The Health Benefits of the Prickly Pear Nopal Cactus
Many individuals keep a prickly pear cactus in their homes or gardens for decoration. What you may not realize, however, is that the prickly pear cactus is full of antioxidants that are beneficial to your health. It also boasts a high concentration of vitamin C. This is the vitamin known to provide a boost to the human immune system. Also known as the nopal cactus, the prickly pear is native to Mexico and fares best in warm climates.
Weight Control and Diabetes
This type of cactus is particularly beneficial for diabetics. A 2005 study performed by researchers in Mexico City demonstrated that a diabetic who incorporates the nopal cactus into his daily diet can expect to see his glucose levels drop dramatically. This may be partially due to the fact that certain nutrients within the pads of the cactus prevent the body from absorbing excess sugar from other foods.
This information isn't just pertinent to diabetics, however. Individuals who are actively trying to lose weight can also benefit from lower blood glucose levels. High glucose levels can lead to more acute hunger which can, in turn, lead to overeating. In addition to controlling glucose, the cactus is a high fiber food. Individuals who consume foods high in fiber have a tendency to feel full for much longer than those who snack on foods high in sugar. Thus, the cactus may be a good dietary addition for those attempting to control their weight.
The Digestive System
Nopal cactus has been used for thousands of years by Mexican Indians as a dietary supplement to regulate the digestive system. Individuals who incorporate nopal cactus supplements into their diets can expect to experience a greater degree of regularity in their bowel movements. The cactus also contains high levels of insoluble fibers. Because of this, it serves as a natural colon cleanser and rids the body of impurities found within the colon that can interfere with the body's digestive health.
For those who have struggled with pancreatitis in the past, nopal cactus may present a delicious solution to a painful problem. The same insoluble fibers that serve as colon cleansers also absorb excess bile excreted by the pancreas. Excess bile that is not absorbed is stored by the gallbladder and can lead to gall stones. Gall stones can cause further episodes of pancreatitis for chronic sufferers.
How to Take Prickly Pear
Nopal cactus can be eaten raw or cooked. If you are feeling particularly brave, you may cultivate a cactus at home and carefully strip its pads of their needles before roasting the pads or chopping them up into a salad. For many individuals, however, the work involved to prepare a dish with the cactus proves to be too much effort. If you want to enjoy the health benefits without the risk of biting into one of its sharp needles, you can purchase herbal supplements in pill form. These supplements contain cactus powder that provides you with similar health benefits as eating the cactus in its natural form. Additionally, you can also now purchase supplements in the form of liquid or juice. There are a few companies that offer a juice or concentration that contains high levels of antioxidants found in the nopal prickly pear cactus. And, if you happen to live in the southwestern United States, you may also be able to purchase the cactus already prepared at your local grocery store.
Modern research suggests that the nopal cactus can lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, boost energy levels, and prevent nerve deterioration. Few vegetables can boast this wide of a repertoire of health benefits for the human body. If you are concerned about your health or weight, consider picking up some supplements or growing one of these versatile cacti in your own garden. You may discover that, health benefits aside, you just love the taste.
Kelly Rein - Writer and blog editor for NopalEase.com