Nopales are a spectacularly healthy type of cacti with a wide range of health benefits. These include their 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.
Table of Contents
What are Nopales?
Nopales are a form of vegetable 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 these cuisines that you most commonly find fresh nopales. They are mainly found fresh in Mexico, either canned or pickled as an export, particularly to the Southwestern United States and Texas.
Nopales Nutrition Facts
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, and vitamin K, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Nopale is also an important source of certain organic compounds like phytochemicals and certain polysaccharides that contribute to its health-boosting power.
Health Benefits of Nopales
Let’s explore some of the health benefits of nopale that people have been enjoying for thousands of years.
Nopales are a form of cacti, so they are very fibrous and contain a great deal of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is essential in the digestive process as it adds bulk to the bowel movements, which makes it easier for them 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 diarrhea and constipation. Furthermore, excess fiber in the body can actively reduce the amount of cholesterol, thereby protecting your heart health as well.
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 a hunger-causing 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 the metabolic function work quickly, and these vitamins maximize fat burning and the transformation of food into usable energy.
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 impact the skin and by eating nopales, you can keep your skin looking healthy and young.
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 and eliminate them before they mutate the DNA of healthy cells into cancerous cells. The content of vitamin A and flavonoids in nopales have also been connected to a reduction in the skin, lung, and oral cancers.
One of the most important aspects of nopales in terms of health is their mineral and vitamin content. Nopales contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6, all of which are vital components of cellular metabolism that regulate the enzyme activity throughout the body. A healthy organ system and hormonal balance help in losing weight easily, promoting healthy muscle gain, and toning the entire body.
Build 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.
This plant also contains magnesium, which is a useful mineral for inducing sleep in 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 fall asleep.
The juice from the leaves of nopales has anti-inflammatory effects on various body parts, including symptoms associated with arthritis, joint pain, and muscle strain. Apply the juice topically to the affected area, or consume the vegetable itself to enjoy the benefits.
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, which makes the management of diabetes easier.
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 inhibit the development of gastric ulcers that develop due to excessive consumption of alcohol, so people who regularly suffer from this painful condition should add some of these powerful plants to their diet and improve their health.
Word of Caution: Due to their ability to regulate and affect blood sugar levels, nopales can sometimes make people hypoglycemic, and should also not be consumed excessively before an operation. Other than these health concerns, nopales are a delicious and highly nutritious addition to your diet.