The beginners guide to the nopal cactus

The nopal cactus or prickly pear cactus is native to the Southwestern regions of Mexico and the United States. The nopal pads can be eaten both cooked and raw, although it is important to note that it’s best to eat them when they are young as the pads can become tough as they get older. The nopal pads are used in a range of Mexican cuisine, from adding them to omelettes or frittatas to beef stir fry’s! As well as the nopal pads, the nopal cactus also produces an edible fruit, the prickly pear. The fruits grow off of the nopal pads and can be either red, dark red, green or a yellowy-orange.  

Although native to the Americas, the nopal cactus has spread globally. They are found in abundance in Mexico and spread across Australia. The nopal cactus is also found in Northern Africa and in parts of Southern Europe, especially in Spain.  

Is nopal cactus good for me?  

The simple answer is yes, but I will give you some more details about how and why the nopal cactus is good for us and what health benefits it offers. The nopal cactus has been gaining widespread popularity recently in the U.S. and beyond for its desirable health benefits. Nopal cactus fruit is composed of 88% water; nopales are a low-calorie, cholesterol and saturated fat-free source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.  Nopal cactus offers a range of health benefits, including:  

1. It’s high in nutrients that combat free radical damage:  

Both the stems and fruits of the nopal cactus contain eight different flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. These powerful phytonutrients help to protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. A study published by 'Nutrients' journal in 2013 found that the nopal cactus is able to reduce oxidative stress and can therefore help to detoxify our bodies!  

2. Can lower your cholesterol:  

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that nopal cactus pectin decreased the concentrations of bad cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries, which can in turn heighten the risk of heart disease. 

3. It can stimulate a healthy digestion:  

Nopal cactus fruits are high in dietary fibres that are essential for a healthy digestive system. A one cup serving of raw nopal cactus contains 5.4g of dietary fibre. These fibres. These fibres assist with the healthy and smooth running of your digestive tract.  

4. It’s high in vitamin C.  

Nopal cactus fruits contain high concentrations of vitamin C. Each fruit, approximately 100g, can hold up to 25% of our recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for the growth and development of healthy bones and an effective immune system. Vitamin C also assists with the production of collagen, a protein that helps to keep our skin firm, resilient and effective at repairing of any cuts.    

 

How can I use Nopal cactus?  

You can eat nopal cactus and its fruits raw and fresh in a number of meals and recipes. Here at Erbology we have just released our first recipe combining nopal cactus with other powerful plants. It is our Tigernut Granola with Nopal Cactus and Chia Seeds! With all of the health benefits of eating nopal cactus, our new tigernut granola is definitely one for you to try! Start your day right by providing your body with the essential vitamins and minerals that it needs to perform effectively, as well as by enjoying a delicious breakfast!  

Our nopal cactus and chia granola is made using tigernuts as the primary ingredient. There are also a range of healthy benefits for eating tigernuts, such as their high fibre and mineral concentrations.  

Nopal has a neutral flavour so it blends well with both sweet and savoury foods. Our tigernut granola with nopal and chia seeds has delicious notes of cinnamon and vanilla. This granola tastes great simply topped with milk or yoghurt, but feel free to mix it up with a spoonful of agave syrup or our mildly sweet Jerusalem artichoke crisps!   

We will be releasing a delicious recipe that uses our granola tomorrow, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled!  

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Brodie FairchildComment