Prickly Pear AKA Nopal
Native to Mexico and the southwestern regions of the United States, Nopal is now found growing in countries in the Mediterranean and Africa as well as in China and other parts of Asia.
The most dominant part of Nopal (Prickly Pear) are its fleshy cladodes or paddles, often mistaken as leaves, but which are actually modified stems or branches. Growing out of these paddles are clusters of fine, barbed spines which are modified leaves. Nopal bears yellow flowers which mature into reddish purple fruits. Both the paddles and fruits are edible and are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. Nopal paddles have a crisp and mucilaginous texture with a light, slightly tart taste similar to green beans.
Nutrients and Benefits
Nopal has good concentrations of vital nutrients that play a key role in maintaining good health.
It contains a good dose of vitamins A, C and the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It contains the vital minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and iron. A good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, Nopal also contains betalains, polyphenols, sterols and glycoproteins. Of the 22 commonly known amino acids 18 are found in Nopal, including the essential omega-3's and omega-6's.1
Nopal's' many benefits include:Strengthening the immune system
Helping to eliminate toxins
Providing energy and helping ease fatigue
Helping promote healthy blood sugar levels due to its low glycemic index
Helping maintain healthy total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels Supporting cardiovascular health
Improving digestion and aiding in effective weight management due to the presence of soluble and insoluble fiber