Nopales are spectacularly healthy type of cacti with a wide range of health benefits including its ability to aid in weight loss, prevent cancer, improve skin health, protect heart health, regulate and improve digestion, boost the immune system, optimize metabolic activity, build strong bones, cure insomnia, and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Nutritional Value of Nopales
The wealth of health benefits that come from nopales are mainly attributable to its nutrition and vitamin content, which includes riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, iron, fiber, vitamin-A, C, K, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It is also an important source of certain organic compounds like phytochemicals and certain polysaccharides that also contribute to the health boosting power of nopales.
Health Benefits of Nopales
Digestion: Nopales are forms of cacti, so they are very fibrous and contain a great deal of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is essential in the digestive process, because it adds bulk to bowel movements that make them easier to pass through the smooth muscles of the digestive tract.
Weight Loss: There are a number of components within nopales which can aid in weight loss. First, fiber can make the body feel full and inhibit the release of ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone, so overeating is reduced. Secondly, this plant is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, but it is packed with metabolic potential, so the body works at a higher level without gaining weight.
Cancer Prevention: The variety of phytochemicals, flavonoid compounds, vitamin-C, and other antioxidants found in nopales make it extremely beneficial for the entire immune system, particularly when it comes to various cancers.
Metabolic Activity: One of the most important aspects of nopales in terms of health is its mineral and vitamin content. Nopales contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin-B6, all of which are vital components of cellular metabolism and normal, regulated enzyme function throughout the body.
Builds Strong Bones: The mineral content of this powerful cactus leaf includes a modest level of calcium, which is an essential part of building strong bones and repairing bones after being damaged.
Improve Sleep: This plant also contains magnesium,which is a useful mineral for inducing feelings of sleep for people suffering from insomnia, chronic anxiety or restlessness. It induces the release of serotonin in the body, which results in increased melatonin levels.
Inflammation: The juice that is taken out of the pickle pear leaves of nopales has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on a variety of body parts, including those symptoms associated with arthritis, injury, joint pain, and muscle strain.
Skin Health: The phytochemical and antioxidant characteristics of nopales make them a good defensive mechanism against premature aging symptoms, like wrinkles and age spots.
Diabetes: The extracts from the leaves of prickly pear cactus can be powerful regulators of glucose levels within the body. For patients with type 2 diabetes, it can cause a reduced spike in glucose levels following eating, which makes the management of diabetes easier.
For this Cinco de Mayo, we’re skipping the carne asada and enchiladas and swapping them for a more traditional ingredient: cactus.
The nopal cactus, also known as “prickly pear,” is a plant native to the mountains of Mexico. It has been used as both a food and for its medicinal benefits by the native peoples of that region since ancient times. It has been widely valued for its nutrition and vitamin content, which includes riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, iron, fiber, vitamin-A, C, K, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It’s high content of dietary fiber makes it widely used to aid in digestion.
If your grocery store or farmers market doesn’t sell cactus, you can find it at most Latin grocery stores in the produce aisle, either whole or already prepped and chopped. (My local Whole Foods is selling bags of already chopped cactus for Cino de Mayo).
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.
Wanna try Cactus Soup? My first reaction was, "Yucks!" Somehow, the staff at Kin Yan Agrotech managed to convince me to pour the mini cup-size soup into my mouth. The next thing I knew, I was totally intoxicated by the delicious soup!
Ingredients: Stew meat... beef or pork or local favorite 1/2 to one pound of nopales cactus prepared and diced sliced carrots a can of sweet corn (or fresh if available) two, three or four pickled or fresh jalapeno peppers (or to taste) three cloves or more (to taste) of garlic one to four medium onions one half bunch of cilantro (or more is better) a tender squash or three quarter cup of olive oil couple dashes of salt and some ground black pepper will add flavor
Cooked and hot Rice or barley to serve the nopales over
Brown the meat in olive or vegetable oil, you can add bacon strips if you like more fat... Add some water and let the meat simmer covered for an hour, then add one diced onion, and the sliced carrots and let simmer for another hour Add in the corn, peppers, cilantro and other spices.... and simmer for half an hour.... add in the edible cactus and squash and let it simmer for thirty minutes, then remove from the heat and serve hot over hot rice or barley.
Fry some potatoes up whatever way you like. diced, sliced.... add some onions too.
When the potatoes are almost done add some cactus and stir it with the nearly cooked ingredients. Give it a couple of minutes. Our cactus does not need a lot of cooking if you even cook it at all. There's no need to cook our cactus until it becomes dark in color, eat it fresh and alive and bright green!
For another cactus treat you can add eggs to the 'water-cactus-onion mix and scramble them in. When the eggs are cooked spoon the mix into warm tortilla shells and have them as breakfast burritos.