Health Benefits of Nopales and Recipe
The nopal or prickly pear cactus is a traditional Mexican food that is high in antioxidants and very healthy. It has been used for centuries as food and medicine. It can be eaten raw, cooked, canned and you can even find them in capsule form.
I tried nopales for the first time when I was about 15 in Mexico. I thought I was eating jalapeños and to my surprise they were nopales! I’ve been in love with them ever since.
I firmly believe that traditional Mexican foods are extremely healthy. The key, is to use the foods in their most basic form possible. I share my recipe with you below…
The leaves, referred to as pads or paddles of the nopales, you can even find them diced up already … big time saver. The fruit part is pretty delicious too. Stay away from the canned and jarred forms since they are full of preservatives including vegetable oils, or at the very least make sure you read the ingredients list. You should see nopales, water and salt.
Visit your local Mexican market, you will likely find them there year round.
Now for the health benefits.
Did you know that the nopal is used by some to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and even hangovers? It is also known for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, used to treat ulcers, cuts, scrapes and more. Sounds like the magic of a superfood, right?
The claims made as to the health benefits of nopales is extensive: FIGHTS INFLAMMATION, DIGESTION, SKIN HEALTH, DIABETES, WEIGHT LOSS to name a few. Through briefly browsing the internet, I realized that the claims were very broad.
The nopal in itself has a moderate amount of vitamins and minerals, plenty of antioxidants, it’s high in soluble and insoluble fiber. All of the stuff that our bodies just love and when eaten in it’s whole food form, our bodies soak up all of those nutrients.
Here is the catch (warning, I may burst your bubble), when you eat a healthy real food diet instead of a standard american diet, all of those issues listed above in red will inevitably improve and even go away. Our bodies crave and need whole foods, the nopal just so happens to be one of those foods that is delicious on it’s own and with very minimal to no processing.
So, whether you are juicing the nopal, or blending it up and drinking the pulp or cooking it and including it in your regular rotation of vegetables, know that you are eating a health food.
Now, as to the claims that the nopal is a superfood, it will vary from person to person.
How does it make you feel?
Whomp, whomp. If you are disappointed in my simple and brief view of the health benefits of nopales, I hope the yummy recipe below turns your frown upside down 🙂 Enjoy!
- 1lb diced nopales (roughly 3 pads)
- 1 roma tomato
- 1 white onion (half for boiling the nopales and half for the dish)
- handful of cilantro
- 1 fresh green jalapeño
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 teaspoons of sea salt (this is the one I use HERE) plus more to taste
In a 2 quart pot, fill halfway with water and set to medium heat. Add the 1/2 onion, sea salt and diced nopales and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. The nopales will turn from a bright shade of green to a dull green that is when they are ready, this will likely happen right before the water comes to a boil, keep an eye on things, you don’t want to overcook them.
Once they are ready, turn off heat and drain liquid, toss onion and set aside to cool.
In the mean time, chop up the other half of the onion (not the cooked one, you tossed that one..I mean the 1/2 left over), roma tomato, jalapeño and cilantro and mix into nopales. Squeeze the lime over the whole mix and salt a little more.
Nopalitos are delicious on their own in a tortilla for a nice #meatlessmonday. You can also top off any taco or bowl.