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.
Nopales are a form of vegetable that is made from the soft pads of underdeveloped prickly pear cacti. The useful vegetative pads are either green or purple, and are roughly the size of a person’s hand. They have a consistency somewhere between green beans and green peppers, and are regularly added to eggs and steak stir fry. They are native to Mexico and Central America, and it is in this cuisine that you most commonly find fresh nopal. It is mainly found fresh in Mexico, and either canned or pickled as an export, particularly to the Southwestern United States and Texas.
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, vitamin C, vitamin 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. Let’s explore some of these health benefits that people have been enjoying for thousands of years in the more details explanations below.
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. It also stimulates peristaltic motion to move the bowels along the tract, and reduces symptoms of both diarrhea and constipation. Furthermore, excess fiber in the body can actively reduce the amount of cholesterol, thereby protecting your heart health as well.
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. The presence of vitamin B6, thiamin, and riboflavin also makes metabolic function work quickly, and they maximize fat burning and the transformation of food to usable energy.
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. Antioxidants are beneficial compounds that seek out free radicals in the body and eliminate them before they can mutate the DNA of healthy cells into cancerous cells. Free radicals are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can accumulate in the body and cause a variety of health problems, including cancer. The content of vitamin A and flavonoids in nopales have also been connected to a reduction in skin, lung, and oral 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. If your organ systems and hormonal balance are optimized, then your body will run more efficiently, you will increase weight loss, promote healthy muscle gain, boost repair and maintenance of organs, and generally tone the entire 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. It also has a slightly sedative effect, which reduces nerve function and calms the body, helping you to fall asleep.
Inflammation: The juice that is taken out of the 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. Apply the juice topically to the affected area, of consume the vegetable itself to also enjoy the effects.
Skin Health: The phytochemical and antioxidant characteristics of nopales make them a good defensive mechanism against premature aging symptoms, like wrinkles and age spots. The free radicals left after cellular metabolism can seriously impact the skin and by eating nopales, you can keep your skin looking healthy, young, and refreshed.
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.
Ulcers: Following the traditional use of nopales as a cure for gastric ulcers, recent studies have verified these effects. Apparently, the mucilage and fibrous material in nopales makes it inhibit the development of gastric ulcers and those that develop due to excessive consumption of alcohol, so for people who regularly suffer from this painful condition, add some of these powerful plants to your diet and improve the quality of your life!
A Few Words of Caution: Due to its ability to regulate and affect blood sugar levels, nopales can sometimes make people hypoglycemic, and it should also not be consumed excessively before an operation, since it makes it difficult to control glucose and blood nutrient levels. Other than those health concerns, nopales are a delicious and highly nutritious addition to your diet!