Top Prickly Pear Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 10/03/22 •  11 min read

What are prickly pear benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are prickly pear pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

prickly pear benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on prickly pear benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about prickly pear benefits and side effects. This will include prickly pear benefits for your health and potential risks, prickly pear water footprint and carbon footprint, sustainability, if prickly pears are vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if prickly pears are good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about prickly pear benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Top Prickly Pear Benefits And Side Effects

Health

Prickly pear health benefits may include:

Prickly pears are…

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Environment

Water footprint: low, it takes 967 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of fruits / 116 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of fruits

Carbon footprint: low, 0.9 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fruits, a car driving equivalent of 2 miles or 3.25 kilometers

Destruction: low, prickly pear production is relatively sustainable, there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc.

Prickly pears are…

Animals

Kills: none, prickly pear production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, prickly pear production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from prickly pear production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Prickly pears are…

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Laborers

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Prickly pears…

The prickly pear cactus is native to the United States, Mexico, and South America, but grows in Africa, Australia, and the Mediterranean. The world’s top prickly pear exporting country is Canada, followed by USA, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Poland, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Germany and Greece.

Prickly pears are high in fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids.

Other names for prickly pears are cactus pears, nopal and opuntia.

prickly pears are gluten free.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Are prickly pears gluten free?

Yes, prickly pears are gluten free. Prickly pears do not contain gluten. Prickly pears are a type of fruit, therefore making it a naturally gluten free food. 

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include: recurring abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, tingling, numbness in hands and feet, chronic fatigue, joint pain, unexplained infertility and low bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis).

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

prickly pears are not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Are prickly pears a common food allergen?

No, prickly pears are not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to prickly pears but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods is often referred to as the Big-8 and includes milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. 

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

prickly pears likely have a low water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Do prickly pears have a high or low water footprint?

Prickly pears likely have a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of prickly pears?

It takes 967 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of fruits / 116 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of fruits.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource? Once it’s gone, it’s gone!

We must do what we can to conserve fresh water and a major way to reduce needless water consumption is to change the way we eat. That’s not to say we need to reduce our water intake….quite the opposite. It’s important for our health to drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate. The kind of water conservation we’re talking about here is behind the scenes.

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

prickly pears likely have a low carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Do prickly pears have a high or low carbon footprint?

Prickly pears likely have a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of prickly pears? It takes around 0.9 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fruits, a car driving equivalent of 2 miles or 3.25 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating product emissions, some factors that may be included are… farm equipment, animal feed production, hothouses (greenhouses), food processing, packaging, transport, refrigeration, freezing, package waste, and more.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

prickly pears are sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, are prickly pears eco friendly? Are prickly pears sustainable?

Prickly pear production is relatively sustainable since there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used. Be sure to buy non GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc. when using regenerative practices.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

prickly pears are vegan.

benefits of vegan food to eat on a vegan diet which helps save animals

Are prickly pears vegan?

Yes, prickly pears are vegan. Prickly pears are a fruit and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. 

Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

prickly pears may or may not have labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Are prickly pears a product with laborer concerns?

At this time there are no major concerns with prickly pear production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening! It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Some problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks.

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

Conclusion

Prickly pear pros include:

Prickly pear cons include:

Sources:

Prickly pears, raw – FoodData Central – USDA

Field Guide for Managing Prickly Pear – USDA Forest Service

Cactus Pear Could be the Sustainable Food and Fuel Crop

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.

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