10 Health Benefits of Nopales

NopalesNopales, also known as cactus juice or prickly pears, is of the species Opuntia ficus-indica. It is a popular vegetable in Mexican dishes due to its low calories and succulent, green leaves. This fruit has two edible portions; the pad or nopal (vegetative part) and the tuna, which is the fruit. Nopales is rich in various health benefits.

Health Benefit 1: Anti- inflammation

The ability of Nopales to fight inflammation in the muscles, arteries, gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system is a well known fact.  It has also been shown to lower pain in people with urethra and bladder, bladder infections as well as gallstones. They contain plenty of bioflavonoid quercetin in the prickly pear which raises the free-radical-scavenging capacity -the ability to neutralize cell damaging molecules. There are several studies pointing to the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of Opuntia (prickly pear cactus). One study has shown that phytosterols from Nopales contain anti ulcer and anti-inflammatory properties which combat edema and block leukocyte migration.

Health Benefit 2: Boost Immune System

The photochemical in Nopales are useful in making the immune system stronger. Tests with animals have shown that Nopales lower the growth rate of tumors.

Health Benefit 3: Anti-oxidant Properties

Nopales are rich in antioxidants known as betalins.These anti-oxidants hinder premature aging, encourage healthy cells and assist in detoxification

Health Benefit 4: Fights Cholesterol

The high amounts of soluble fiber in Nopales have been found through research to combat high levels of cholesterol. It contains pectin, mucilage and hemicelluloses, compounds which reduce LDL or ‘bad’ fat whilst preserving the healthy fats or HDL.

 Health Benefit 5: Combats Diabetes

Nopales are particularly useful to people suffering from non-insulin diabetes. It has been found to lower and balance blood pressure. Studies have demonstrated that nopal cactus; Opuntia streptacantha may actually lower blood sugar by restraining the liver from releasing glucose into the blood. It contains fibrous pectin which assists in reducing diabetic condition, hence doing away with the need for insulin. The insoluble fiber also reduces the urge to eat all the time since it makes you feel full all the time.

Health Benefit 6: Digestive Health

The functions of the digestion process such as absorbing excess water as well as speeding up bowel movement are enhanced by the insoluble fiber in them. Nopales contain vegetable protein which reduces cellulites as well as the body’s ability to retain water. Colon health is enhanced by the insoluble fiber, which minimize the carcinogens that may be potent enough to cause cancerous growth.

Health Benefit 7: Nutrient Rich

Nopales are endowed with a variety of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin A, C, K, B6, riboflavin among a host of other minerals such as calcium.

Health Benefit 8: Low Calorie Food

 With high content of amino acid, vitamin and minerals, nopales is considered a low calorie food hence beneficial for weigh loss. They contain 17 amino acids, with 8 of them being essential. They provide you incredible amount of energy as well without necessarily leaving you fatigued. For just 100 g of fresh leaves, they provide you with 16 calories.

Health Benefit 9:Anti-Cancer Properties

Nopales have been found to be beneficial in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Their extract blocks enzymes responsible for lowering testosterone levels.

Health Benefit 10: Neuroprotective Properties

The stems and fruits of Nopales contain quercetin 3-methyl, flavonoid which is said to a powerful neuroprotector. This neuroprotector safeguards brain cells from damage.

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  • Maria Guadalupe Zarate

    Hm…I think being mexican I should know…but nopales are not known as cactus juice. That would be “jugo de nopal”. 🙂 just an FYI. Another “FYI ” would be that we don’t really think about it as a low calorie food lol. Well, in my family and the people I know, it’s more of a custom thing. And they’re cheap. Heh heh, it’s like, “I don’t know what to cook today, oh wait, nopales! They’re muy ricos and easy!” 😀

    • Nopales is cactus & nopalitos is “little cactus.” You can get them pickled in a jar–the easiest choice. Or you can buy them fresh and chopped in a bag from the produce section. It’s possible to get the whole leaf and battle the quill roots yourself–not me. But it sure ain’t cactus juice/jugo de nopal. Still a great article that I’m about to share with friends in health field.

  • Joffre Meyer

    Nopalitos mix well with other foods. Nopalitos & scrambled eggs is good, and I add firm tofu, onions, and clilantro. Steak and cactus is good too.

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  • tbonz

    My grandfather being Yaqui from mexico knew all these healthy plants and herbs but also loved his beer!At 90 he had a Drs appt.with the Dr telling him he was diabetic and wanted to put him on meds.Grandpa said No,I’ll see you in a few weeks.I remember him eating a lot of nopales and other herbs as he would go down to our local river and pick them.On his Drs visit the doc said”Dont know what your doing but continue doing it”! No sign of diabetes anymore! True story.Gramps lived to be 95 and slowed his drinking down to a couple a day at 90!