Reviewing the prospects of Opuntia pears as low cost functional foods
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Opuntia (prickly pear) is a genus of xerophytes belonging to the Cactaceae family, growing luxuriantly in the arid parts of the world. Recently, the pears of Opuntia have been discovered to contain a plethora of biologically active compounds. Owing to their high nutritional value, in terms of dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich oil, minerals, protein, and an assortment of other phytochemicals, the pears are gaining popularity as exotic, gourmet diet. Multiple health benefits viz. antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiuretic, hypocholesterolemic, antidiabetic, antiproliferation, immunostimulatory and antiulcerogenic activity have emerged. The review summarizes the nutraceutical aspects of the pears and the possible strategies to minimize their postharvest loss. Rich in functional ingredients, these pears are expected to revolutionize the processed foods industry and solve food scarcity in developing countries. However, no significant attempt has yet been made to benefit from this potential nutritive storehouse. This review is prepared with a vision to bolster its status as a viable food and drug supplement.