Amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants like betalains, polyphenols, and flavonoids are all present in the fruit of the Opuntia cactus.
Although the nutrients in cactus fruits vary, they all contain a range of antioxidants that are known to shield cells. These antioxidants aid in lowering your body’s levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Additionally, they can lower body fat percentages and minimize your chance of developing metabolic syndrome.
Because of its betalain and potassium levels, cactus fruit can aid in bettering digestion. While betalains are anti-inflammatory and aid in protecting your digestive tract, potassium improves food absorption.
Is it okay to eat cactus fruit?
Mexican food features a lot of cacti and their fruits. The broad, flat cactus pads, also known as “nopales,” are a common ingredient in many main dishes in Mexico, including salads, eggs, and other cuisines. The cactus fruit, sometimes known as “prickly pears,” is extremely delicious and can be consumed straight from the plant. They can be mildly sweet or syrupy sweet, depending on the degree of ripeness.
What are the advantages of cactus pears in terms of health?
The prickly pear cactus, often referred to as nopal, opuntia, and other names, is marketed as a remedy for hangovers, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. It is also praised for having anti-inflammatory and antiviral qualities.
Is cactus fruit beneficial for losing weight?
The flat paddles of the Opuntiaficus-indica cactus plant bear prickly pear fruit.
It has a lot of antioxidant chemicals and is high in fiber. As a result, it’s believed to aid in a number of conditions, including liver health, blood sugar control, and weight loss. However, further human research is required.
Prickly pear fruit and pads are delicious in many dishes, particularly Mexican food.
Just one thing
Try it out now: To use in a recipe this week, buy a prickly pear fruit (or cactus pads, also known as nopales) from the market. Try hunting for them at a Mexican grocery shop or other establishment that sells unusual fruits if you don’t reside in a region where prickly pears are native.
What occurs when you consume cactus fruit?
The author disclaims all medical and veterinary licenses. The information provided is solely intended to share our experience and be entertaining. Always get advice from a doctor or veterinarian before making any decisions on your health or diet, as well as whenever you have any questions or concerns. By partaking in any activities or ideas from this website, the author and blog expressly disclaim all liability for any harm, accident, or injury that may result.
Contrary to what the majority of people believe, almost all cactus fruits are edible and packed with beneficial minerals. The pads of the plants, for example, are also tasty. This wild fruit is sweet and healthful, just like any other fruit. But if you’ve never tried the fruit, you might be wondering whether it’s actually safe to eat. We’ve got you covered, so don’t worry.
Therefore, is cactus fruit toxic? No. Cactus fruits come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but none of them are poisonous. Eaten cactus fruits are all safe. The sole distinction between the fruits of various cacti species is that some are sourer and more bitter than others. All of them, though, are edible and safe to eat. The Opuntia genus produces a sizable portion of the edible cactus fruits.
Continue reading to learn more about cacti fruits and some of the most popular varieties. So let’s get started straight away.
Who consumes cacti?
Can animals eat cacti, which are succulent plants? It makes sense for animals to eat the fruits, but they also consume the spines in addition to the sweet fruit. Many different species of animals eat the pieces of cacti.
Camels, Galapagos land iguanas, jackrabbits, woodrats, Gila woodpeckers, tortoises, squirrels, javelinas, and prairie dogs are some examples of creatures that eat cactus.
- Cactus with prickly fruit
- Calypso saguaro
- Container cactus
- Peruvian cactus Cereus
The most popular type of cactus for animals to consume is typically the prickly pear cactus. The fact that their pads do not have as many spines or thorns as those of other cacti plants may be the primary factor.
Some cacti species generate milk that is poisonous. Never, under any circumstances, try to consume a cactus by yourself. Even if you are certain that the cactus is edible, it is advised to avoid taking a chance unless you have confirmation from a reliable source.
Camels prefer to consume jumping cholla and prickly pear cacti as succulents. All cacti parts—from pads to spines—are consumed by camels. These cactus are heavy in fiber, yet camels can digest these high fiber plants quite well because they are ruminants.
Unlike humans, camels don’t have the same kind of oral structures. Although papillae are also present in humans, they are significantly more brittle in camels.
Camels’ strong palates enable them to easily break down the jagged thorns without experiencing any pain. Isn’t that fantastic? Additionally, they modify the function of their upper lips during eating.
Camel upper lips are divided into two halves. They feel the thorns with their lips while eating and use that information to guide their inner mouth movement.
It’s fascinating to watch these amazing rabbits eat cacti while fluttering their long ears.
Jackrabbits can be seen primarily devouring the cacti’s surface. They are quite discerning and clever when consuming cacti plants, therefore they stay away from the areas with the most thorns.
Jackrabbits consume the fruits and seeds of cacti in addition to the base. The seeds are quickly sent out during defecation since they are easily digested by them.
Jackrabbits may be particularly susceptible to the thorns of cacti due to their soft jaws. As a result, they move down the cactus from top to bottom. Before taking more bites, take a few nibbles and thoroughly chew them.
Galapagos Land Iguanas
The Galapagos land iguanas consume flowers and the pads of cacti. They don’t have any trouble with the thorns, but they use their feet to break up the larger cacti’s spines.
They consume both flowers and pads. They carefully remove the spines because they don’t consume them.
The land iguanas of the Galapagos are exceedingly sharp. It is quite familiar with its surroundings and always removes huge cactus spines with the aid of its front feet! In a matter of minutes, it consumes the entire cactus in a few gulps!
Fruit, flowers, and pads are all edible to turtles. Nevertheless, the majority of the time they eat pads.
Even while cactus can be consumed by tortoises complete with their spines, it is preferable to remove the larger ones. The Opuntia species is the ideal food for feeding a tortoise if you have one at home. Tortoises may easily eat the pads since they are not overly prickly.
Tortoises may find it challenging to eat cacti with huge spines since they are less adaptable when eating cacti than camels. But they expedite and simplify the process for themselves. They use their jaws to take enormous bites. They can quickly and easily split a cactus pad in half. They thoroughly chew the cactus juice while tasting it with their tongues.
The Gila Woodpecker
All varieties of cacti fruits are a favorite food of Gila woodpeckers. In addition, these beautiful birds adore eating off the saguaro cactus’ branches.
The method they employ while pecking into wood is the same! They begin poking holes in the saguaro cactus’ sides with their pointed beaks. Instead of using these locations for food, they occasionally use them to seek safety and protection from predators and extreme heat.
Desert-dwelling woodrats consume cacti plants, avoiding the sections with spines.
Packrats and trade rats are other names for woodrats. They differ from conventional rats by having long tails and relatively larger eyes.
Thorns and spines are avoided. They eat the pads of cacti, primarily those of the prickly pear cactus, which also serves as a water reservoir for them.
Woodrats navigate amid the spines of cacti using their keen sense of direction and small size. But they also utilise the thorns in a useful way. These thorns serve as a fence around their homes to keep off predators.
Javelinas, also referred to as collared peccaries, rip apart cacti with their tusks and consume every part of it.
All cacti parts, including the fruit and spines, are consumed by javelinas. These animals can consume nearly every variety of cactus that gets in their way, but they often prefer to eat Saguaro and Prickly Pear cacti.
Javelinas have pointed tusks that resemble elephant tusks. They are able to destroy the cacti plants despite having teeth that look to be weaker and smaller than those of an elephant. Additionally, they can determine which parts of the cactus are edible by using their snouts.
The most prevalent desert dwellers are black-tailed prairie dogs, which are more prone to eat cactus if there are no other food sources nearby.
American desert regions are home to prairie dogs. These lovely, adorable rodents are found in nearly five species. However, all varieties of prairie dogs share a fondness of eating plants because they are herbivorous.
Does cactus benefit the kidneys?
Nopal is a big prickly pear cactus that is indigenous to dry regions of South and North America. It is traditionally consumed by Mexicans as food and used medicinally as a laxative, anti-inflammatory, and to treat high blood sugar and alcohol hangovers.
Nopal has a blood sugar-lowering function, but the precise mechanism is unknown, despite the fact that it contains significant levels of soluble fiber and pectin, which may impact how well glucose is absorbed. Although earlier research disputes fiber’s significance in lowering blood glucose levels in animal trials, it does not propose a substitute mechanism. 34 Opuntia extract (1 mg/kg body weight) used for 7 weeks in conjunction with insulin and then Opuntia extract alone allowed blood sugar levels to quickly revert to those of non-diabetic rats. In a recent animal experiment, diabetic rats treated with streptozotocin (STZ) were given liquid and filtered extracts of Opuntia streptacantha to see how they would react. 35 The extracts weren’t able to lower blood sugar levels. But when administered before an OGTT, it had an antihyperglycemic effect, indicating a potential mechanism involving inhibiting hepatic glucose outflow.
A mild to moderately positive effect on people with T2DM has been confirmed by a number of small (N = 732) published clinical trials (all carried out by the same research group) utilizing various forms and doses of Opuntia species.
The broiled stem of Opuntia streptacantha, which was administered as a dose of 100–500 g per day, was the most popular type of nopal utilized in the experiments.
Nopal should not be consumed by those who are nursing, pregnant, or have kidney problems. Bloating in the stomach area, diarrhea, and nausea are possible side effects. In people using antidiabetic drugs, it should be used cautiously (one case report). 40
Do diabetics benefit from cactus fruit?
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.