The nopal cactus, more commonly known as the prickly pear cactus, is a plant native to Mexico. Nopales, the pads formed by the cactus, are considered a vegetable and can be found in many restaurants, grocery stores, and outdoor markets throughout Mexico.
From tacos to juice, nopales are a versatile ingredient that can be eaten raw or cooked. Not only does nopal taste great, but it also comes with some great health benefits.
Here are 5 health benefits that can come with eating and using Nopal:
Nopal is a type of cactus and therefore contain a lot of dietary fiber essential in the digestive process. The fiber found in nopal can reduce constipation and diarrhea by allowing bowel movements to pass through the digestive tract easier. At the same time, the fiber in the cacti can make one feel fuller longer by preventing the release of hunger-causing hormone ghrelin; in turn preventing overeating. Nopal is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, but high in vitamins B6, thiamin, and riboflavin— all which maximize fat burning and the conversion of food into energy the body can use.
2. Skin Care
Drinking cactus water or incorporating the vegetable form into a meal can help with protecting your skin against sun damage, aging and collagen loss. Nopal is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and electrolytes that help hydrate skin and protect it from UV rays.
A series of 2014 studies found that nopal is rich in polyphenols, a micronutrient packed with antioxidants, that offers anti-inflammatory properties. While a study in 2018, discovered that eating 7 oz of cactus twice a day for two weeks, also resulted in anti-inflammatory effects. The juice found in the nopal leaves or pads can relieve symptoms associated with arthritis, join pain, and muscle strain, when applied to the affected areas.
Studies found that the extract from the nopal leaves can help regulate the body’s glucose levels. In 2014, it was learned that eating nopal can reduce a spike in the levels of post-meal serum insulin and blood glucose in the body— for people with or without type 2 diabetes.
Nopal is known for its mineral and vitamin content, including: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6— all of which are important for maintaining and regulating cellular metabolism. Nopal also contains calcium, which is important for building and repairing bones.