09 May Prickly Pear — What You Need to Know About This Aztec Superfood
One of the latest superfoods to create a buzz in the health and wellness community is prickly pear. The popularity of superfoods has been exponentially growing over the last decade. People are waking up to the importance of healthy eating, but the idea to merely rely on nutritional supplements does not appeal to all. Neither does everyone agrees with the theory that taking supplements is the best way to receive nutrients. Nothing beats a whole-food, plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts, with very little farm-raised meat products. A plant-based diet, however, can still lack specific nutrients, which is where superfoods come in. By incorporating superfoods into the diet, you are consuming high amounts of vitamins in their purest form.
Have you ever had wheatgrass shots or a handful of goji or acai berries? If you have, you’re already enjoying a few of the worlds potent superfoods. Some health experts consider some of the more ‘common’ foods to be superfoods as well, such as kale, almonds, avocados, and cauliflower. By definition, a lot of foods can be called superfoods because many whole-foods are high in nutrients. Practically, the term superfood is useful when describing healthy foods that are lesser known to the majority of the world. Knowledge about these foods took its time to reach first the health-conscious community, and later the masses.
What You Need to Know About Prickly Pear
Prickly pears are actually a part of a cactus called Indian Fig Opuntia. It has three parts—nopals (the green vegetable-like pads of the cactus), the flowers, and the fruits. The fruits are the prickly pears, which are the red rounded top parts of this cactus. This cactus is native to the Americas and is a popular culinary cactus in Mexico. With its increased popularity it is also now quite popular in the Mediterranean as well.
Archaeologists have found human remains that showed this food consumed as far back as 65 B.C. Since the pre-Columbian time, it has been recorded used by the Aztec people. The Aztecs have used prickly pear cactus for food, firewood, building materials, and making glue. It is not as common in North America today, but it is found in stores and restaurants of Arizona.
When farmers experimented with growing prickly pear fruit in the U.S. in 1908, they found that it brought an enormous harvest without much work, and its juice can even be used as non-toxic food coloring. The one issue they ran into is that this fruit must be harvested by hand. No machinery has been able to successfully do the job. This problem has halted growing prickly pear in the U.S.
A century later, this fruit is again gaining popularity being recognized as a great health food and a highly-hydrating drink. It also may become more commonly cultivated as it is easy to grow in harsh soil and hot, dry climate. It is a real gift from the earth.
Health Benefits of Prickly Pear
Prickly pears are rich in vitamins B and C, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. They contain potent antioxidants, promote detoxification, fight inflammation, and improve the
Here is every benefit that it can provide for you:
- Promote clear skin
- Improve sleep
- Reduce or eliminate cramps
- Reduce inflammation
- Boost the immune system
- Hydrate the cells
- Improve cellular function
- Remove skin puffiness
- Repair muscle tissue
- Strengthen nails and hair
- Improve bone and teeth health
- Aid digestion
- Prevent heart disease and cancer
A Great (And Perhaps Better) Way to Hydrate
Bioengineer Dr. Gerald Pollack has changed the way the health community thinks about hydration through providing the world with his groundbreaking research on the previously unknown fourth state of water. According to his research—besides solid, liquid, and gas—there is another state of water called gel water. It is also known as structured water and exclusion zone (EZ) water.
Astoundingly, Dr. Pollack estimated that up to 90% of water in our bodies comes from gel water. It is no wonder that almost 75% of Americans are dehydrated, and purely drinking more water does not seem to do the trick when it comes to proper hydration.
What we could be missing is gel water. Cultures like the Aztecs and the Incas survived from getting gel water from cacti like the prickly pear. Cactus water derived from the prickly pear is better absorbed by our bodies. It does wonders for the health of skin, nerves, muscles, and organs. It also fights free radicals and protects the body from many harmful effects of pollution.
It is also beneficial for rejuvenating your body when you are feeling sick or tired from working out.
Where to Find Prickly Pear
Raw prickly pear can be found in local grocery stores and fruit markets in Arizona, Mexico, and the Middle East as well as in select specialty stores around North America.
If fresh prickly pear is not available in your area, it can be bought online as a puree that can be added to smoothies and health shakes, syrup to use as a sweetener or adding flavor, or powder to add to dishes. After fresh fruit, the powdered version contains the most nutrients.
How to Consume Prickly Pear
Prickly pear fruit is usually described as tasting ‘fruity’ as its flavor differs depending on the variety—15 different species are found in Arizona’s desserts alone. As is stated above, it can be eaten raw, mixed into fresh lemonade and smoothies, or prepared as a syrup to be used as a culinary dressing in salads or a glaze in desserts like crepes, lemon bars, and cookies.
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