9 benefits of prickly pear and how to eat

The prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) is a fruit, also called palm , apple or devil’s fig, which grows in a type of cactus that is very common in northeastern Brazil and is used in landscaping and decorating environments. 

The fruit is covered with thorns, but it has a very pleasant sweet taste because it is rich in sugar. For this reason, it is usually consumed fresh or used in the preparation of juices and jellies.

What’s more, it is rich in several nutrients that make it a great choice for boosting immunity, preventing illnesses such as anemia .

Learn more about this fruit and its benefits below.

9 benefits of prickly pear for your health

The prickly pear is a very nutritious food . Each 100 gram serving of fruit contains, on average, 50 mg of calcium, 30 mg of phosphorus, 98 mg of magnesium, about 200 mg of potassium and 1.5 mg of iron .

It has about 80 mg of vitamin C , a value that is similar to that found in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons. It also has vitamin A and B and only 50 calories per serving . ( 1 )

Fruit is a great source of carbohydrates, 15% of each serving is made up of sugars. ( 2 )

1. Gives more energy

As a good source of carbohydrates, the prickly pear is perfect for those who need extra energy, whether to exercise or finish the day.

This nutrient is responsible for delivering most of the energy that the body uses to maintain its normal activity, as it turns into a kind of fuel .

As it is especially abundant in fructose, it provides an energy peak shortly after consumption. ( 3 )

2. Stimulates kidney function

The prickly pear favors the functioning of the kidneys because it can increase diuresis .

The fruit has compounds that stimulate the kidneys to function and filter a greater amount of blood, which ends up increasing the production of urine and, consequently, the disposal of toxins .

Best of all, this diuretic property is useful on a number of factors. How to prevent and treat urinary tract infections , as it reduces the residence time of bacteria, and the swelling caused by fluid retention, as it stimulates their elimination. ( 4 )

3. Fights and prevents anemia

The prickly pear is also a powerful ally in combating and preventing anemia .

The disease is caused by iron deficiency in 50% of diagnoses and the fruit has a good amount of this mineral. C ada moiety has about 20% of the daily recommended amount for an adult male .

Because it has vitamin C in its composition, the prickly pear also prevents the effect of iron inhibitors, and may even double the rate of absorption of this mineral with constant consumption. ( 5 )

4. Control diabetes

The good news is that even though the prickly pear is very sweet, it can not only be consumed by diabetics, as it should be consumed by diabetics, since the fruit can help control blood glucose levels .

The fruit juice has the ability to prevent part of ingested carbohydrates are converted into sugar and be accumulated in the blood. This process returns glucose levels to normal shortly after consumption. ( 6 )

5. Lowers cholesterol levels

Fruit has substances with the ability to prevent enzymes from metabolizing fats and carbohydrates in ingested foods.

This action not only helps reduce cholesterol , but also prevents the accumulation of fat in the pancreas . ( 7 )

6. Relieves hangover effects

Those who like to drink are well aware of the negative effects of alcohol the next day: the hangover. The prickly pear reduces this problem.

This happens because of the anti-inflammatory effects of the fruit , since a hangover is an inflammatory reaction that occurs due to an intoxication that alcohol causes in the body.

Thus, eating a portion of the fruit or its juice after drinking serves to relieve symptoms such as nausea, dry mouth and lack of appetite . ( 6 )

7. Reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases

The fruit is full of substances that help prevent the natural breakdown of brain cells and damage caused by toxins . ( 6 )

It can protect the brain from the effects of ischemia, but it also helps reduce the risk of developing other degenerative diseases. ( 8 )

8. Boosts immunity

The large amount of vitamins and minerals in prickly pear promotes a natural increase in immunity, leaving the body better prepared to fight diseases .

Iron is considered responsible for the formation of blood cells and plays an important role in the action of antibodies . Vitamin A improves the response of these antibodies in fighting any infection.

This means that the body’s reaction is faster, which helps to prevent the invader from spreading through the body and triggering disease. ( 9 )

9. Helps in the slimming process

Finally, adding prickly pear to your menu can help you lose those extra pounds .

This benefit is related, in the first place, to the fact that the fruit is basically composed of water, 90% of the pulp, and has only 50 calories. Furthermore, the fruit has good amounts of dietary fiber , almost 6% of the total composition. ( 2 )

These fibers increase the feeling of satiety as they take up more space in the stomach and have no calories, as they are not ingested.

They pass into the intestine where they turn into a type of gel, as the soluble fiber absorbs a lot of water. This gel has the ability to “grab” the fat, preventing it from being absorbed.

Likewise, this gel is able to improve intestinal functioning, due to its ability to carry water to the intestine, which contributes to reducing swelling . ( 10 )

How to eat the prickly pear?

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that prickly pears are popular in cooking, and best of all, you can eat them in a variety of ways. From fresh to using it in juices and sweets , check it out!

In nature

To eat natural, you just need to cut the fruit in half, being careful not to hurt yourself with the thorns of the skin , and remove the pulp.

You can eat it with a spoon, much like a pitaya.

Juice

The fruit is also used to prepare a very tasty and refreshing juice. Peel 6 prickly pears , place in a blender with a glass of very cold water and beat well.

Strain and is ready to consume. No need for sweetening , as the fruit is already quite sweet.

Indian fig compote

Ingredients 

  • 5 kg of prickly pears
  • ½ kg of pitted apples
  • 1.5 organic crystal sugar
  • 100 ml of lemon juice
  • 500 ml of boiling water.

Preparation mode

Peel the prickly pears and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. In another pan, place the apples to cook, without the seeds.

When the two ingredients are cooked, mix everything in a container, passing through a very fine sieve.

The next step is to bring the fig and apple pulp to the fire again, this time with sugar and water, to cook for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the lemon juice, let it cook for another 5 minutes and let it cool.

The compote should be stored in a sterilized glass jar with a lid in the refrigerator.

Where to find?

The prickly pear is still considered an exotic fruit in Brazil, but it can be found in open markets and public markets 

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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