Nopales Prickly Pear Cactus - What's All the Hubbub About?
Nopales Cactus Pads
Nopales, or Prickly Pear Cactus appears to be the new health-kick on the block; however Nopales has been around for a very long time. I would never have thought that eating cactus paddles would become a staple for me - or even that it was possible to eat.
When I think about actually eating cactus, I relate it to eating sea urchins. You know sea urchins - it's surrounded by black spikes and lives on the ocean reefs. When I look at the sharp needles of the nopales, I kind of think of all those Roadrunner and Cayote cartoons with the Cayote ending up in the thick of cactus clusters. Ouch!
So imagine my surprise when I find that Nopales is not only edible, but very, very good for your body. Superfoods like these always get me excited. In this hub, we will explore cooking Nopales pads and getting into the fruit pear that is all the rage on late night informercials. Here are the topics that this hub will be covering:
- Health Benefits of Nopales
- Nopales Cactus Side Effects
- Preparing Nopales Step by Step
- How to Eat Cactus Pears
- Nopales and My Personal Testimony
I am not a doctor, a dietitian or have qualifications in any capacity to give medical advice. This hub is a compilation of my personal research for my personal benefit. I would invite you to be your own health advocate, and always check with your doctor before drastically changing your diet. Check the side effects in this hub, and ask your doctor before charging into using Nopales on a regular basis - especially if you have existing medical problems. Thanks. In all you do, have peace. Kawi.
Health Benefits of Nopales
Nopales or Prickly Pear Cactus has many benefits to your health. If you've ever seen those late night informercial segments, then you know what I'm talking about.
Nopales is a type of cactus that grows in dryer regions. In most desert areas, people will grow Nopales right in their own yards so that picking will be easy for them. It is primarily a diet in Mexican cultures but it is gaining popularity and soon may find it's way into many homes as a staple.
People use Nopales to aid or control Type ll diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity, colitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and a preventative to colon and prostate cancer.
A lot has to do with fiber and the sticky Pectin inside the Nopales pads. Pectin also binds to foods in your intestine and gives more substance to your stool.
Some people apply pectin to raw or ulcerated mouth and throat sores to coat and protect them - Still others drain out the pectin and save it to make tea - all good stuff, and so very good for the body.
Nopales Cactus Side Effects
Since Nopales is a relatively new food to the masses, not much long term research is available. As always in this case, it's important that I mention that Nopales could be safe, in appropriate amounts and for a short period - this is because there are some known side effects that will affect some people, here is a list of the most common:
Diarrhea, nausea, frequent bowel movement, bloating and headache. Further, inadequate studies suggests that it might be a good idea for pregnant women to cease their use of Nopales until after pregnancy.
Since Nopales affects blood sugar levels especially for people with Diabetes, it is a good idea to closely monitor your sugar levels to avoid more serious risks. Because of these reasons, you should avoid use at least two weeks before surgery to have a more stable blood/sugar levels.
- 1 Cactus Paddle
- 2 Garlic, Cloves (mashed)
- To taste Garlic Salt
Preparing Nopales Step by Step
- You can find Nopales pads at your favorite grocery store, or depending on your location, in your back yard. Once you have them available, you want to be selective in looking for a nice healthy and shiny green color pad with no brown rotting parts.
- Next you'll need to de-needle these pads. There are several different techniques that are used to take these dangerous needles out. For myself, I don't want any pit or little hard parts still left on the paddle so here is what I do: Wet the pad down - this will help the needles not to fly everywhere when you remove them by scraping. For myself, while holding the cut end of the pad, I run the blade of a large knife right across the paddle and the high spots of the needles come right off. Nice and simple. You can also use a potato skinner and use the tip to dig out needle pits, but use the method that you're comfortable with. Once all the needles are out, use your fingers to rub the pads for a final clean while running under the faucet.
- Next, cut the pad into little strips or cubes - your decision depending on how you want to eat it. Smash a few cloves of garlic and place all into a pot. Add enough water into the pot to fully submerge nopales and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil.
- The garlic helps to secrete some of the gooey clear mess that pours out of these paddles. You'll notice that as you were working with the Nopales, that there are puddles of this jell or what is known as pectin - although it is edible, in our case we will boil the jell out of our nopales.
- Once your pot comes to a boil, strain entire contents your, and rinse your Nopales through with cool water. This will help rinse free all the jell.
- Place back into pot and bring to a boils once again, strain and rinse through again.
|Serving size: 1 cup|
|Calories from Fat||0|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 0 g|
|Saturated fat 0 g|
|Unsaturated fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 5 g||2%|
|Sugar 2 g|
|Fiber 3 g||12%|
|Protein 2 g||4%|
|Cholesterol 0 mg|
|Sodium 30 mg||1%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Have you ever tried Nopales?
How to Eat Cactus Pears
Here's a little treat from nature - a pear unlike any other. Cactus pears are kind of plain and deceptive on the outside, but as you cut away it's light purplish and thick wrappings, a rich and lush deep-reddish seeded fruit is exposed.
You would think that this fruit would stain everything it came into contact with, but I was surprised that it would just wipe-away. However, I'm sure if you purposely wanted to stain something, you would succeed.
The taste is not at all unpalatable, it kind of reminds me of Okinawan sweet potato - which is a deep purple when cooked. There is a very subtle hint of sweetness that tries to make it through the rich color which kind of throws everything off-kilter. The little seeds are edible and not cumbersome to handle swallowing - probably part of all that good fiber that helps you to stay regular.
What are the health benefits of the prickly pear cactus?
- Does prickly pear cactus have health benefits? - Mayo Clinic
Prickly pear cactus can be part of a healthy diet, but benefits beyond that haven't been backed up by studies.
Nopales and My Personal Testimony
I plated a sliced cactus pear that was in the refridgerator, and added a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt. That was very refreshing, and tasty too. I had a cactus pear two nights ago, and I ate the cactus paddle last night, and today, the stiffness in my hands is gone. My problem digits that are usually swollen and painful, is a little less swollen, but not at all painful. I have more mobility in bending my fingers - I can fully close my fists without even trying (that's a feat all in itself to arthritis sufferers). I'll be careful and not overdo it because of the side effects listed above, but heck - I am very happy with this food.
It's amazing that it works so fast - it's already passed through my system, but I intend to make it a weekly or every other day ordeal. I don't take any other medication for my arthritis, not even ibuprofen. I do squeeze exercises with my little A-shaped-springed-hand-gripper exerciser, light weight training, and try to eat healthy. I can only deduce that the increased mobility in my hands is due to the effects of the Nopales. I hope you'll try this, and get as hooked on it as I am. In all you do, have peace. Kawi.
How to Grow Your Own Nopales
© 2013 Kawika Chann