The Opuntia cactus, commonly known as “Prickly Pear” in English and “Nopal” in Spanish, has a rich agricultural and culinary history. The cactus has been harvested for centuries in Mexico and the Southwest before being taken to other areas of the world. The plant contains two edible elements. The nopales (or nopalitos) are the pads of the cactus that can be despined, chopped and grilled for use as an ingredient for salads or an add-on to egg dishes. The fruit of the prickly pear cactus, also called “tuna” or prickly pear tuna is harvested for syrups, jams and candy.
Prickly Pear Benefits
Prickly pear cactus is credited as a superfood by many, as it offers a suite of health benefits from digestion health to hangover recovery. The edible opuntia ficus indica cactus and opuntia fruit contain potassium, calcium, iron and fiber among other properties which provide health benefits such as:
- Digestive Health - The concentration of fiber in prickly pears promotes a healthy stool, reduces constipation and prevents gastrointestinal issues.
- Immunity Support - One prickly pear fruit contains about 20 percent of the recommended Vitamin C intake for adults. This (along with B-vitamins) promotes white blood cell growth and acts as an antioxidant to fight off disease.
- Heart Health - The combination of potassium and fiber helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Diabetes - For some patients with type 2 diabetes, a single dose of the cactus extract can decrease blood glucose levels up to 48 percent.
Hangover Remedy - Clinically supported studies have shown prickly pear extract can reduce hangover symptoms such as nausea, dry mouth and anorexia. Learn more here.
Prickly Pear and Alcohol: Other Benefits
Organic Prickly Pear Extract also protects your body from the potential long-term effects of alcohol. As your body tries to break down alcohol, it inevitably produces free-radicals that can damage your cells. OPI acts as an antioxidant, protecting proteins and lipids from damage when your body breaks down alcohol. It’s also been known to support:
- Digestive Health
- Immunity Support
The anti-inflammatory effects of prickly pear cactus are also well known.
Not surprisingly, athletes have turned to prickly pear cactus to get more energy in the gym, to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness, to speed recovery and to reduce the chances of getting DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Prickly pear extract has proven remarkably useful as an ergogenic recovery aide.
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