The Health Benefits of Nopal Cactus

The nopal cactus is more commonly known as the prickly pear cactus. It is native to Mexico and famous for its health benefits due to its high antioxidant, vitamin, mineral, and fiber content.

What is nopal?

Nopal cactus on copping board, cut into pieces for cooking.

Nopales are the pads of the nopal cactus and can be cooked or eaten raw.

Nopales or nopalitos are the pads of the nopal or prickly pear cactus. They are eaten as a vegetable and commonly found in restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets across the American Southwest and Mexico.

They can be sautéed and used in many dishes, including tacos, scrambled eggs, or as a side dish with tomatoes and onions.

Nopales can also be eaten raw. They resemble a green pepper when diced and are turned into juice, jams, or tea.

Prickly pear fruit or the small, rounded, and often colorful part of the plant can also be consumed.

Juice extracted from the fruit is a popular drink of choice for health-conscious consumers in Mexico.

Nutritional information

One cup of raw nopales contains approximately:

  • 14 calories
  • 1 gram (g) of protein
  • less than 1 g of fat
  • 3 g of carbohydrate
  • 2 g of fiber
  • 1 g of sugar
  • 20 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
  • 8 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
  • 141 mg of calcium
  • 4.6 mcg of vitamin K

The prickly pear fruit, which comes in a variety of colors, contains the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, which are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties.

In a study comparing three different juices from various colors of prickly pear — red-purple, white-green, and yellow-orange — the red-purple variety had the most antioxidants.

Health benefits

Prickly pear nopal cactus juice green drink, with nopales by glass.

Nopal juice may help to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It can also be used for treating wounds.

Both parts of the nopal plant — the nopales and the fruit — have been used in traditional medicine for disease treatment and prevention.

The cactus has been used to treat:

  • glaucoma
  • wounds
  • fatigue
  • liver conditions
  • ulcers

The purported benefits of fresh nopal juice include lowering blood sugar, healing wounds, and lowering cholesterol.

Human studies on the nopal cactus and its ability to treat or prevent disease are limited. Nevertheless, many studies have confirmed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant.


Cactus plants have been traditionally used in Mexico for the treatment of diabetes.

In a small study of people with type 2 diabetes, two groups of participants were given a high carbohydrate breakfast. One group consumed nopal with their breakfast, while the other did not.

The group who ate the nopal had significantly lower blood sugar levels after the meal, as well as lower insulin levels, compared to the group who did not have nopal.

People with diabetes benefit from including high-fiber foods, such as nopal and prickly pear, in their diet. High-fiber diets can improve blood sugar, lower insulin levels, and improve blood lipids.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend consuming at least 25 g of fiber per day for women and 38 g for men.

Risks and considerations

The juice made from nopal is often mixed with other juices, such as pineapple, orange, or grapefruit, which can have a high amount of sugar.

People with diabetes should monitor the amount of sugar they are consuming. It is best to opt for the fresh fruit instead of juice or squeeze fresh juice at home.

In many parts of Mexico, vendors sell fresh nopal juice after the plant is rinsed with only tap water, without pasteurization or any antibacterial processing.

As cattle manure is often used for fertilizer, researchers tested for food-borne pathogens in unpasteurized nopal juice.

Their study found that 91 percent of their samples were positive for E. coli and 1 percent were positive for Salmonella. These bacteria can cause serious illnesses, so people should be sure to buy nopal and nopal juice only from reputable sources.


Nopales from nopale cactus or prickly pear cactus, frying in a pan with onions and chilli.

Nopal cactus is a versatile ingredient, whether using the pads or prickly pear fruit.

Prickly pear can be eaten raw, but the skin must be removed. Prickly pears that are not as ripe tend to be less sweet, while the fruit that is red and purple is sweeter.

All prickly pears have small, hard seeds that can be removed with a juicer or strainer, or simply spat out.

If a person grows or picks their own nopal, they will have to remove the thorns and the thick green skin.

A person should rinse the nopales thoroughly to remove the slimy texture before cooking.

Diced nopal can be sautéed with olive oil, onions, jalapeños, and tomatoes to make this salad.

Nopales make a tasty filling for vegan tacos. Sliced nopales can be grilled like peppers for fajitas. They can also be used in an egg scramble.


Nopales and prickly pear fruit are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

They are a healthy addition to a balanced diet and may help decrease blood sugars when eaten with a balanced meal.


Why Is Vitamin C So Important?

Many people are aware that vitamin C can help them recover from a cold or flu, but there’s much more to understand about how vitamin C supports our health. Vitamin C is essential to good health year-round, not just when we are ill. In fact, it’s critical for our overall health and survival. Unfortunately, vitamin C deficiencies are rife today and lacking enough of this important vitamin can contribute to almost any disease.

Vitamin C is anti-inflammatory, helps increase our blood’s white count by strengthening our neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, and macrophages; and generally boosts the immune system against viruses, bacteria, yeast, mold, and other unwanted fungi. This makes getting an adequate amount of vitamin C essential if you are battling a chronic illness or symptom.

The right kind of vitamin C also helps to cleanse the liver, blood, and lymph, strengthen the adrenal glands, and repair damaged neurotransmitters. It also helps the body to detox effectively, which is a challenge many chronically ill people face until they get the right detox-supporting nutrients.

The Best Sources Of Vitamin C

Different forms of vitamin C support our health in varying ways, so it’s important to know which high-quality sources of vitamin C to turn toward. Some of the best food sources of vitamin C are rosehips, kiwi, oranges, and tangerines.

Another great source of one essential form of vitamin C (there are many) is from freshly juiced fennel. Drinking 16oz of straight fennel juice on an empty stomach daily can offer many wonderful health benefits over time. All fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C, so focusing your diet largely on fresh produce will naturally help to boost your vitamin C intake.

Your Nutrient-Enhancing Friend

One way you or a loved one can amplify the vitamin C you absorb is to get direct sunlight on your skin when possible. The sun strengthens and enhances the absorption and function of every single nutrient, vitamin C included. Think of the sunshine as a vehicle for getting a multivitamin and multimineral support to all your body systems! You don’t need to spend long in the sunshine, and sunburn should always be carefully avoided. Even five minutes in the sun early or late in the day when the sun is not full force can be very helpful.

As you can see, vitamin C is a critical mineral for our health and it deserves consideration as part of a health protocol.

Raspberries: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information

Known as nature’s candy, wild raspberries have been gathered for consumption by humans for thousands of years.

With their rich color, sweet juicy taste, and antioxidant power, it is no wonder raspberries remain one of the world’s most consumed berries.

Raspberries can range in color from the popular red and black varieties to purple, yellow, or golden. Each color berry has a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

This article will address the health benefits of the most widely consumed red raspberry. It provides a nutritional breakdown of a raspberry and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more raspberries into your diet, and any potential health risks of consuming raspberries.

Fast facts on raspberries

Here are some key points about raspberries. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Some researchers believe raspberries hold a number of health benefits
  • Raspberries contain powerful antioxidants
  • A certain component in raspberries may protect the eye from sun damage
  • There is limited evidence that raspberry ketones help increase weight loss

Possible health benefits of consuming raspberries

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like raspberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.


Several animal studies have shown a positive correlation between intake of flavonoids in berries and memory improvement; they may also decrease the decline in cognitive ability related to aging.

Heart health

A recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition-associated the intake of flavonoid-rich foods like raspberries with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. They stated that even small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods may be beneficial.

One group of flavonoids in particular – anthocyanins – have been shown to suppress the inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular disease.

Raspberries can range in color with each color berry having a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

The high polyphenol content in raspberries may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing platelet buildup and reducing blood pressure via anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., MSc, BSc, a nutrition professor at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, led an 18-year study with Harvard Public School of Health that tracked 93,600 women aged 25-42.

She states that their study was able to show “for the first time that a regular, sustained intake of anthocyanins from berries can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women.”

The potassium in raspberries supports heart health as well. In one study, participants who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 milligrams per day).5

Cancer prevention

Raspberries contain powerful antioxidants that work against free radicals, inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing inflammation in the body. Those same potent polyphenols that protect against heart disease also help ward off or slow many types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate, and colon.

Diabetes management

Any plant food with skin has lots of fiber – and raspberries have lots of skin! Eating high-fiber foods help keep blood sugar stable. Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.

Digestion, detox, and disease prevention

The fiber and water content in raspberries help to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract. Adequate fiber promotes regularity, which is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation; consequently, this decreases the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.

Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.

Women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should aim for about 30 grams. One cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of fiber.

Easy on the eyes

Foods high in vitamin C like raspberries have been shown to help keep eyes healthy by providing protection against UV light damage.

Raspberries also contain the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which filters out harmful blue light rays and is thought to play a protective role in eye health and possibly ward off damage from macular degeneration.

A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of, and progression of, age-related macular degeneration.

Nutritional breakdown of raspberries

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of raspberries (about 123 grams) contains 64 calories, 1.5 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbohydrate (including 8 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar).

Eating one cup of raw raspberries will provide 54 percent of your vitamin C needs, 12 percent of vitamin K, 6 percent of folate, 5 percent of vitamin E, iron, and potassium, and 41 percent of manganese needs for the day as well as lesser amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper.

Raspberries contain the antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline.

Raspberries are also a good source of polyphenols such as anthocyanin, flavonols, and ellagitannins, which decrease oxidative damage from free radicals and have shown potential in animal and human studies for preventing or reducing the risk of chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.

How to incorporate more raspberries into your diet

raspberry smoothie
Keep a bag of frozen raspberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal.

Raspberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, and in jellies, syrups, and jams. Most raspberry jellies, spreads, juices, and wine have added sugars, which tack on additional calories.

When looking for jellies or jams, go for all-fruit spreads without the added sweeteners and fillers.

Make sure to check the label of frozen and dried raspberries, which may also have added sugars.

People who tend to eat at least three servings of berries per week see the most benefits. The best way to eat raspberries is fresh, right out of your hand (after washing of course).

Here are some other tips to help increase your raspberry consumption:

  • Always keep a bag of frozen raspberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal
  • Forgo the syrupy sweetness of canned fruit cocktail and make your own fresh fruit cocktail with raspberries, pineapple, sliced peaches, and strawberries
  • Add raspberries, grapes, and walnuts to your chicken salad
  • Slice raspberries and add them to plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of agave nectar and sliced almonds
  • Top whole grain waffles or pancakes with fresh raspberries or fold them into muffins and sweet bread
  • Blend raspberries in a food processor with a little water and use as a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods
  • Mix raspberries into a spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese

Possible health risks of consuming raspberries

Each year, the Environmental Working Group produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue. Raspberries are 23rd on the list of produce that they suggest should be bought in its organic form to ensure a lower risk of pesticide exposure.

But don’t worry if you can’t find organic; the nutritional benefit of eating conventionally grown (non-organic) produce far outweighs the risk of not eating the produce at all.

Of note, raspberries in supplement form are also being studied for their ability to help with weight loss and combat obesity. Research remains in the early stages, and there have been no human studies to date to prove the effectiveness of supplements like raspberry ketones and extracts, which often have stimulants like hoodia and caffeine added.

There is no doubt that incorporating low-calorie, high nutrient foods like raspberries as part of an overall healthy diet will support weight loss, but the ability of concentrated formulas in the form of a supplement to help with weight loss is uncertain at best.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.