A week ago I started consulting with Natalia. Six months ago that she was diagnosed with diabetes and was overweight by about 30 pounds. She explained that she had been taking some products that promised weight loss and a cure for her diabetes.
She took this product, which was based on the nopal cactus, twice a day, ate what she wanted and had lost 3 pounds in 2 months.
After this initial weight loss, her blood sugar was still high, she had to continue taking medications and her body weight did not change. This episode prompted me to to write something about the nopal cactus.
There are over 100 known species, the ones with less spines are the most edible. The cactus provides protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins A, C and folate, also contains calcium, iron and is rich in potassium.
In the United States it is becoming popular because they are attributed various preventive and curative properties. In Texas, for example, research is being conducted with mucilage (slime of the cactus) as a fiber supplement.
• To reduce levels of blood sugar •
Especially in Mexico, there have made studies conducted with promising results in individuals with non-insulin dependent diabetes. They have seen a decrease in their levels of glucose (sugar) and insulin with controlled intake of nopal cactus while fasting. But we cannot still state as a certainty that the exclusive use of the cactus controls the levels of sugars. For Natalia, her blood sugar has not come down to normal levels even when consuming supplements based on the nopal cactus. In this case, it would be better if she incorporates the cactus as part of a meal plan for diabetics, instead of spending large amounts of money exclusively on these supplements.
• To address gastrointestinal problems, lowering cholesterol and weight management • Remember that constipation, diverticulosis and colon cancer, among others, are associated with a diet low in fiber. The cactus is a good source of dietary fiber in soluble or insoluble form. Fiber also creates a feeling of fullness, so you tend to eat less. It is noteworthy that weight management requires changes in eating habits and physical activity. In short, a total change of lifestyle. There has been rumors that the nopal cactus can cure cancer, but there is no scientific evidence that any cactus has anticancer effects.
• Consumption of nopal •
You can use it in cooked form in salads, quesadillas, and combined with eggs, stewed with chile, shrimp, etc.. and if you need something sweet, do not forget the ‘cacuts apple’ or so called ‘cactus tuna’. In fact its use is becoming popular in the morning as a smoothie with any additional fruit.
Consumption of nopal cactus is good for your health. It is a vegetable and a cup of cooked nopal has only 22 calories. What more could you ask for given all the nutrients it provides?
We can incorporate nopal cactus as part of a healthy eating plan, but it is neither a panacea or the ultimate solution to your weight problem, let alone going is it going to cure diabetes. It is wise to consult with your doctor, especially before purchasing and consuming any type of supplements.
Araceli Vazquez is a dietitian with practices in Dallas. You can reach her at (972) 664-0846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.