Is Nopal Cactus Good For Diabetes

Cactus plants are used in Mexico’s traditional medical practice to cure diabetes.

14 persons with type 2 diabetes were investigated by the authors of a little research to see how nopal affected them. The breakfasts consumed by the two participant groups were heavy in carbohydrates. While one group had nopal with breakfast, the other did not.

After the dinner, researchers compared the nopal group’s blood sugar and insulin levels to those of the participants who did not consume nopal.

Nopal and prickly pear also include some fiber, which is good for controlling diabetes, like most fruits and vegetables.

These foods can be a component of a high-fiber diet that can improve levels of lipids, or fat molecules, in the blood as well as lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Nopal is edible for diabetics.

As the United States becomes increasingly racially and culturally diverse, diabetes’ appearance is evolving. Asian, Hispanic, and African American populations are expected to grow by 212.9 percent, 187.9 percent, and 71.3 percent, respectively, by the year 2050, compared to 32.4 percent for the white population.

Furthermore, according to the National Diabetes Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was published in June 2014, the prevalence of diabetes is significantly higher in these populations: 7.6 percent in white people, 13.2 percent in African Americans, 12.8 percent in Hispanics, and 9 percent in Asian Americans.1

More of these populations are turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to assist manage the condition as a result of this shifting demographic. Prevalence rates as high as 78 percent were noted in a literature review on CAM use among diabetics that was published in 2007 in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Additionally, those who take CAM therapies are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes than those who do not. 2

CAM use differs between ethnic groupings. According to study cited in a 2010 article, Hispanics with diabetes utilized CAM at a rate of 40% compared to African Americans with diabetes at 20% and Whites with 15%. 3 Additionally, the type of CAM use is related to cultural and racial background. According to Nimbe Torres, MSc, PhD, senior research scientist at the Salvador Zubirn National Institute of Health Sciences and Nutrition in Mexico City, Mexico, 33 percent of Hispanics use the prickly pear cactus, often known as nopal, as a traditional Mexican remedy to manage diabetes.

The effectiveness of prickly pear cactus in managing diabetes, its mechanism of action, and patient counseling advice are all covered in this article.

The Opuntia ficus indica genus of plants includes prickly pear cactus. It is grown all over Mexico as well as in many other places, such as South America and the southwest of the United States. 4,5 The plant’s pads are used as a vegetable in Mexican food. It tastes light and tangy. 6 According to Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, AFAA, general manager of Denver Wellness and Nutrition CenterSodexo and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “when cooked, the texture of nopal is similar to cooked green beans or green peppers.” Crandall continues, “It can also be used in desserts, soups, salads, jams, jellies, marmalade, pickles, and jams. Nopal is typically marketed dried, tinned, or fresh. 6 Nopal, the plural of nopal, is available in various grocery shops, bodegas, and farmers’ markets around the United States. 4

There is some preliminary clinical data to support the use of nopal for the treatment of diabetes, which has been practiced in traditional Mexican medicine for a long time. Nopal has been demonstrated to lower blood sugar levels in some patients by 17–46% after a single dose. 6

Nopales’ impact on postprandial glucose response was investigated by Bacardi-Gascon and associates in a study of Mexican participants with type 2 diabetes. The three test breakfast meals—one with and one without nopales—were served to subjects in a random order. The breakfasts were either burritos (made with eggs, vegetable oil, and pinto beans) or quesadillas (a casserole made with corn tortilla, vegetable oil, and pinto beans) (made with flour tortillas, low-fat Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, and pinto beans). Subjects who consumed chilaquiles saw a reduction in blood glucose of 30%, burrito consumers saw a reduction of 20%, and quesadilla consumers saw a reduction of 48% as a result of the addition of 85 g nopal. The researchers contend that this information gives Mexican patients a culturally appropriate option for diabetes care. 7

In November 2014, a study by L3pez-Romero and colleagues was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It assessed the glycemic index, insulinemic index, glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP) index, and the glucagonlike peptide 1 (GLP-1) index, as well as the impact of nopal on the postprandial response of glucose, insulin, GIP, GLP-1, and antioxidant activity (HSPB). According to study findings, nopal has reduced glycemic, insulinemic, and GIP indices and may help people with type 2 diabetes. Nopal was added to the HCB group, where it exhibited hypoglycemic and hyperinsulinemic effects, and it was added to the HSPB group where it reduced postprandial blood glucose peaks. Both in healthy individuals and type 2 diabetic patients, nopal improved antioxidant activity. This study supports the traditional usage of nopal for the side-effect-free control of diabetes, which is consistent with earlier research.

“The consumption of nopal considerably reduced the postprandial blood glucose peaks by about 20% after consuming a high-carbohydrate meal with a high glycemic index. For instance, adding nopal can reduce blood glucose levels to roughly 144 mg/dL in a subject with type 2 diabetes who has a blood glucose concentration of 180 mg/dL after consuming a high-carb breakfast for 60 minutes “says Torres, one of the researchers and an expert in traditional Mexican foods, microbiota, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics.

Nopal has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels thanks to its high fiber and pectin content.

8 In addition to soluble (mucilage and pectin) and insoluble (cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose) fiber, polyphenols, vitamin C, and water, nopal is a vegetable, according to Torres. “The nopal has a low glycemic index due to the presence of all these components (GI 32.5). Foods with a low glycemic index have a tendency to release glucose into the bloodstream gradually and steadily. Nopal’s gradual and constant release of glucose after eating aids in controlling blood sugar levels “Torres includes.

Prickly pear cactus dosages for diabetic research typically vary from 100 to 500 g per day, divided into three equal portions.

6 However, when prickly pear cactus was consumed once day before the main meal, Torres and colleagues noticed benefits. “In our experience, nopal has the greatest health benefits when ingested just before a large meal. Every day, we advise consuming 250 g (or about 13/4 cups) of steamed nopal, prepared for no more than eight to ten minutes “said Torres.

Release 28 of the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference lists 22 kcal, 5 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber, and 2 g of protein in one cup (149 g) of cooked nopal.

Patients should exercise caution when using nopal along with diabetic drugs because the two together may result in hypoglycemia. Dietitians should urge patients who routinely consume nopal to properly monitor their blood sugar.

It’s crucial for dietitians to broaden their understanding of culture foods and eating habits as the nature of diabetes continues to change and new evidence demonstrating the therapeutic advantages of traditional ethnic meals emerges. Studies have indicated that when cultural competency is matched between the healthcare professional and the patient, MNT compliance is higher. 4 Diabetes patients of Hispanic descent should be urged to maintain cultural practices and keep eating nopales.

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, is an author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully With Diabetes as well as a former national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics specializing on African American nutrition.

The first is the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Diabetes Educ. 2012;38(1):137-141. Cultural sensitivity and diabetes education.

Can cactus aid in blood sugar reduction?

Consumed often in Mexico, prickly pear cactus pads can cut blood sugar spikes after meals by almost half and may aid in managing diabetes.

Since I live in the Southwest, I am particularly interested in the plants because of its culinary and therapeutic uses. The prickly pear cactus, also known as nopal in Spanish, is one plant that looks to have several highly advantageous traits. This plant, which is originally from Mexico and the American Southwest, is now widely planted across the world, particularly in the Mediterranean areas. I endorse prickly pear extract as a supplement to help those with diabetes or pre-diabetes manage their blood sugar levels, and so does Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., one of my mentors and a fellow desert dweller who is a recognized authority on integrative medicine, dietary supplements, and women’s health. Prickly pears are frequently suggested to patients by Dr. Low Dog as food, supplements, or juice with lots of pulp. Additionally, she instructs fellows at the University of Arizona’s Integrative Medicine Program on how to make straightforward recipes with delicious cactus leaves (pads).

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a specialist in herbal medicine, demonstrates the correct methods for cutting, preparing, and cooking prickly pears.

When consumed with typical Mexican dishes like burritos and quesadillas, prickly pear cactus had a negative impact on blood sugar levels, according to a 2007 study published in Diabetes Care. The study’s objectives included determining the glycemic index of three popular Mexican breakfast dishes and determining the impact of cactus pads on type 2 diabetes individuals’ postprandial glucose response. A supper of scrambled eggs and tomato burritos, chilaquiles (cheese, beans, and tomato sauce with corn 1/2 tortillas), or quesadillas with avocados and pinto beans, with or without 85 grams of prickly pear cactus pads, was given to the 36 type-2 diabetic participants following an 18-hour fast. According to the study, when prickly pear cactus was ingested concurrently with all meal types, as opposed to when it was not supplemented, blood sugar levels were decreased. The percentage of reductions varied based on the meal, with prickly pear cactus with quesadillas being linked to a 48 percent reduction, prickly pear cactus plus chilaquiles to a 30% reduction, and prickly pear cactus plus burritos to a 20% reduction.

Cactus pears have previously been connected to improvements in diabetes-related health. The metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and abnormal glucose and insulin metabolism, demonstrated significant benefits in a previous trial using a prickly pear cactus extract. Increased type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks have been related to the condition.

Prickly pear is also well-liked in Mexico for reducing hangovers; a Tulane University study that was published in the June 28, 2004 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine supported the efficacy of this traditional treatment. Researchers discovered that taking a prickly pear extract five hours before ingesting five to seven alcoholic drinks resulted in considerably lower levels of nausea, dry mouth, and appetite loss the next day in participants than did taking a placebo. However, the extract did not stop the headaches and lightheadedness that come with a hangover. The benefits, according to the researchers, were associated with the potent anti-inflammatory properties of prickly pear. The juice contains betalains, an unique class of antioxidants that gives beets and red Swiss chard their vibrant color. Additionally, prickly pear juice is rich in vitamin C.

According to certain studies, prickly pear may also aid in lowering cholesterol. A tiny Italian study from 2003 found that prickly pear extract may lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels but had no impact on HDL (“good”) or triglyceride levels (only 10 patients participated). The Nuclear Medicine Review of Central and Eastern Europe published the study’s findings. Another small study at the University of Vienna in Austria with 24 participants discovered that prickly pear decreased total cholesterol (by 12%), LDL (by 15%), triglycerides (by 12%), blood sugar (by 11%), insulin (by 11%), and uric acid (by 10%), but had no effect on HDL or other lipid measurements.

What negative impacts does nopal cactus have?

The nopal cactus is thought to be safest when consumed as food rather than a supplement because it causes the fewest adverse effects. Supplements are thought to be potentially safe, but additional research is required. It’s crucial to understand that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not check supplements for safety, purity, quality, or packaging. Pick your goods wisely and from a dependable supplier.

The following are possible negative effects of nopal cactus supplements:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • bloating
  • diarrhea or a rise in stool volume

Because it is unknown whether nopal cactus supplements are safe for use during pregnancy or conception, pregnant or attempting women should avoid using them.

Consuming nopal cactus or its supplements should be done with caution if you have diabetes because it may alter your blood sugar levels. Before taking it, discuss it with your doctor. When monitoring your blood sugar, be sure to check it frequently.

May Improve Digestion

Nopales are a type of cactus, making them highly fibrous and potentially high in dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is important for digestion because it may provide bowel movements more weight, which may make it simpler for them to pass through the digestive tract’s smooth muscle contractions. In addition to adding weight, fiber may also induce peristaltic activity, which helps move food through the intestines and lessens the symptoms of diarrhea and constipation. Additionally, soluble fiber actively lowers cholesterol levels in the body, safeguarding heart health as well. [4]

Might Induce Weight Loss

Nopales include a variety of substances that can help with weight loss. First, fiber can make the body feel full and prevent the hormone ghrelin, which causes hunger, from being released, so reducing overeating. Second, despite having very little saturated fat and cholesterol, nopales are a nutrient-dense food that is low in calories and a wonderful option for people who are controlling their weight because they are rich with vitamins and minerals. It also contains vitamin B6, thiamin, and riboflavin, all of which are necessary for healthy metabolic activity. B vitamins are crucial to increase fat burning and turn meals into useful energy since vitamin shortages might impair mitochondrial energy metabolism. [5] [6][7]

May Aid in Skin Care

“Oxidative damage is the principal cause and single most important contributor to skin aging,” claims researcher Borut Poljsak. Nopales are an effective defense against signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots, due to their phytochemical and antioxidant properties. Eating nopales, which are high in antioxidants, can help you maintain the health and youth of your skin by reducing the effects of free radicals left over from cellular metabolism on the skin. [8] [9] [10][11][12]

Might have Anticancer Potential

Cactus pear may be able to slow tumor growth in mice, according to an animal research. Nopales supplementation has also been demonstrated to suppress bladder, ovarian, and cervical cancer cells. Further study is required to pinpoint the underlying mechanisms and probable active ingredients because the method of action, or how nopales produces this anti-cancer activity, remains unclear. [13]

A 2014 study found that cacti seed oil contains significant amounts of polyphenols, which have anticancer effects. Additionally, this cactus is a source of gallic acid, which “exercises a cytotoxic effect against tumoral cells from leukemia, lung, and prostate cancer sources,” according to the same study. [14]

May Boost Metabolism

The mineral and vitamin content of nopales is among its most crucial health-related characteristics. Nopales are rich in thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6, which are all essential for metabolism and function as co-enzymes in metabolic processes. A healthy hormonal balance and organ system aid in weight loss and healthy muscle building, both of which are crucial for toning the complete body. [15] [16]

Might Improve Bone Mineral Density

According to a 2013 study on 35–55-year-old Mexican women, nopal may improve bone mineral density (BMD) in women with low bone mass (LBM), which is the majority of premenopausal women. [17]

Might Improve Sleep

Additionally, this plant includes magnesium, which helps folks who have trouble sleeping or getting a good night’s sleep. Reduced levels of serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin and aids with sleep improvement, are associated with magnesium shortage. Melatonin might have a mildly sedative impact that soothes the body and promotes sleep. [18]

May be an Anti-inflammatory Agent

Nopales’ juice from the leaves provides anti-inflammatory benefits on different bodily areas, including arthritic, joint, and muscle pain problems. A 2006 study that appeared in Frontiers in Bioscience shown that consuming nopal cactus fruit juice dramatically decreased the body’s production of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (or CRP). When inflammation is prevalent in the body, this protein is generated. [19] [20]

Nopales may help reduce inflammation and serum CRP levels and aid in improving health for those suffering from illnesses related to inflammation. Elevated CRP is associated with many different conditions, from heart issues to cancer.

May Help Manage Diabetes

Despite conflicting study findings, there is some proof that nopales exhibits hypoglycemic action. According to research in the journal Complementary Health Practice, it may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels. [21]

To validate this impact and comprehend the putative mechanism of action better, more study is required.

Might Help Treat Ulcers

Research indicates that nopales’ anti-inflammatory qualities have a “protective impact against stomach lesions,” supporting its historical use as a therapy for gastric ulcers. [23]

People who experience this unpleasant illness on a daily basis may benefit from include some of these potent plants in their diet in order to boost their health.

Word of Caution: Nopales should not be ingested excessively, especially by those on diabetic drugs and before any surgical procedure operation, as they occasionally cause hypoglycemia due to their ability to regulate and impact blood sugar levels. Always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before using supplements or making significant dietary changes.

Nopales are a tasty and incredibly nutritious addition to your diet, aside from these health issues.