The fruit of the prickly pear cactus, known by the name cactus pear and prickly pear, is oval with a reddish-purple color. Also known as "tuna," the fruit ripens in late summer and early fall and has a granular consistency with a flavor reminiscent of watermelon. It's eaten raw or cooked and is used to make juice, jelly, candy and even flour. Add cactus fruit to your menu plan, and enjoy its nutritional benefits.
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Because of their protective properties, antioxidants are linked to reductions in certain degenerative diseases. Cactus fruit is full of antioxidants. These powerful substances help protect your body against free radicals -- unstable molecules that can damage cells. An article published in "Nutrients" in October 2013 noted studies on the cactus pear that revealed how its antioxidant activities may help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes.
Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate found only in plant foods. Although your body can't digest fiber, it plays a crucial role in your health. Dietary fiber is linked to prevention of some types of cancer. It contributes to lower blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels and helps prevent constipation. One cactus fruit, just under 4 ounces, contains 3.7 grams of fiber, which is approximately 15 percent of the daily value set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet.
Your body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, with 50 percent to 60 percent residing in your bones and most of the rest in your soft tissues. Magnesium performs many crucial functions. It's required for proper bone development and energy production. It's also needed for protein production, muscle and nerve functions, stable blood sugar levels and blood pressure regulation. A 4-ounce cactus fruit contains approximately 88 milligrams of magnesium, or 22 percent of the DV set by the FDA.
Vital Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also called L-ascorbic acid, must be consumed through foods, food additives or supplements, since your body can't produce it. Yet, getting enough vitamin C is vital for good health, as it plays an important role in the development of collagen, an essential component of connective tissue necessary for healing. It contributes to proper protein metabolism and neurotransmitter functions. A 4-ounce cactus fruit contains approximately 14 milligrams of vitamin C, or 23 percent of the DV set by the FDA.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Prickly Pears, Raw
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide
- Nutrients: Antioxidant and Anticlastogenic Capacity of Prickly Pear Juice
- Columbia University: Go Ask Alice!: Antioxidants
- University of Arizona Cooperative Extension: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dietary Fiber
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Utah State University Cooperative Extension: Prickly Pear Cactus