NOPAL - An Abundant Nutritional Reservoir
The prickly pear cactus is known as nopal in Mexico and belongs to the genus Opuntia, the most abundant plants of the arid regions of the Western Hemisphere.
- Scientific Name
- Common Name
Prickly pear cactus or Nopal
- Plant Description
Succulent with flattened stems; leaves lacking or modified into large spines; sharp-pointed glochids in clusters at base of spines; flowers variously colored, with many petals; fruit is fleshy or sweet tasting.
- Where Found
Nopal is a member of the Prickly Pear cactus family, native to Mexico and the southwestern regions of the United States, & also found in Italy, Spain & South Africa.
What does it do?
Studies show Nopal is a valuable health supporting nutrient that helps support immune, glandular, nervous, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems.
1. Blood Sugar Regulation for Diabetes Mellitus
Nopal's 18 amino acids, provide you with more energy & reduce fatigue by helping the body to lower blood sugar. Nopal strengthens the liver & pancreas thereby increasing sensitivity to insulin which stimulates the movement of glucose from the blood into body cells where it is used as energy. It also slows the digestion of carbohydrates which in turn slows insulin production.
Nopal contains nutrients that strengthen the liver and the pancreas; the health of these two glands being vitally important to the conversion of carbohydrate sugars into stored glycogen useable as energy by the body, the production of insulin and the sensitivity of body cells to insulin which is necessary to move glucose from the blood stream into body cells where it is used as energy.
Vitamins found in Nopal (A, B1, B2, B3, and C), minerals(Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, and Iron) and Fibers(Lignan, Cellulose, Hemicellulose, Pectin, Mucilages, and Gum), along with the 18 amino acids also found in Nopal help to detoxify and support the functions of the liver and pancreas, while improving body cell response to insulin stimulation.
3. Digestive System
The active ingredients found in Nopal aid in preventing the digestive system from absorbing excess dietary fat and carbohydrate sugars, thereby maintaining proper blood sugar balance and helping to control obesity.
Soluble fibers (including gums, mucilages, pectins and polysaccharides) show the absorption of glucose in the intestines. Insoluble fibers (more commonly known as roughage), reduce excess bile and potential carcinogens (cancer causng agents) that may be present in the colon, by absorption and excretion. As a fibrous plant, Nopal contains high levels of both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers. Soluble fibers present in Nopal include mucilages, pectin, gums and som hemicellulose. Insoluble fibers include cellulose, lignan and remaining hemicellulose. Nopal is a gentle alternative to psyllium 9a well-known fiber supplement taken for colon cleansing) for those with a sensitivity or allergy to psyllium.
Vegetable protein found in Nopal (amino acids) help the body pull fluids from body tissues back into the bloodstream thereby diminishing cellulite and fluid retention. Fat build up is prevented, while fat break down and excretion is increased. The pectin and lignan found in Nopal are also known for increasing satiety (decreasing appetite). These are important factors in controlling obesity.
4. Immune System
As indicated above, phytochemicals are powerful allies fo the body's immune system, allowing it to defend the body against pathogens. Recent studies have found that among the phytochemicals found in Nopal are the types that inhibit cancerous cell growth and may even help prevent cancer from developing. Animal studies corroborate this, showing that dosages of Nopal Juice increase immune system efficiency in controlling tumor growth, Epstein-Barr virus and suppressed immune response.
5. Circulatory System
As demonstrated by the hospital study referred to above, Nopal acts in several ways that have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. First, the fiber found in Nopal acts to absorb and excrete cholesterol in the digestive system. Second, the amino acids, fiber and B3 (niacin) found in Nopal prevent excess sugar coversions into fats, while reducing triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, by metabolizing fat and fatty acids and eliminating excess bile acids which eventually convert into cholesterol. Third, the B3 (niacin) in Nopal acts to convert LDL(bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) forms of cholesterol.
6. Urinary System
The juice of Nopal is used in Mexico as an anti-inflammatory diuretic and to decrease pain on or following urination. These effects derive from bioflavonoids, amino acids and fiber in Nopal.
7. Nervous System
Nopal helps prevent diabetic Neuropathy (nerve damage) and aids in the balancing and calming of the nervous system, which creates a sense of well being and benefits the body's overall function.
Phytochemicals found in plants (also known as functional foods and Neutriceuticals) act in four basic ways to promote health and assist the human body resist disease:
One group act as Antioxidants in eradicating oxygen deficient molecules known as free radicals which, if not eliminated, cause cell damage that can lead to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other disorders.
A second group act as Detoxifiers by supporting normal processes that allow the human body to recognize and destroy or eliminate toxic substances ingested or produced by the human body.
A third group act as hormone Modulators by triggering needed harmone production (such as insulin) and by substituting harmless harmone-like substances (such as phytoestrogens) for over-acting natural harmones and/or reducing the production of excess harmones by the human body. Excess hormones can trigger cellar damage leading to various types of cancers.
A fourth group act as Cell Regulators by assisting the human body control the rampant growth characteristics of tumors.
Nopal has been found to contain many of these phytochemicals in quantities greater than is found in more well-recognized plants.
9. Amino acids, vitamin & minerals
Amino acids are the chief structure of proteins and are involved in a wide range of beneficial functions such as stimulating the immune system, maintenance of proper blood sugar balance and control of anxiety and depression. Nopal is a natural source of 18 Amino acids, 8 of which must be ingested as food. Vitamins A, E, and C act as antioxidants. Vitamin B (niacin) lowers cholesterol and B12 protect against atherosclerosis. Vitamin E helps prevent blood clots and the formation of fatty plaques on the walls of the arteries and helps counteract nerve damage associated with adult-onset diabetes. Folic acid reduces risk of stroke and together with B12 help prevent cells from becoming malignant. Nopal is an excellent source of these important vitamins in a natural form. A primary role of minerals is to serve as facilitators of the many types of metabolism that are necessary to the proper functioning of all human body systems. For example, iron is necessary for protein metabolism and plays a role in immune system resistance. Potassium prevents impaired glucose tolerance and impaired insulin secretionl. Selenium is an anti-oxidant and preserves tissue elasticity. Additionally, minerals play special roles; such as calcium in the building of strong bones and teeth. Nopal is an excellent source of 10 essential minerals.
10. Weight Loss
Nopal is most known as a natural way to lose weight. It's high fiber content curbs the appetite and fat build up is diminished while fat break down and excretions are increased. Nopal offers vegetable protein that helps the body pull fluids back from the tissues into the bloodstream, thereby diminishing cellulite and fluid retention.
11. Cholesterol Regulation
Nopal's amino acids, fiber and B3 prevent excess blood sugar conversion into fat, reduces the total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels by metabolizing fat and fatty acids and eliminating excess bile acids. These excess bile acids are what is eventually converted into cholesterol. Other research studies show the B3 (niacin) in Nopal, aid in the conversion of LDL (bad) into HDL (good) forms of cholesterol and help decrease the risk of heart disease.