Prickly pear cactus is known by several other names, such as cactus fruit, nopal, and opuntia. The plant is not just known for its ornamental beauty; it is popular for various health benefits as well. The plant is a flat-stemmed spiny cactus with edible fruits. It mainly grows in warm areas of tropical and sub-tropical regions. The plant can be grown indoors as well as outdoors. The fruits of prickly pear cactus may range from green, orange to red color. The green fruits are sour whereas the red ones are very sweet. They have a prickly covering that must be carefully removed before consumption.
The fruit is rich in various minerals, vitamins, and fiber. It is emerging as a “superfood” because of its enormous health benefits. It must, however, be kept in mind that moderation is the key. Consuming too much prickly pear can cause stomach troubles. The black seeds of the fruit can cause constipation when consumed in excess.
Some of the claimed health benefits of prickly pear are:
- Managing weight: Prickly pear is low in fats and rich in fiber. This low-calorie fruit can help you stay full for long. When coupled with regular physical activity and a healthy diet, it can help in reducing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.
- Regulating cholesterol: The fruit, being deficient in cholesterol and fats, is a healthy snacking option for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels in the body.
- Managing diabetes: Prickly pear is gaining popularity for its positive effect in controlling diabetes. Some studies have shown that boiled stems of certain species of prickly pear can lower blood glucose levels. The fruit is also rich in various antioxidants that can prevent diabetes-related complications. If you have diabetes, you must consult with your doctor to know how you can include the fruit in your diet without any undesirable effects.
- Treating hangover: Some studies suggest that eating prickly pear before alcohol consumption may reduce the occurrence of some hangover symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth.
- Promoting gut health: The fiber in prickly pear promotes bowel movements and helps remove toxic substances from the gut. Some studies suggest that certain compounds (such as betanin) present in prickly pear may protect the gut lining from ulcer formation. Excess consumption of the fruit, however, can cause diarrhea or constipation.
- Preventing inflammation: Prickly pear is rich in various antioxidants and nutrients. They help maintain a healthy immune system and prevent inflammation in the body.
- Maintains a healthy heart: Prickly pear is low in cholesterol and rich in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. It protects the heart against the damaging effect of free radicals and toxins. Including it as a part of a healthy lifestyle can promote heart health.
- Lowers the frequency of migraines: Some studies suggest the positive role of prickly pear in reducing the frequency of migraines. The fruit has an anti-inflammatory effect that can lower the occurrence of pain and other undesirable symptoms of migraines.
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WebMD. Cactus Fruit: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-cactus-fruit#2