This vegetable is popular in Mexico and other Central American countries, parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, North Africa and Australia.
The prickly pear plant has two different edible sections: the pad of the cactus (nopal), which can be treated like a vegetable and the pear (tuna), which can be treated like a fruit.
The nopal cactus grows wild throughout the American southwest down to South America and up to Canada.
With a soft but crunchy texture that also becomes a bit sticky (not unlike okra) when cooked, the nopal cactus tastes similar to a slightly tart green bean, asparagus, or green pepper.
Studies have shown that the pectin contained in the nopal cactus lowers levels of “Bad” cholesterol while leaving “Good” cholesterol levels unchanged.
Other study found that the fibrous pectin in the nopal cactus may lower diabetics need for insulin. Both fruits and pads of the nopal cactus are rich in slowly absorbed soluble fibers that help keep blood sugar stable.
Fiber means Control. This means that you will have less cravings and feel fuller since Nopal is extremely high in fiber. Nopal also has a high vegetable protein that lessens cellulites and water retention in your body.
Nopal contains both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers. The insoluble dietary fiber in Nopal absorbs water and gently hastens food through the digestive track and contributes to regular bowel movements.
In addition the presence of insoluble fibers in the colon help to dilute the concentration of potential carcinogens that may be present. Soluble fibers also contribute to regularity.
Nopal is also rich in vitamins especially vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, B6, riboflavin and and minerals.
Nopal contains about 13 percent of the daily value for vitamin A and vitamin C. It also has 14 percent of the daily value for calcium, 11 percent of the daily value for magnesium and 5 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-6.
High amino acid, vitamin and mineral content makes Nopal an effective and nutritious LOW CALORIE foods ingredient.
Nopal’s 17 amino acids, 8 of which are essential provide you with MORE ENERGY and LESS FATIGUE . Not only is Nopal good for preventing diseases, but it also has a unique phytochemical which is highly nutritious.
How to Eat Nopal Cactus
Find Nopal cactus pads that are bright green and firm at a local store or farmers market. Small, young pads harvested in early spring are thought to be the most succulent, delicate in flavor, and have the fewest spines.
The thicker a pad, the older it is. Older pads tend to be stringy and their sap will be thicker, which some people find unpleasant.
Remove the spines from the pad by using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife. Run the pad under cool water. Peel or cut off any discolorations or bruises. Slice or cut the pads
Cook the nopales. They can be either boiled or grilled, as well as mixed with other ingredients to make unique, satisfying and healthy dishes.
- 2.2 lbs. Nopales ( nopal cactus pads)
- 1 onion, halved
- 4 cups water
- 2 Tbs. salt
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 green chiles – jalapeno – chopped
Prepare the nopal cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, chop into bite-size pieces.
Place the chopped Nopales into a pan with the 4 cups of water, halved onion and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until tender.
Drain Nopales and combine with remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. This dish gets better if you let is sit a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 4 or more.
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Yours truly for great health, mind and body,
Michelle, natural healthy foods advocate
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