Benefits of Cactus leaf in the diet January 24 2016, 10 Comments
Prickly pear cactus, a member of the genus Opuntia, also known as nopal cactus or nopales when prepared and diced, grows in warm, arid parts of the world. It produces leaves -- actually flattened stems known as pads -- between four to 16 inches long. Prickly pear offers a variety of practical benefits. For example, the sap from the pads repels mosquitoes and is a remedy for minor cuts and burns, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. Cactus leaf also offers certain nutritional and other health benefits, including:
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Activity
Including cactus leaf in your diet may boost your antioxidant levels, according to a study published in the January 2006 "Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology." Researchers found that prickly pear cactus demonstrated strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Prickly pear cactus leaf offers potential anticancer benefits, according to a tissue-culture study published in the February 2013 issue of the journal "Food and Function." Antioxidants and other active components of prickly pear induced early cell death in human breast and colon cancer cells, with a more pronounced effect occurring in colon cancer cells. Prickly pear also showed robust anti-inflammatory activity that might prevent cell damage and contribute to its anticancer benefits.
Blood Sugar Control
Cactus leaf combined with exercise improved insulin sensitivity -- the appropriate response of cells to insulin -- in an animal study published in the March 2013 "International Journal of Molecular Science." Results showed that a group that ate diets supplemented with 5 percent prickly pear cactus by weight and participated in a swimming program had significantly lower blood sugar and fasting insulin levels compared to a group that ate a high-fat diet and did not exercise. Prickly pear also activated a gene that increases metabolic activity and fat burning.
To prepare fresh cactus leaf, scrape the spines off and peel back the skin to reveal the fleshy meat. Add fresh prickly pear cactus leaf, which has a flavor similar to that of green beans, to vegetable and fruit salads, soups or omelettes. You can also boil or fry cactus leaf.
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