Chef Rick Bayless is a world renowned specialist in Mexican cuisine. Here is one of his phenomenal recipes using cactus....
By Eun Jae Park
The nopal cactus is a staple food that has existed in the native Meso-American diet for more than 12,000 years, and it offers a nutritious supplement to many traditional Mexican dishes. Although there are over 200 edible varieties of the nopal cactus, the broad-leafed vegetable pads of the Opuntia ficus-indica species are most utilized in Mexican cuisine. Nopal cactus pads can be served raw, stir-fried, dried, or pickled and are commonly prepared as side dishes, salads, taco fillings, or omelets. Slimy, citrusy, and slightly sweet, nopal is a unique vegetable that can be an acquired taste.
In addition, nopal has been extensively studied for its potential health benefits. According to studies conducted by University of California, Los Angeles, nopal is effective in reducing LDL cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol—and regulating blood sugar for diabetic patients. In addition, 15 percent of nopal’s weight is fiber, making it a great food to manage gastrointestinal tract movement.
Often referred to as “prickly pears” in the United States, nopal pads are being cultivated in Mexico and border-states such as California and Arizona for commercial export. Farmers, chefs, medical researchers, and consumers are recognizing the benefits of nopal and demand has tremendously increased in recent years. The cactus industry in Mexico alone is worth $150 million and employs 10,000 workers.
Read more about the health benefits of nopal cactus.
When 85 g of nopal was added to typical Mexican breakfasts, it reduced glucose levels for several hours and favorably altered the glycemic index of 3 different test breakfasts among 36 patients with type 2 diabetes.
May. 17, 2011 - 2:33 - The Medicine Hunter and Dr. Manny visit Toloache in New York City to find out how eating cactus can boost your health and wellness.
Cactus leaf, known also as nopal, prickly pear cactus or its scientific name, Opuntia, has been a food staple in Latin America for centuries. It is a common vegetable served in eggs, salads, chili and stir-fry dishes. Although the thought of eating cactus leaf may make you shiver, you may reconsider once you look at all of its health benefits.
Prickly pear cactus, also called nopal, is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It is also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.09 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.2 g||5.5%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.167 mg||3%|
|Vitamin C||9.3 mg||15.5%|
|Vitamin A||457 IU||15%|
|Vitamin E||0.00 mg||0%|
|Vitamin K||5.3 µg||4.4%|