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The prickly pear cactus represents a couple of dozen species of the Opuntia genus from the Cactaceae household. They’re largely discovered within the North American deserts. Different recognized names for the prickly pear are tuna, sabra, nopal, nostle or paddle cactus.
The fruits of the Opuntia genus are edible and bought utilizing the identify “tuna“. Whereas the branches (a.okay.a. the pads) could be eaten as a vegetable, and are bought underneath the identify “nopal” or “nopalito“.
The flowers of the prickly pear cactus could be present in pink, yellow or purple, and every flower will yield one fruit.
The flesh could be present in colours similar to white, inexperienced, yellow, pink or purple; with the reddish-purple or darkish pink selection being the extra common selection in North America.
They’re additionally an necessary business crop in Mexico, Latin America, North Africa, the Mediterraneans and Center East.
Some describe the fruit as scrumptious, and that it tastes like a cross between watermelon and strawberry, mildly candy and virtually bland. It jogs my memory of the pitaya (dragonfruit).
Dietary Advantages of Prickly Pear
Prickly pear fruits could be eaten complete, juiced or added in salad. They’re wealthy in dietary fiber, excessive in antioxidants: carotenoids, polyphenols, flavonoids and betacyanins.
It additionally comprises linoleic acid (a necessary fatty acid) and several other protein block-building amino acids. Among the many minerals present in prickly pears are calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and manganese.
As with all vegetation, numerous nutritional vitamins are additionally discovered on this plant however they’re helpful solely when consumed uncooked (raw). Nutritional vitamins are destroyed when cooked in excessive temperatures.
Well being Advantages of Prickly Pear
Just like the aloe vera (one other type of cactus), the prickly pear plant has been gaining medical pursuits because of its antiviral, anti-inflammatory and excessive antioxidant properties.
Extra not too long ago, prickly pears have been promoted as a superfood, and you’ll quickly see why.
These are a number of the severe well being advantages of prickly pears:
Anti-aging: Prickly pears include vitamins which are helpful on your pores and skin well being. Consumption of prickly pears helps to hydrate and nourish your pores and skin to forestall dryness, boring look, and untimely formation of wrinkles and advantageous traces. Resulting from its many different antioxidant properties, it additionally helps to forestall formation of darkish circles underneath the eyes.
Anti-cancer: The excessive antioxidant actions present in prickly pear fruits assist to decrease the chance of sure cancers. In a lab mice study, it was proven that cactus pear extracts considerably suppressed tumor progress.
Anti-inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory properties in prickly pear present many well being advantages in preventing irritation within the physique. Consuming this cactus plant prevents irritation of the joints and muscle groups prompted because of gout and arthritis. Different inflammatory circumstances similar to bronchial asthma, bronchitis fibromyalgia, allergic reactions, migraines may also profit and be relieved from it.
Blood strain: Prickly pears are wealthy in phytonutrients, enzymes and minerals that every one contribute to wholesome blood and wholesome blood vessels. Frequently consuming prickly pears assist your physique to take care of regular blood strain ranges.
Blood sugar stage: The fiber and gooey pectin present in prickly pear cactus helps to decrease blood sugar by reducing sugar absorption within the abdomen and intestines. It improves insulin sensitivity, thus is usually a wholesome addition to a diabetic weight-reduction plan. Embrace cactus pads in your cooking, to benefit from the blood sugar decreasing impact that forestalls a sugar spike after a meal.
Bone well being: Research present that cactus pads include excessive ranges of bioavailable calcium and have constructive results on bone mineral density. Ladies consuming cactus pads each day had been discovered to have greater bone density with decrease danger of hip fractures.
Chest congestion: To alleviate chest congestion, warmth a cactus pad and place it on the chest. This can be a frequent conventional treatment which are utilized by outdated of us the place this plant is grown abundantly.
Colon well being: Consumption of the cactus pads retains the colon in optimum well being. The current of antioxidant actions from the prickly pear neutralizes free radicals, and reduces irritation within the colon brought on by dangerous toxins that discovered their approach into the colon.
Digestive well being: Consuming prickly pear each day helps to manage bowel actions with a purpose to preserve a wholesome digestive system. Regularity prevents all of the ailments that may happen in conditions of chronic constipation.
Gastric Ulcers: A study confirmed that betanin, present in prickly pears, is ready to regulate the manufacturing of gastric mucus and scale back irritation within the gastrointestines. Cactus pear consumption have been reported to be protecting in opposition to stress-induced acute gastric lesions, by sustaining an everyday circulate of gastric mucus.
Hangover: When consumed earlier than consuming extreme alcohol, prickly pear extract has been proven to be helpful in lowering the severity and incidence of hangovers.
Coronary heart well being: The excessive content material of antioxidants in prickly pear helps to forestall hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). Betacyanins can scale back hypertension and oxidation of ldl cholesterol, thus stopping coronary coronary heart illness, and different coronary heart ailments. Flavonoids in these cactus fruits are additionally instrumental in normalizing blood viscosity that forestalls stroke.
Immune system: The wealthy antioxidant content material and antiseptic properties of prickly pear is accountable for strengthening the physique’s immune system. They assist your physique enhance the power to combat in opposition to dangerous, infectious and disease-causing pathogens within the physique.
Kidney well being: In conventional medication, prickly pear is usually used as a diuretic. Because of this it’s helpful on your kidney and bladder well being. It prevents urinary issues, belly bloating and water retention (edema) within the physique.
Liver well being: Consuming complete prickly pear fruits or juice, or the cactus pads present hepatoprotective (liver-protective) actions that stop the event of fatty liver, neutralizing free radicals and toxins that trigger liver injury.
Muscle cramps: Prickly pears include anti-inflammatory properties and key vitamins similar to magnesium and potassium, that assist the physique regulate muscle groups and nerve capabilities. By consuming prickly pear often, you possibly can be sure you stop muscle cramps.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): One of many causes for PMS signs is a rise within the ranges of a hormone-like chemical known as prostaglandins. They contract your uterus, and might trigger painful cramps within the course of. Increased ranges of prostaglandins are related to extra extreme menstrual cramps. Prickly pear inhibits the synthesis of those hormones, thus tremendously lowering PMS signs.
Pores and skin wounds: The cactus pulp or juice can be utilized to deal with and soothe pores and skin wounds, cuts, insect bites, bruises or sunburn by topical software. Mashed cactus pads could be utilized to wounds and boils for fast therapeutic.
The place are you able to get prickly pears? In bigger grocery shops, particularly those that carry worldwide meals, you could possibly discover prickly pear fruits and the cactus pads.
Eating places that serve Mexican meals may provide dishes that embody slices of the prickly pear cactus.
If you happen to’re shopping for prickly pear fruits or cactus pads, the thorns/spines ought to have already been eliminated. To arrange the fruit, you will have to take away the robust outer pores and skin.
Utilizing a pointy knife, slice off each ends of the cactus pear and discard. Then, minimize the fruit into two, lengthwise. Fastidiously peel again the pores and skin, away from the flesh of the fruit. If the fruit is ripe, the pores and skin ought to come off simply.
A prickly pear fruit comprises many small seeds. They’re edible, however many individuals select to not eat them. You may chew on the fruit and spit out the seeds.
To make prickly pear juice, you should utilize a slow juicer—merely put the fruit by means of your juicer and the seeds shall be expelled individually.
You can too use a blender—put the fruit flesh in a blender, then use a strainer to take away the seeds. You’ll have to pressure it two or thrice to get a smooth-tasting juice.
Cautionary Be aware
Like most cacti, prickly pears have thorns, however they don’t seem to be those it is advisable fear about. Look out as an alternative, for the advantageous, virtually invisible hair-like spines that cowl the fruit known as glochids. They arrive off the pad simply, and as soon as lodged within the pores and skin, glochids could be troublesome to take away.
Nice care is usually required when they’re being harvested and being ready for consumption. Use of thick gloves is perhaps smart.
Subsequent time you see cactus pears, attempt them!
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