Phytochemical characterization of prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) and of its nutritional and functional properties: A review
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Prickly pear is the fruit of the nopal cactus; native from Mexico, where approximately 80 species and 150 cultivars are harvested. Production of prickly pear has been expanded to more than 30 countries. In Latin America, almost 511,035 Ton per year of prickly pear are harvested, which represents more than 50% of the worldwide production of this fruit. There are studies that have demonstrated its importance as a source of nutritional and functional compounds that provide antioxidant, antiatherogenic, antiulcerogenic, immunomodulatory and anticarcinogenic properties. Prickly pear is commonly consumed fresh, since the pulp is the edible portion; while peel and seeds are discarded as waste, these residuals contain minerals, dietary fiber, phenolics, and flavonoids in higher levels than the pulp, which could be used as a source of functional ingredients. There are findings related to the phytochemical composition of the prickly pear with functional effects, and further clinical studies are still needed in order to determine the mechanisms of action of these compounds, which could provide a greater added value to this fruit in the health area. © 2014 Bentham Science Publishers.