Nopales, 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.