In the most memorable song from Disney's 1967 movie "The Jungle Book," Baloo the bear teaches young Mowgli the ins and outs of enjoying an exotic (but potentially menacing) prickly pear. Baloo sings: "Now, when you pick a paw paw or a prickly pear, and you prick a raw paw, next time beware. Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw. When you pick a pear, try to use the claw."
Luckily, you don't have to forage for your own prickly pear, but we do recommend that you try to get your paws on some. A few studies show this spiny fruit of the nopales cactus to be protective against DNA mutations that can spark health problems. They're packed with vitamins, including A and C, which boost immunity and support skin, teeth and eye health. They're also fiber-rich, which is good for the health of your gut biome. In two small studies of people with Type 2 diabetes, those who ate steamed prickly pear with a high-carbohydrate meal had lower blood sugar levels post-meal.
So enjoy these oddly named fruits -- called "tuna" in Spanish, "prickly pear" in English -- by cutting them in half and eating the flesh and seeds, or by adding to sauces and smoothies. And don't overlook the cactus's flat green pads (called "nopalitos"). Just make sure every single tiny spine is removed and avoid thick, mature pads, which are rough and flavorless. Then chop them up and add to tacos, toss into a salad or scramble them up with some eggs.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.