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Prickly pear, also called nopal cactus, Indian fig, barbary fig, opuntia, westwood pear and tuna Cardona is a type of edible cactus found in the Mediterranean, North American deserts, Southwest US and Mexico, as well as in other countries of Central and South America.

The fruits of prickly pear are brightly colored, usually deep yellow, red or pink, and they are round or oval on top or on the sides of flat, wide branches characteristic for cacti. They have tiny, hair-like spines that easily pierce the skin and should be removed, along with the skin, before the consumption. The pulp can be yellow or orange, sometimes almost red, with round dark seeds.

Prickly pears can be used to make juice, and some people prefer it that way, because the juice does not contain the seeds, which may be difficult to chew.

Health benefits of prickly pear juice

Prickly pear juice contains plenty of antioxidants, which search for free radicals and repair the damage they cause to the cells and tissues. Antioxidants are very important in the prevention and battle against cancer and other serious diseases.

As for vitamins and minerals, this juice is rich in almost all the essential nutrients, especially in potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. It also contains plenty of dietary fiber and lots of vitamin A.

Of all cactuses, this particular one is the only one that contains all 24 betalains. Betalains are potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants, which is why this fruit is recommended for those who suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, for example arthritis.

Some types of prickly pear, especially Opuntia streptacantha, have the ability to lower the blood sugar levels and are recommended for diabetics.

Prickly pear juice is also an excellent cure for hangover. It also helps with anorexia, nausea and dry mouth.

How to make prickly pear syrup

Prickly pear syrup is a great way to enjoy this fruit and its health benefits, because it can be diluted with water so it lasts longer. The recipe for this syrup requires 20 prickly pears, with their spines and peel removed. The pulp should be chopped and placed in a food processor so it blends.

The pulp should then be strained using a cheesecloth or a similar item. The juice obtained this way should be sweetened with half a cup of sugar and left to simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. After this, the juice of one lemon is added to it and the mixture is poured into clean glass bottles, left to cool off and then refrigerated.

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