Cactus Leaf , prickly pear cactus or its scientific name, Opuntia, has been a food staple in Latin America for centuries. It is a common vegetable served in eggs, salads, chili and stir-fry dishes.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Although the thought of eating cactus leaf may make you shiver, you may reconsider once you look at all of its health benefits.
Benefits of Cactus Leaf
Lowers Blood Sugar
High blood sugar can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health. Cactus fresh leaf has a positive effect on blood sugar levels in healthy adults as well as those suffering from diabetes and obesity. Researchers at the University of Vienna tested nopal cactus leaf on 24 non-obese subjects who were suffering from high cholesterol or triglycerides.
The results of the eight-week study, published in the October 31, 2002, issue of “Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift,” not only showed a reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but an 11 percent reduction in blood sugar levels. Cactus leaf’s hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic effects are partially attributed to its high fiber and pectin content.
A Functional Food
As seen in the University of Vienna study, cactus leaf lowers cholesterol. In another study from France, researchers tested the effects of dehydrated cactus leaf on 68 women with metabolic syndrome. After four weeks, LDL, or bad, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were lowered and HDL, or good, cholesterol levels were raised.
Published in the September-October issue of “Advances in Therapy,” researchers state that cactus leaf should be considered as a functional food because it decreases cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Fights Cancer Cells
Cactus leaf contains phenolics and flavonoids — plant compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant properties. The National Cancer Institute explains that antioxidants protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are byproducts of oxidation. Free radical damage can lead to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The June 2009 issue of “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition” reports that when tested against colon, liver, breast and prostate cancer, cactus pear’s phytochemical compounds inhibited the growth of cells in all four cancers without affecting the healthy cells of the body.
Fights Cancer Cells
In addition to medical benefits, cactus leaf offers nutritional benefits. Low in calories, with only 14 per 1 cup serving, it makes a good addition to any diet. The predominant vitamins in cactus leaf are the antioxidant vitamins A and C and trace amounts of folate and vitamin K. Minerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and phosphorous.
Though adding cactus fresh leaf to your diet is beneficial, you may need to look for it at a specialty grocery or health food store unless you live in an area where it grows naturally.
Detox Cactus Smoothie Recipe
This light but creamy detox smoothie has a burst of tropical flavors, and is far tastier than it perhaps sounds (if the cactus is putting you off!). Cactus fresh leaves are extremely healthy and detoxifying, providing you with essential vitamins and minerals that help lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
This detox cactus smoothie is creamy, with a lot of tropical zing. Healthy and very simple to make . It is highly irresistible and tastes just like the cactus smoothie from Crush juice bar.
Extremely Healthy and Detoxifying
Prepping cactus leaves can seem daunting, but it is fairly easy. Wear clean gloves if you feel nervous about being pricked.
Grab a brand new dish scrubber and gently scrub the cactus in the opposite direction of the needles. The cactus leave will start to feel slimy as the needles come off. Cut off the edges around the cactus leaf.
- 5 oz (1½ medium) cactus leaves, needles removed and chopped
- ½ (12 oz approx) fresh pineapple, cut in cubes and chilled
- 1½ banana, sliced and frozen
- 5.3 oz (1 cup) plain Greek yogurt
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1½ cups almond milk
- ⅓ cup aloe vera water (optional)
- Place all ingredients in the blender in the order shown.
- Blend on low for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the cactus, pineapple, and banana are beginning to become well-blended. Slowly raise the speed to medium for one minute, then slowly raise to high, or until you see a vortex in the middle of the smoothie. Once you see the vortex, blend for another minute, or until creamy.
Good Addition to Any Diet