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16 Amazing Health Benefits of Prickly Pears

Prickly pear or optinua is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae. It is native to America and then was introduced to the other regions of the world. Fruit of the prickly pear is also known as tuna and is a good source of many nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, polyphenols, and dietary fibers etc. Presence of these compounds make them very beneficial for our health and provides a number of health benefits. In this article, we will know about the major health benefits of prickly pears, but first, let’s take a look at the below-mentioned nutrition chart of prickly pears.

Nutrition Chart of Prickly Pears

Nutrition Chart of Prickly Pears
Source-USDA

Health Benefits of Prickly Pears

Prickly Pears Benefits And Side Effects
Source-Pixabay.com

(1) Make Our Immune System Stronger

Our immune system is the defense mechanism of our body as it protects the foreign invaders like disease-causing microbes such as bacteria, virus, and fungi etc. from entering our body and make us sick. And, even if these disease-causing microbes manage to enter our body, and make us sick, it is our immune system that fights against them and makes us healthy again.

For a healthy living, it is important for us to make sure that our immune system stays stronger, and prickly pears are very beneficial in doing the same.

The immune strengthening benefit of prickly pear is mainly because of the presence of antioxidants like vitamin C in it. A single serving of prickly pears provides more than one-third of the daily requirement of vitamin C to our body.

Antioxidants like vitamin C and other antioxidantal compounds such as polyphenols and phytonutrients etc. fights with the free radicals in our body, stabilize them and prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our cells, including the white blood cells that form the backbone of the immune system.

This makes our immune system stronger, and when our immune system is stronger, the risk of various infections such as the development of a cough, cold, fever and flu etc. diminishes automatically.

Vitamin C not only improves the health of white blood cells but also increases the production of white blood cells and further strengthens our immune system. It is also an important component of the various enzymatic and metabolic process including the creation of bone and muscle tissues.

(2) Strengthens Bones And Teeth

Consuming prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for making our bones and teeth stronger.

This benefit of prickly pears is mainly due to the presence of calcium in it. Calcium is a vital mineral for our bone health as it plays an important role in the development of bone tissues, and also in strengthening them.

By making our bones stronger, it reduces the risk of osteoporosis and also prevents us from various dental issues that may arise due to deficiency of calcium.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which our bones become very weak and more prone to damage and fracture, and is mainly caused by the deficiency of calcium in our system.

In addition to the calcium, prickly pears are also rich in magnesium and phosphorus that plays a significant role in improving bone strength.

(3) Maintains Cholesterol Level

Consuming prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for keeping our cholesterol level under control.

It reduces the level of bad LDL cholesterol and increases the level of good HDL cholesterol.

The dietary fibers present in the prickly pears prevents the bad cholesterol from getting deposited in the inner lining of the arteries and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition that leads to narrowing and hardening of arteries and is a major cause of various cardiovascular issues.

Studies have found that prickly pears are efficient in reducing both plasma level and hepatic levels of cholesterol.

In addition to this, prickly pears also contains phytosterols that enhances cholesterol metabolism in our system and reduces the risk of hyperlipidemia, a condition caused by the high level of cholesterol in our system and may give rise to problems such as high blood pressure, blood clots, blockage of arteries,heart attack and heart stroke etc.

(4) Good For Our Digestive System

Eating prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for our stomach and improves the overall health of our digestive system.

This advantage of prickly pears is mainly due to the presence of dietary fibers in them.

The dietary fibers present in the prickly pears acts as a natural laxative which means it improves bowel movement and ensures smooth elimination of stool from our system. This provides relief from constipation and also relieves from other gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, abdominal pain and flatulence etc.

In addition to this, prickly pears also contain a good amount of antioxidants such as vitamin C and other relevant compounds like phytonutrients and polyphenols in them. These compounds protect our digestive system from the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals in the body, and thereby minimizes the risk of colon cancers and gastric ulcers.

This improves our digestive health, and when our digestive system is healthy, our body absorbs nutrients from the food in an efficient manner and this improves our overall health.

(5) Provides Relief From High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common health problem that affects millions of people around the world and is a leading cause of various cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, heart stroke and blockage of arteries etc.

In order to enjoy a healthy life, it is important for us to keep our blood pressure under control, and prickly pears can help in doing the same.

Consuming prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for providing relief from high blood pressure or hypertension.

This benefit of prickly pears is mainly because of the low level of sodium and high level of potassium in this fruit.

Low level of sodium ensures that the blood pressure level doesn’t rise up rapidly.

And the potassium present in the prickly pears is a vital mineral that acts as a natural vasodilator which means it relaxes our blood vessels, improves blood circulation and thus provides relief from hypertension.

In addition to this, the betalain found in the prickly pears strengthens the inner walls of the blood vessels and thus improves our cardiovascular health.

(6) Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Regular and moderate consumption of prickly pears is very beneficial for our heart and keeps our cardiovascular system healthy.

This benefit of prickly pears is mainly due to the presence of nutritional compounds such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibers etc. in them.

The potassium present in the prickly pears is a natural vasodilator that relaxes our blood vessels, improves blood circulation and thus provides relief from hypertension ( high blood pressure) which may otherwise give rise to cardiovascular issues such as heart attack, heart stroke and blockage of arteries.

The dietary fibers in the prickly pears aids in managing cholesterol level as it reduces the level of bad LDL cholesterol from our system, and thus reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the inner walls of the arteries become hard and narrow due to the accumulation of plaque and fat deposits in them. Dietary fibers present in the prickly pears reduces the level of bad LDL cholesterol and thus prevents the arteries from getting clogged up by fat deposits.

When our arteries are free of the accumulation of bad cholesterol, our heart doesn’t have to put on an extra effort for maintaining blood circulation and this minimizes the risk of heart attack.

In addition to this, the antioxidants like vitamin C and other antioxidantal compounds such as phytonutrients and polyphenols etc. protect our cardiovascular system from the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals of the body, and thus strengthens it.

Prickly pears also contain betalains that strengthen the inner walls ( endothelial walls ) of the blood vessels and thus prevents our circulatory system from weakening.

(7) Protects Against Various Cancers

Eating prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very effective in reducing the risk of various types of cancers such as colon cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer etc.

This anticarcinogenic effect of prickly pears is because of its antioxidantal properties.

The antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A and other antioxidantal compounds such as polyphenolic, flavonoids and phytonutrients etc present in the prickly pears fights with the free radicals in our body, stabilizes them and prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our cells and tissues, and thereby minimizes the risk of various cancers.

Free radicals are the unstabilized ions that get formed in our body during the oxidation process. As these are unstabilized, so, they steal electrons from the neighboring molecules and while doing so, it causes oxidative damage to them.

(8) Promotes Weight Loss

Consuming prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for the people who are on a weight loss journey and would like to get rid of some extra pounds.

This benefit of prickly pears is mainly because of its low caloric value. Eating 100 grams of prickly pears provides around 41 calories of energy which means one can enjoy prickly pears in moderation without worrying about the weight gain.

In addition to this, the dietary fibers present in the prickly pears provides satiety to our system which means it keeps our stomach fuller for longer duration and decreases our urge to eat again and again. As overeating is a prime reason for obesity, so by controlling overeating, it helps in controlling obesity.

The dietary fibers also bind with the excessive dietary fat and eliminate it from our system in an efficient manner. This reduces the level of dietary fibers absorbed by the intestines and thus helps with the weight loss.

(9) Provides Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Eating prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for providing relief from the pain and inflammation associated with inflammatory problems such as gouts, arthritis, muscle strain, and rheumatism etc.

This benefit of prickly pears is because of the anti-inflammatory compounds such as vitamin C in it.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that not only protects our cells and tissues from the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals, but also reduces the inflammation of the cells and tissues, and the help with gouts and arthritis etc.

In addition to this other nutrients like vitamin B complex, vitamin A and magnesium etc. present in the prickly pears etc. also plays a significant role in fighting inflammation.

(10) Provides Essential Micronutrients

Consuming prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for providing essential micronutrients such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium etc to our system.

These vital micronutrients play an important role in keeping us healthy. They are required by our body for various physiological and metabolic processes.

(11) Fights Against Gastric Ulcers

Eating prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for reducing the risk of stomach ulcer and also helps in treating the same.

This benefit is because of the ability of prickly pears to improve our digestive health.

The antioxidants such as vitamin C protects our digestive system from the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals and also reduces inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach.

The betanin present in the prickly pears reduces the production of gastric mucus and thus helps in treating the gastric ulcer.

Additionally, the dietary fibers present in the prickly pears acts as a natural laxative which means it improves bowel movement and provides gastrointestinal benefits.

(12) Regulates Blood Sugar Level

Consuming prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for the people with diabetes and for the individuals who are at the risk of diabetes.

This benefit of prickly pears is because of its low glycemic index. Glycemic index of the food item is a scale from 0 to 100 that determines the rate at which a particular food item releases sugar into the bloodstream.

Glycemic index of prickly pears is low which means it releases sugar into the bloodstream at a slow rate and prevents a sudden spike in the blood sugar level and helps in managing diabetes.

Additionally, the dietary fibers in this fruit reduce the rate at which sugar gets absorbed by the bloodstream and keep blood sugar under control.

This fruit also decreases the intestinal absorption of glucose and manages diabetes.

(13) Keeps Our Liver Healthy

The liver is a vital organ that plays an important role in keeping us healthy as it performs many important functions in our body. Some important functions performed by the liver are the production and excretion of bile juice, production of cholesterol, hormone production, metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates etc.

For a healthy living, it is important to take good care of our liver, and prickly pears help in doing the same.

This benefit of prickly pears is mainly due to the presence of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A and other antioxidantal compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids and phytonutrients etc in them.

These antioxidants and the relevant compounds fight with the free radicals in our body, stabilize them and prevents them from causing oxidative damage to our vital organs such as liver and kidneys. They also play an important role in the proper elimination of toxins and other impurities from our system and maintains our liver health.

Vitamin C is also an anti-inflammatory compound that protects our liver from the inflammation, and thus reduces the risk of hepatitis.

Additionally, other nutrients like vitamins and minerals etc. also plays a significant role in keeping our liver healthy.

(14) Reduces Hangover

Another advantage of prickly pears is their ability to reduce the effects of a hangover. Prickly pears are anti-inflammatory in nature and reduce inflammation, and it reduces production of inflammatory mediators that induce uncomfortable feeling during alcohol hangover.

It also minimizes hangover symptoms such as dry mouth and nausea.

(15) Reduces Migraine Frequency

A migraine is a chronic inflammatory condition mainly characterized by a severe headache ( usually on one side of the head) along with other symptoms such as disturbed digestion and poor vision.

Eating prickly pears on a regular and moderate basis is very beneficial for reducing the frequency of migraines.

This benefit of prickly pear is mainly because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

The anti-inflammatory compounds such as vitamin C fights with the inflammation in our system and is very efficient in reducing the risk of migraine and also reduces the intensity of the same.

In addition to this, prickly pears are also rich in indicaxanthin, an anti-inflammatory compound that reduces the intensity and frequency of migraine.

(16) Alleviates Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Prickly pears are very beneficial for providing relief from the common symptoms experienced by the women during post menstrual syndrome (PMS). Some of these symptoms are craps, back pain, headaches, and breast tenderness.

This benefit of prickly pears is because of their ability to inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are the hormone-like chemical which is primarily responsible for the development of these symptoms during PMS.

Reference(s)

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/prickly-pears.html

https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/benefits-of-prickly-pear-for-skin-hair-and-health/

https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/prickly-pear.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opuntia

Disclaimer

The information contained in the post is for general purpose only and shouldn’t be considered as a medical advice or as an alternative to medical advice. Although I’ve tried my best to keep the information contained in this post as accurate and updated as possible, I make no guarantee of the accurateness of the same.

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