Not sure what to do with cactus pads?
It might not look it, but this prickly pear cacti is not only edible, but delicious and good for you as well. In last week’s ‘Today’s Harvest’ episode we discussed how to grow nopales. This week, it’s all about the health benefits of eating this vegetable that has a consistency somewhere between green beans and green peppers.
Native to Mexico and Central America, the nopal contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, iron, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Nopal is also an important source of certain organic compounds like phytochemicals and certain polysaccharides that contribute to its health-boosting power.
Nopales are a form of cacti, so they are very fibrous. Dietary fibre 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. Furthermore, excess fibre in the body can actively reduce the amount of cholesterol, thereby protecting your heart health as well.
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.
One of the most important aspects of nopales in terms of health is their mineral and vitamin content. Nopales contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and 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.
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.
Make a salad, add it to your stir-fry or omelette. However you decide to cook and eat your nopal pads, just make sure to remove the thorns first!