawbacks, as well as how to cook it.
Prickly pear is beneficial to your health in a variety of ways. The health advantages of prickly pear are varied, ranging from relieving hangovers to assisting in weight reduction.
This tasty and nutrient-dense fruit from the cactus family is both delicious and nutritious. Many people are intimidated by it due of its menacing look, yet it has a great influence on your entire health.
In this article, we will cover the history of the prickly pear, its nutritional profile, its advantages for skin, hair, and health, how to include it into your diet, and any possible adverse effects that it may have on your health. Continue reading to find out more.
What exactly is a prickly pear?
The prickly pear, technically known as Opuntia ficus-indica, is a cactus that belongs to the Cactaceae family of plants. It is known by many other names, including nopal, tuna, sabra, and paddle cactus.
Pads (or paddles) of the prickly pear cactus are broad, flat, green pads (or paddles) that are popularly referred to as nopales (prickly pear leaves). Nopales are edible and are used in a variety of cuisines in Mexico, including egg dishes, salads, tacos, and soups.
They have a rather crunchy feel, but depending on how they are cooked, they might have a slippery texture. Nopales have been characterized as having a vegetal flavor that is somewhat tangy and citrus-like in flavor.
The prickly pear, also known as tuna, is a tiny, oval fruit that grows on the tops of nopales and is edible. It comes in a variety of colors, including green, pink, red, purple, and yellow-orange.
In comparison to watermelon, the flesh of prickly pears is juicy, includes seeds, and has a sweet flavor that is comparable to that of watermelon. The flesh of a prickly pear may be eaten raw or cooked. It is often made into juice and used in drinks, or it is boiled down to make preserves. The blossoms of the prickly pear are also tasty.
Prickly pear fruit and pads are distinguished by the presence of prickles on their exteriors, as suggested by their name. Glochids are a kind of parasite that may attach itself to your hands and cause severe agony. Before eating prickly pear, make sure all of the glochids have been removed.
Prickly pear is quite prevalent in Mexico and the American Southwest, owing to the fact that it thrives in arid settings. In fact, the prickly pear cactus is the official state plant of the state of Texas. Other countries in the Mediterranean, such as Italy and Greece, cultivate the crop.
Prickly pear fruits (as well as nopales) may be found in farmers’ markets and grocery shops in these locations. Also, they may be imported into grocery shops in other countries, notably Mexican food markets and supermarket chains that specialize in unusual fruits or products.
Prickly pear was traditionally utilized in Mexican folk medicine to cure ulcers, liver disorders, and a variety of other ailments due to the many beneficial plant components and minerals it contains. The possible therapeutic benefits of this cactus fruit are still being researched at this time.
Prickly pear is a fruit that grows on the leaves of the Nopales cactus, which are members of the genus Opuntia and have the scientific name Opuntia ficus-indica. Prickly pear is also known as prickly pear fruit. Additionally, Nagfani is known in Hindi, Nagajemudu is known in Telugu, Kallimullpazham is known in Malayalam, and Dindla is known in Gujarati. The younger plants are edible, and they are often used in the Mexican cuisine. The flowers, branches, and leaves of the prickly pear cactus are the only other edible portions of the plant.
Prickly pear is often referred to as “cactus pear,” although it is known by a variety of other names in other nations and locations, including Tuna, Nopal, Nopales, Barberry figs, and Indian figs. The prickly pear is a cylinder-shaped fruit with a tough outer covering covered with barbs and a softer inside flesh that is suitable for consumption. For the most part, it starts off green and eventually becomes reddish-pink as it grows.
Raw, cooked, or grilled are all acceptable preparations. It is also utilized in the production of juice and jam. These delectable, round fruits emerge from the tips of prickly cactus leaves and are available in a variety of hues ranging from deep red-green to yellow or purple. Its flavor is comparable to that of watermelon or strawberries, while its aroma is similar to that of cucumber.
Prickly pear is the name of the oval fruit with prickly skin and juicy flesh that grows on top of cactus paddles. It’s a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine and was historically used for medicinal purposes.
Because prickly pears come in a range of shapes and sizes, the nutritional profile of each one will be somewhat different. They are typically considered to be a healthy source of fiber and to contain a variety of vitamins and minerals.
One cup (149 grams) of raw prickly pear has the following nutrients:
- Calories in a serving: 61
- One gram of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- carbohydrate content: 14 grams
- 5 grams of dietary fiber
- Magnesium: 30 percent of the Daily Value for this mineral (DV)
- Vitamin C: 23 percent of the daily recommended intake
- Potassium accounts for 7 percent of the DV.
- Calcium: 6 percent of the Daily Value (DV)
Prickly pears are a rich source of dietary fiber, with one cup containing about 19 percent of the daily value (DV) for fiber (149 grams). They are high in soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Prickly pears include critical elements for maintaining good blood pressure, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as vitamin C, which is helpful for maintaining a strong immune system.
Aside from that, prickly pears contain several beneficial plant chemicals, such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, and pigments, all of which work as antioxidants when consumed.
In order to avoid oxidative damage, which is generated by reactive molecules known as free radicals and may result in illness, antioxidants are utilized.
Pears are a rich source of fiber, and they also include a number of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant components.
Advantages in terms of health
Many of the prickly pear’s alleged health advantages are attributed to the fruit’s high fiber and antioxidant content. Despite the fact that just a few human studies have examined the capacity of prickly pear to boost health, early research indicates that the fruit may be beneficial.
Loss of weight
The fiber found in prickly pear cactus plants may assist in weight reduction by binding to dietary fat and boosting its excretion while simultaneously decreasing energy intake.
After meals, taking two 500 mg cactus fiber tablets three times a day (for a total of three grams of cactus fiber per day) after meals resulted in considerably more fecal fat excretion when compared to taking a placebo, according to the findings of one research involving 20 healthy people.
The researchers came to the conclusion that these findings supported the notion that cactus fiber might have a role in weight reduction by lowering the quantity of dietary fat accessible for absorption during digestion. The researchers, on the other hand, did not quantify the subjects’ weight reduction.
Other research on the effectiveness of cactus fiber pills to enhance fecal fat excretion, on the other hand, have monitored weight reduction. It was shown in one 12-week trial that supplementing with cactus fiber resulted in more weight reduction than when the participants received a placebo.
While the findings of these studies are intriguing, it’s crucial to remember that they were conducted on fiber tablets generated from the prickly pear cactus plant, rather than the fruit itself, and that the fruit was not tested.
With more than three grams of fiber and a low calorie count, a normal prickly pear fruit has the potential to provide weight reduction advantages comparable to those of other fruits. More study, however, is required to determine whether or not consuming prickly pear may help with weight loss and control.
Skin and hair are two of the most important parts of the body
Eating prickly pear is often hailed as a natural technique to get radiant skin and lustrous hair. Prickly pear extracts are also used in the manufacture of hair conditioners and skin care products.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are shown by certain of its components and minerals, such as vitamin C and betalain pigments Prickly pear also includes polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are concentrated in the seeds and peel of the fruit and are beneficial to the health of the skin and hair.
When 18 healthy adults participated in a small study over two weeks, they discovered that consuming 250 grams of prickly pear fruit pulp twice daily for two weeks was comparable to taking a vitamin C supplement in terms of increasing blood levels of the antioxidant vitamins C and E and reducing oxidative stress.
The antioxidant boost provided by prickly pear may help to enhance skin and hair health by guarding against damage to these regions caused by oxidative stress, which may be caused by aging, inflammation, sun exposure, or a variety of other factors.
Despite this, no research have explicitly examined the advantages of prickly pear for the skin or hair. Thus, the hypothesis that an antioxidant-rich prickly pair might protect against skin and hair damage has received little empirical support.
Prickly pear has, on the other hand, been examined for its topical uses on the skin — but not on the hair.
The oil squeezed from prickly pear seeds was discovered to have antibacterial activities against skin infections as well as wound-healing capabilities in one research conducted in test tubes and on rats.
It is uncertain if topically applying prickly pear oil to human skin or consuming prickly pear fruit will have equivalent skin-health advantages in terms of antioxidants. In general, the advantages of prickly pear for the skin and hair are not thoroughly recognized at this time.
Another potential advantage of prickly pear is its usage in the control of blood sugar levels and the prevention of diabetic problems.
Include soluble fiber pectin, which has been shown to have blood sugar-lowering characteristics as well as positive effects on blood fat levels.
Prickly pear eating, according to certain early human research, has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels and post-meal insulin levels in both healthy people and those with type 2 diabetes.
The results, on the other hand, have been inconsistent, and the effects of prickly pear seem to be primarily reliant on the method of ingestion and the section of the plant that is consumed.
According to one study of 20 human research, eating the flat pads of the prickly pear cactus resulted in substantial decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels when done regularly. The fruit did not have any significant influence on blood sugar levels in this study.
When it comes to heart health, however, the fruit of the prickly pear may be more healthy than the pads itself. Many persons with type 2 diabetes have high triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, as well as high LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, which may raise their risk of cardiovascular disease.
The consumption of fruit may result in substantial decreases in total and LDL cholesterol levels according to another comprehensive evaluation of 11 studies that included both healthy persons and those suffering from type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders (such as obesity).
The eating of cactus pads or powders manufactured from this section of the cactus, on the other hand, did not seem to have the same favorable effects on blood fat levels as the consumption of cactus leaves.
In order to determine how much and what kind of prickly pear is most beneficial for controlling blood sugar levels and reducing cholesterol levels, further study is required.
The state of one’s liver
In the past, people have utilized prickly pear to cure liver disorders, and some recent investigations have confirmed this practice.
It is believed that the antioxidant properties found in prickly pear aid to protect the liver from inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which may be harmful to the organ.
An investigation into the effects of prickly pear cactus consumption in obese mice discovered that it may protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in part by lowering oxidative stress.
juice, according to another research in mice, may help prevent liver impairment caused by prolonged alcohol intake by increasing antioxidant status and decreasing the oxidative damage induced by alcohol.
The effects of prickly pear may be comparable in people who consume alcoholic beverages. Researchers discovered that ingesting an extract of the cactus plant before drinking alcohol helped minimize hangover symptoms and blood signs of inflammation more effectively than taking a placebo.
For a better understanding of the effects of prickly pear on liver health in people, additional study in this area is required. Also unknown is whether ingesting the fruit of the prickly pear plant provides advantages that are equivalent to those obtained from consuming other sections of the plant.
It’s cooking method
The glochids must be removed before processing fruit or cactus pads. When handling prickly pear, use gloves and use tongs to protect your hands.
The glochids may already have been removed from the fruit or pads that you purchased.
Use a dull knife to remove the prickles off the cactus pads and then remove the “eyes” that kept them in place. Remove the skin by using a vegetable peeler.
Cactus pads may then be cut into strips or diced into cubes to be used in a variety of dishes.
You may use a gas burner or a fire to remove the prickles off a fruit. Use tongs to hold the fruit if this is your preferred technique of serving it to the guests. Alternatively, you may use a vegetable brush to remove the glochids.
Peel the skin by making a few incisions in it and then pulling it away. Before slicing the prickly pear into the appropriate form, cut it in half and remove the seeds.
The Opuntia ficus-indica cactus’ flat paddles are covered in fruit.
It’s a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Aside from weight reduction and blood sugar control, it’s also considered to improve liver health and other functions. However, there is still a need for human studies.
The fruit and pads of the cactus may be used in a wide range of dishes, particularly in Mexican cuisine.