Published: 01/18/2013 - Updated: 11/05/2017
It's one of the most representative plants of Mexico, also one that has more qualities to help us improve our health.
The knowledge of how to grow and take advantage of this stunning natural health auxiliary, began with the ancient cultures of America, especially in arid regions. It is of great importance in the social, economic and religious topics; it helped to form human settlements in central Mexico, and was part of the shield of Tenochtitlan.
Commercial exploitation of the cactus is found mainly in two areas: in the semi-arid parts of north-central Mexico, in the states of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Aguascalientes, Jalisco and Guanajuato, and in the center-south, which includes the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Queretaro and Oaxaca.
Use of cactus in Mexico dates back to ancient times and became one of the staples in the diet of the tribes that inhabited the country at that time, passing the barrier of time.
The cactus has a high nutritional value, and you can say that a cup of raw cactus contains 2.0 grams of carbohydrates, 1.1 grams of protein and only 14 kcal.
But its main feature is its high content of dietary fiber. This fiber can prevent and relieve constipation and hemorrhoids, as well as prevent the development of colon cancer.
Due to the large amount of fiber, nopal (cactus) is excellent for weight management as it helps to delay the time at which nutrients are absorbed and enter blood, thus facilitating their elimination. Another factor is that the fiber is insoluble and therefore provides the feeling of satiety, making people eat less and improves digestion.
Cactus increases insulin levels and sensitivity, stabilizing and regulating the level of blood sugar. Scientific studies have proven the power of the hypoglycemic cactus, it is an excellent treatment to prevent diabetes.
High cholesterol is a disease that is spreading more and more, but the cactus is very helpful in these cases, it prevents the accumulation of cholesterol in in veins and arteries. Amino acids, fiber and niacin in cactus, prevent that excess sugar in blood gets converted into fat and fatty acids. The cactus has a sufficient amount of amino acids and fiber, including antioxidants, vitamins C and A, which prevent the possibility of damage to the walls of blood vessels as well as the formation of fatty plaques, being a relative auxiliary to atherosclerosis.
Although there is no true evidence that it can cure cancer, some studies found that it can prolong the latency period, i.e., extends the time before the disease appears.
Vegetable fibers and substances known as mucilages control excess stomach acid and protect the gastrointestinal mucosa preventing gastric ulcers. These same fiber help improve digestion. The non-soluble fibers absorb water and accelerate the passage of food through the digestive tract and help regulate bowel movement.