Does Eating Nopales Have Health Benefits?

Fresh Nopales

If you’re not familiar with nopales, they are the oval, flat, thick stems from the cactus plant, and they are eaten just like a vegetable. In fact, the nopales’ young tender pads, referred to as nopalitos, happen to be one of the main components of authentic Mexican cuisine. While nopales are actually the stems of the cactus, many people think they are leaves.

The nopales are a low calorie vegetable, and you can eat 100 grams of nopales for only 16 calories, making them a great addition to your low calorie diet. These succulent vegetables are a great source of dietary fiber, particularly non-carbohydrate polysaccharides, including hemicellulose, mucilage, and pectin. 

Cactus pads, or nopales, pack an excellent nutritional punch. They offer vitamin A and beta carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A. Small amounts of B-complex vitamins are found in nopal pads as well, including vitamin B-6, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. You’ll also get about 15% of your daily need for vitamin C in just one serving of nopales. 

How can you use nopales in your diet? One of the best ways to eat them is raw within a salad. You can also use them raw in your own homemade salsa for a delicious snack food. Nopales can also be cooked just like other vegetables and eaten as a side dish, or they can be added to stews and soups. For a delicious side dish, grill or roast the nopales and enjoy. Add them to breakfast by dicing them up with tomatoes and onions, adding them to scrambled eggs. Pickled nopales are a delicious appetizer, and cactus pad juice has become a popular wellness drink.


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