By Frank Yaconis
Did you know that the global phenomenon of drinking Nopalea juice as a remedy for everything from hangovers to diabetes is nothing new? For centuries, natives of Mexico and other parts of North America have sought medicinal benefits from the prickly pear cactus.
In fact, the cactus is on the Mexican flag. Look closely and you can see the brilliant red flowers of the cactus where the eagle sits.
It is thought that use of the prickly pear cactus for food and medicine dates back to the time of the Aztecs. The cactus is also called Opuntia and Nopal or Nopales, which is how the juice derived its name of Nopalea.
Native Americans and Mexicans can probably trace use of the plant back to their ancestors.
When the cactus blooms, it erupts into gorgeous red, purple or yellow blossoms. The soaring cactus can reach up to 20 feet high. The Prickly Pear Cactus has been discovered to be an antioxidant rich plant that also contains anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers say that the prickly pear cactus is part of a few plant species that contain a pigment called betalains.
Betalains are a natural antioxidant and help detoxify the body. Ingesting juice and eating flesh from the cactus helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well. Betalains inhibit a special enzyme that otherwise is believed to increase inflammation in the body. Betalains are rare, but can be found in a few other foods, such as quinoa and beets. There are many studies to see if betalains can reduce inflammation in the body which would lead to its powerful affect on other serious diseases linked to inflammation such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
In addition it is thought that many other serious conditions are caused by inflammation including arthritis, allergies and fibromyalgia.
There are thousands of ways to ingest the plant. One way is to eat the pads, which are called Nopalitos — meaning cactus stem. In addition, the fruit — or pear — of the cactus is edible. The beautiful pads are usually a green or purple and the fruit blossoms into yellow, red or purple flowers.
The pads can be grilled, boiled or fried and are said to taste a bit like green beans or asparagus. Some people like to serve the cactus as a vegetable so they don’t add many other ingredients, just a bit of butter or even vegetable or olive oil. The plant’s flesh is also used as a staple, like tortillas in other foods. It is made into a jelly. It is used in tacos, in candy making, you name it, you can find Nopal cactus in a variety of Mexican traditioanl foods.
You can cook them up and serve them like bacon with some eggs. The plant is added to salad. It is especiall popular to serve them with eggs, salsa and tortillas, much like you would see with huevos rancheros, except it would be called huevos con nopales.
Just like teh juice, the pads contain a host of nutritious properties, maybe even more than a vegetable would be. They are extremely fibrous — high in dietary fiber. In addition, the cactus is overflowing with numerous vitamins: A, B6, C and K. It also contains minerals including iron, potassium and magnesium.
Drinking Nopalea juice is a healthy, all natural way to get all these important vitamins and minerals and possibly prevent future diseases, all at the same time.
About the Author: Frank Yocanis has been researching and writing about the health benefits of
What is Nopalea
for the past decade. He has even traveled to the Sonoran desert half a dozen times to study
in the plant’s homeland. He is excited to share how this antioxidant-rich drink can change your life.