Did you know that the cactus fruit is also known as Prickly Pear? Well, now, you know. The fruits are quite sweet, and you can eat them raw. They range from green (slightly sour) to red (very sweet). Some are even orange. The fruits, however, are prickly and have splinters that easily stick to your skin. It is recommended that you wear leather gloves when picking them.
Cactus can be grown indoors or outdoors. They are fascinating plants that make a great addition to your home’s decor. The fact that you can eat the fruits should even be more exciting. These fantastic plants also have health benefits. Interesting Health Benefits You Should Know About Cactus Fruits:
1. Can lower cholesterol levels
The prickly pear is high in fiber. It can reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. According to research, the intake of cactus fruits reduces body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels significantly.
Usually, cholesterol is good for building healthy cells. However, high levels of it come with complications. It puts you at risk of heart diseases such as stroke, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease.
A healthy lifestyle is recommended to lower cholesterol levels, and incorporating cactus fruits can help as well.
2. It is an excellent source of micronutrients
There are essential micronutrients found in the Prickly Pear. The fruit contains iron, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and vitamin B6. Out of these nutrients, the ones highest in percentage are vitamin C and magnesium.
One cup of the Prickly Pear contains the following nutrients:
- 14 calories
- 3g carbs
- 1g protein
- Less than 1 g of fat
- 2g fiber
- 20mcg vitamin A
- 8 mg vitamin C
- 4.6 mcg vitamin K
- 1g sugar
- 141mg calcium
The red and purple fruits have the highest antioxidants that contain anti-inflammatory properties.
3. It could be the secret to weight control
According to a report by America Health Rankings, 31.3% of America’s population is obese. Adults who are overweight are at risk of having advanced health conditions such as osteoarthritis, some types of cancer, diabetes, mental illnesses, and so on.
Obesity is a global problem that needs to be contained early enough. Instead of going for shortcuts, such as undergoing surgery, there are healthier ways of getting leaner. A possible solution to obesity could be just consuming lots of fiber. The cactus fruits are rich in fiber, and eating them gets you full for longer and reduces the chances of frequent hunger pangs.
Compared to most fruits, the cactus ones are low in carbs as it only contains 9.9 grams of carbs, which also includes 3.7 grams of fiber. It only has 42 calories.
Also, the fiber in the fruits helps eliminate dietary fat through excretion from the body system. Since the intestines don’t absorb any of the dietary fat, it’s easier during your weight loss journey.
The fruit can be used in fruit juices, smoothies, pancakes or desserts.
During three-month clinical research, cactus fiber resulted in weight loss. The intake of the fiber resulted in reduced energy absorption, which ultimately led to bodyweight reduction.
4. It prevents gastric ulcers
Gastric ulcers are usually painful sores usually in the stomach lining. They mostly occur when the layer (usually thick) of mucus reduces. This particular lining protects the stomach from digestive juices.
Once the lining becomes thin, the digestive acids will usually eat away the tissues on the stomach lining, which in turn causes gastric ulcers.
Some common signs and symptoms are nausea, heartburn, anemia, weight loss, vomiting, among others.
The cactus fruit contains a compound known as betanin. For people with ulcers, consuming the cactus fruit has a positive effect on gastric mucosa, which leads to its regulation and the reduction of pro-inflammatory chemicals. According to research, the intake of betanin resulted in reduced stress lesions and reduced the decrease in the gastric mucosa.
5. The prevents inflammation
This particular fruit is known for its anti-inflammatory strengths. In simple terms, inflammation is the body’s response to injuries. It is more of how the body signals the immune system to repair any damaged tissues as well as defending it against bacteria and viruses.
If the inflammation goes on for long, it could lead to advanced problems. For example, it has been linked to stroke and heart diseases. In most cases, a healthy diet could help control inflammation.
Before you decide on taking pills due to chronic inflammation, you could consider your diet. You could incorporate the Prickly Pear in your meals.
A study by the Food & Nutrition Research for two weeks that involved 28 volunteers who underwent a controlled feeding involving the cactus fruit was conducted. The study subsequently showed an increase in dermal carotenoids. The nutrients in the fruit improve your immune system and protect you from the side effects of chronic inflammation.
6. It lowers blood sugar levels
Another interesting fact about the Prickly Pear is its hypoglycemic ability. It can lower high blood glucose levels. Different experiments have suggested that the intestinal absorption of glucose significantly decreases. The pectin and fiber in the fruit are what facilitates this. It’s easy to manage type II diabetes once the sugar levels are under control.
It doesn’t mean that the cactus fruit alone can cure diabetes. The idea is adding it to your diet helps in normalizing the blood sugar levels. You can make it into juice. Make sure when buying any cactus juice, get the unprocessed ones. The best of them all is, if you live near a place with cactus, you could harvest them on your own and make your juice. Be sure to avoid the spines pricking you.
7. Boosts the immune system
We all agree that eating or drinking products that boost our immune system are an advantage for the body. You will be less susceptible to illnesses as your body toughens up to fight disease-causing organisms.
The good news is that cactus fruits are great immune system boosters. They contain Vitamin C, which is responsible for the body’s growth.
Vitamin C has various benefits regarding body growth:
- Absorbing iron
- Bone, teeth and cartilage maintenance
- Healing wounds
- Repairing body tissues
Intake of Vitamin C leads to increased production of white blood cells, which eliminate disease-causing organisms.
8. Protects people from heart diseases
As we had mentioned, the fruit is high in fiber, which reduces cholesterol levels hence reducing risks of obesity. The fiber content also maintains the body’s blood pressure.
One in every four U.S. citizen dies of heart diseases.
Heart diseases are quite many. Here are a few:
- Congenital heart disease
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Coronary artery disease
- Pulmonary stenosis
High levels of cholesterol can cause heart diseases, which is why you need to keep it low. The antioxidants found in the fruit help in cardiovascular health. The flavonoids present in the Prickly Pear help the blood platelets keep the heart in good shape.
9. Colon cleansing
The high fiber content in cactus is not only for weight loss and lowering cholesterol levels but also helps in cleansing the colon. It helps regulate the normal function of the colon.
Once glucose is absorbed, excess bile and unhealthy fats are excreted from the body. Usually, the colon is prone to inflammation but consumption of the cactus fruits that contain antioxidants to eliminate any inflammation compounds.
Taking cactus juices and smoothies is an excellent option of naturally cleansing your colon.
Why cleanse the colon? It could help with issues to do with irregular bowel movements and constipation.
Apart from the cactus fruit, there are other natural ways of performing a colon cleanse:
- Water flush: people who use this method of cleansing the colon recommend about 6-8 glasses of warm water daily. You can also eat foods known to have high water content such as watermelons, celery, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- High-fiber diet: Plants that are high in fiber and cellulose aid in removing excess matter in the colon. They also help in the regulation of overactive bowels and constipation. Such products are nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits (such as cactus fruits.)
- Saltwater flush: Saltwater could potentially cleanse the colon only when paired in some strategic yoga poses. The saltwater flush is excellent for people who frequently experience constipation. Immediately you wake up in the morning, mix two teaspoons of salt (preferably Himalayan salt or sea salt) with warm water. Make sure you drink it on an empty stomach. What happens is, after a few minutes, you’ll feel like using the washroom. You can do this every morning and evening.
- Herbal teas: these have been known to work wonders as well, improving the digestive health and overall cleansing the colon. They may include but not limited to aloe vera, marshmallow root, ginger, garlic, slippery elm, and psyllium. Before taking them, make sure you talk to your doctor. Also, use sparingly and don’t overindulge.
10. Preventing liver damage
The liver is an integral part of the body, and if not taken care of could be detrimental to the overall physical health. Its primary function is filtering out blood from the digestive tract. It also metabolizes drugs and detoxifies chemicals.
Watching what we eat is crucial for the liver’s health as sometimes we may consume carcinogens that could end up hurting the liver. However, the fact that the cactus fruit contains antioxidants that in turn reduce the oxidative stress that’s usually caused by compounds on the liver. It then exerts hepatoprotective activity, which is mainly involved in doing away with free radicals and in increasing the antioxidant activity against these compounds.
This will help protect you from diseases associated with the liver, such as:
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
- Hepatitis A, B & C
11. Soothes the stomach
The Prickly Pear is an excellent dietary supplement for cleansing the stomach and improving bowel movements. The antioxidants present in the fruit help in improving the stomach’s health.
Changes in bowel movements can be a result of an underlying illness. Some common bowel habits include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)( common symptoms are constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating)
- Thyroid disorders
- Ulcerative colitis
12. It reduces the frequencies of migraines
A migraine is a recurring headache that often affects one side of the head and is sometimes coupled with nausea and blurry vision.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the third most prevalent illness globally. It is common between the ages of 18 and 44. Most of those who suffer from migraines, 90% of them have a family history of migraines.
Some common triggers of migraines:
- Some types of foods such as alcohol, aged cheese, food additives such as nitrates in hot dogs, and lunchmeat.
- Stress is also a contributing factor. When you get stressed, your brain is capable of producing chemicals that in turn, lead to changes in the blood vessels, causing the migraine.
- Caffeine: too much consumption or withdrawing can usually cause the migraines because the blood vessels are so used to it.
- Changes in weather.
- Skipping your meals.
- Changing your sleep pattern.
Anti-inflammatory compounds are necessary to stabilize the migraine. These compounds are found largely in the cactus fruit. Regular consumption helps control the migraines by reducing the frequency and intensity.
There are other recommended home remedies for migraines. The list below points out some remedies you can craft comfortably at home:
- Putting an ice pack on your forehead
- You can use painkillers
- Regular workouts
- Magnesium which is found in cactus fruits, nuts, and whole grains
- A good night’s rest of 7-8 hours
- Knowing what triggers it and avoid it such as avoiding certain foods like curated meat
13. Want healthy looking nails? Here’s the answer
Your fingernails are a clear indication of your health. A change in how the nails look is a clear indication of a deficiency of nutrients.
Dry and damaged nails are a common occurrence and often tend to keep breaking. Even as there are many remedies, some seem not to work. The good news is, the oil extracted from the cactus fruit helps moisturize the damaged nails. The oil contains palmitic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid.
A study was done to establish the fatty acid oils present in the oil. The results showed that Linoleic acid was highest in percentage having 61.01%) followed by oleic with 25.52% and lastly palmitic with 12.23%.
Apart from the fatty acids, there are other nutrients you need. Biotin, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, protein, and zinc. A combination of these helps you have healthy nails.
14. Want stronger bones and teeth?
Having strong bones and teeth is right for your general health. Calcium is needed to keep them healthy. Most of it is stored in the bones and teeth, making it crucial to eat foods with calcium.
Most often, calcium deficiency may cause osteoporosis causing the bones and teeth to become weak. You’ll notice teeth becoming week and falling out.
“Porous bone” as it is commonly referred to is usually a bone disease that’s prevalent when the body loses significant bones. Often, when you view a bone using a microscope, you’ll notice the healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. However, if the bone is not healthy, the holes in the ‘honeycomb’ will be bigger.
Osteoporosis makes bones become so brittle that even mild straining such as coughing could cause a fracture. It affects both genders though it’s more common to older women who’ve hit menopause.
- Bones that break easily
- Stooped posture
- Back pain caused by a fractured vertebra
- A loss of height gradually
The cactus fruit helps your bones and teeth become stronger and reduces the chances of osteoporosis.
Here’s a list of the recommended calcium intakes daily recommended by the Institute of Medicine:
- Men 70 years and younger: 1000mg daily
- Women 50 years and younger: 1000mg daily
- Men over 70: 1200mg daily
- Women over 50: 1000mg daily
Take lots of food that contain calcium for improved and stronger teeth and bones. Balance your diet such that it has enough calcium. However, if it’s not enough, the cactus fruits can come in handy as well as nuts, leafy green vegetables, and beans.
There is also an option of taking supplements to increase your calcium intake and prevent the risk of bone loss. However, be on the lookout and make sure what you choose is safe.
15. Reduces chances of stroke
Metabolic syndrome continues to cause a series of deaths annually. According to research done, involving 68 women suffering from metabolic syndrome, cactus cured the metabolic syndrome for 8% of the group. Day 14 also recorded low cholesterol levels of 42 of the women.
A stroke occurs when a section of the brain loses blood supply, which in turn stops working. We have two types of stroke: Ischemic stroke that occurs when part of the brain completely loses blood flow and the hemorrhagic stroke where bleeding occurs within the brain.
Some common signs of stroke are:
- Vision loss
- Loss of balance, dizziness, and trouble walking
- Sudden severe headache
- Confusion and difficulty talking
Once you notice these signs from your loved ones, call 9-1-1 immediately.
16. Having a hangover? Not anymore!
As unbelievable as it sounds, the cactus fruits can reduce the effects that come with having a hangover. A night out with friends Alcohol hangovers usually occur due to dehydration. The cactus fruit is capable of significantly reducing the symptoms associated with hangovers. A study done at Tulane Health Sciences Center of people who drank took the cactus extract before a night out reported showed a significantly lower effect of the hangover in the morning. They reported that expected nausea, headache, and food aversion were less severe.
There are also supplements available that are from this particular fruit, and you can alternatively use them.
Usually, when you consume alcohol, the body produces free radicals that may damage the cells. The Prickly Pear, being an antioxidant, will protect the lipid from any damages as the body gradually breaks down the alcohol.
17. Skin anti-aging
Cactus fruits contain vitamin E and K, which are responsible for keeping the skin rejuvenated. They also have fatty acids that nourish and hydrate the skin. They generally prevent fine lines and wrinkles from forming.
As much as we can’t run away from aging, but we can always delay the process naturally. As the world continues to evolve today, more and more remedies come up to help in anti-aging. However, not all of them are ideal, and some can be quite harmful. Strive to use natural remedies that won’t have side effects.
Some common remedies are:
- Eating cactus fruits
- Coconut and olive oil
- Banana mask
- Egg white mask
- Aloe vera gel
18. Reducing dark circles
Cactus fruit has the capability of reducing dark circles that generally form around the eyes. Due to the presence of fatty acids in the fruits which make the cactus seed oil, they help in nourishing and brightening the skin. In turn, they end up brightening the eye area and the dark circles as well.
Dark circles can be caused by:
Extreme fatigue or having less sleep will cause dark circles around your eyes. The skin can sometimes become pale and dull to an extent your blood vessels become evident. Oversleeping can also cause dark circles
- Straining your eyes
Extended watching of the television or working on your PC can cause dark circles around your eyes. Try taking a break from the TV and PC to avoid this.
- Allergic reactions
Some people experience allergic reactions when they eat or touch something they are allergic to. Such reactions can sometimes trigger the dark circles. They may even make the skin itchy which could push people to start scratching, which in turn could cause swelling under the eyes.
Keeping your body hydrated all the time is very important. Taking the recommended glasses of water daily should help your body stay hydrated. However, if you deprive it of water, it becomes dehydrated and can sometimes cause dark circles.
- Overexposure to the sun
Sunlight is healthy for our bodies. However, too much of it can cause dark circles, especially around your eyes. Overexposure makes the body produce excess melanin, which in turn, pigments.
Some of the recommended remedies apart from taking the Prickly Pear are getting enough sleep, soaking your eyes with tea bags and applying a cold press.
19. Wound healing
As results of some researches done show that the Prickly Pear contains phenolic compounds, it shows that there’s a natural remedy for healing wounds. The compounds exert antioxidant skin effects and help to repair the skin in case of any damages.
The oil extracted from the fruit helps, especially if you apply regularly. Apply till you get the desired results, especially for skin blemishes.
20. Nourishing the hair
As mentioned before, the oil extracted from the fruits contains fatty acids that help rejuvenate the skin. Similarly, when used on the hair, it helps nourish the hair and scalp by providing the oils for its growth.
21. Can be used as a hair conditioner
Instead of continually buying some overpriced hair conditioner, it is possible to make your own. Mix the cactus fruit with cucumber, coconut oil, and coconut milk. Blend everything and let the mixture sit for about 20-30 minutes before using it.
Upon applying the mixture on your hair and scalp, it’ll leave it looking shiny and soft. It even protects the hair from the scorching heat during summer.
As shocking as the above health benefits about cactus fruits are, always remember that if you are looking to purchase a cactus, ensure you learn how to take care of it. Proper care of the plant will reward you with the above benefits. However, it is important to consult a doctor before taking any natural remedies.