6 Health-Packed Benefits of Eating Cactus

by Jenna Crawford December 26, 2017

6 Health-Packed Benefits of Eating Cactus

When we hear the word “cactus”, we picture the desert or that funky, prickly plant in our living room. The quintessential thorny desert plant can be intimidating, but science suggests we should sink our teeth into their slender edible stems. Cacti are packed with vitamins and nutrients, proving they are worthy of the label “superfood.”

The low-cost food is a mealtime vegetable mainstay in Latin American countries, but its popularity is increasing in the United States where you’ll find it in Mexican grocery stores, produce markets, and farmer’s markets. There are dozens of varieties of cactus because it’s part of the genus Opuntia, which includes well over 200 species. The plant is shunned by people because of its spikes and bristles, but it can help alleviate ailments from high cholesterol to different types of cancer.

Here are 6 health-packed benefits of eating cactus:

1. Prevent Diabetes

If you have family history of diabetes and you worry to build same disease, consuming cactus leaves may be a good choice to prevent it. Since cactus leaves can maintain normal blood sugar level, it significantly can prevent the body from developing diabetes especially type 2 diabetes. Study also found that cactus or nopal leaves is a complete replacement of blood sugar drugs for diabetes patients.

2. For Weight Control

Prickly pear cactus and along with its fruit is a low calorie fiber rich food that might help you to lose some of those extra pounds or at least control your weight.

The fiber in prickly pears and other high fiber fruit and veg helps keep the digestive system running smoothly and can also cause you to feel more sated. This means you will eat far fewer calories through the day especially if you replace a calorie laden snack with a delicious, healthy prickly pear.

Supplements made from prickly pear cactus may also aid weight loss because they act as a diuretic. A researcher noted that the extract exerted an antioxidant effect.

3. Fights Cancer Cells

Cactus leaf contains several antioxidants that can help protect healthy cells from damage by free radicals. In a 2009 study, researchers evaluated the effect of cactus leaf on cells extracted from breast, prostate, colon, and liver cancers. The phytochemicals in the leaf were found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, meaning the normal, healthy cells were unharmed. Researchers would have to try an in vivo study to see what effect cactus leaf provides to real human participants.

4. Lower Cholesterol Level

Cactus leaves contain abundant polysaccharide fibers and sterols that can slightly increase good fat or HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and reduce the LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) or known as the bad fat level in the blood. By lowering cholesterol inside the body, cactus leaves have helped the body to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.

5. For Heart Health

Studies on the prickly pear cactus have demonstrated that it might help reduce cholesterol in people suffering from hypertension.

Weeks of treatment with cactus leaf extract, the patients experienced reductions in triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels. Moreover, HDL cholesterol levels are known as the good type of cholesterol increased.

If you would prefer to eat the fruit, prickly pears can also help protect your heart. The potassium found in prickly pears can help to reduce blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels which reduces the overall strain on the cardiovascular system. Compounds found in the fruit known as betalins have been linked directly to a strengthening of the blood vessel walls which protects the vessels from damage.

6. Protects Brain Cells

Cactus is touted for its anti-inflammatory properties, and researchers believe it could help reduce free radical damage to brain cells. Quercetin, (+)- dihydroquercetin, and quercetin 3-methyl ether were all found effective at protecting isolated rat brain cells because they’re all active antioxidants. It’s possible the nopal cactus possesses this brain protective effect through anti-oxidative flavonoid activity, meaning it prohibits the formation of free radicals in brain cells.


Although cactus is found in the desert and eating them may seem like an unconventional idea, its rich vitamins and nutrients could potentially cure debilitating diseases in an alternative way. In this post, I shared with you 6 health-packed benefits of eating cactus.

Jenna Crawford


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