Many of us looking to shed some pounds look for a secret supplement to help kick start our weight loss journey. And everyone who’s been trying to lose weight for a while knows that there’s sadly no “magic pill” that makes you instantly lose weight. It takes hard work, consistency and motivation. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find supplements that could help get the ball rolling as you start to exercise and eat better.
One natural weight loss supplement that’s been gaining popularity recently is Nopal Cactus, also known as “prickly pears cactus.” If you’re looking for some natural weight loss ingredients and supplements, this might be worth looking into. Below, we’ve detailed just how it works, its benefits, the different ways you can consume it, and whether or not it would work for you.
Before We Get Started
- 1 Before We Get Started
- 2 What Is Nopal Cactus?
- 3 How Does It Work?
- 4 Will This Work For You?
- 5 The Many Ways To Consume It
- 6 Other Health Benefits
- 7 Any Side Effects?
Before talking about Nopal Cactus for weight loss, it’s important to note that being overweight or obese can be largely due to genetics and/or an underlying medical condition that needs to be dealt with.
Be sure to visit your physician and check that your weight isn’t due to a larger problem and if Nopal Cactus would be a suitable supplement to try out. Genetics is also a major component to keep in mind. Your metabolism, fat distribution, etc. are all- to some extent- linked to genetics. You could be someone who exercises way more and eats way less than the average person, but is still relatively overweight. And therefore, certain supplements like Nopal Cactus can take a longer amount of time to work for you than it does for others, or vice versa.
That being said, it’s important to be kind to your body about what it can and can’t do, and intuitively figure out what works best for you. Even from a practical standpoint, psychologists say that approaching a goal from a self-hating (or even merely an unaccepting) starting point not only affects the patience you need to attain your goal, but also makes you extremely unlikely to maintain it. Physiologists also point out that it can likely trigger stress eating and sluggishness during exercise.
There’s a huge unnecessary stigma to being overweight, and it’s sometimes impossible to ignore it, so it might be helpful to remember that an overweight body isn’t necessarily one that can’t do much, and a slim body isn’t necessarily one that can.
What Is Nopal Cactus?
Nopal Cactus is a genus of the “prickly pear” cactus family, found in Southwest US, Spain, Italy and South Africa. It’s been used as a medicinal plant in various indigenous populations in the West. The edible parts of the plant are its leaves, its flower petals and its fruit, called the “prickly pear”, or “tuna.” You could also find nutritional value in its seeds too.
It contains minerals and nutrients, including calcium, and vitamins A, B (1,2 & 3) and C. It’s also packed with compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, the plant’s main component that helps with our specific topic of weight loss is its fiber content.
How Does It Work?
So how does Nopal cactus actually get you to lose weight?
It does this in two major ways:
↑High In Fiber, ↓Low In Calories
- Firstly, it’s a low-calorie food that’s high in fiber content. One of the main pros to foods high in fiber is that it makes you feel full. This means, Nopal cactus can make you feel full throughout the day without consuming too many calories. It will keep you from snacking or overeating during your meals.
- Research suggests that generally having high-fiber foods like Nopal cactus about half an hour before a meal can help you reduce how much you eat during that meal.
Slows Carbohydrate Digestion
- Nopal cactus’s fibers also slow down carbohydrate digestion, therefore moderating the rate of sugar absorption in the stomach and intestine. This keeps your blood sugar levels from swinging up and down. Both glycemic states can affect your weight in two ways:
- Having low blood sugar can make you feel hungry, even if you’ve had enough calories for the day.
- Having high blood sugar levels causes a release of insulin, which in turn stops your body from burning stored fat.
Therefore, minimizing the number of times you swing to either of these states is likely to lead to weight loss, or at least less weight gain.
Limits Absorption Of Dietary Fat
- However, Nopal’s main weight loss mechanism is decreasing the amount of fat your body absorbs. It does this by binding to your dietary fat, making it too large to be absorbed into your bloodstream. One clinical study found that participants on a 35% fat diet showed an increased fecal fat excretion in comparison to the control group without Nopal cactus in their diet.
Will This Work For You?
It is important to note, that very few studies actually measured weight loss while consuming the cactus. However, given what has currently been corroborated by science, Nopal cactus can help you lose weight, but it will likely depend on your usual diet.
Since Nopal Cactus reduces dietary fat absorption, it can be assumed that people who would most likely see the best results are ones who consume a relatively high-fat, low-carb diet. If your diet doesn’t include much fat, and you consume a high amount of carbs, Nopal cactus would be reducing the amount of fat absorbed into your bloodstream, but the majority of your weight would still be piled on from your carb intake, and it would likely have no effect.
Consider Nopal Cactus, if you usually consume a high amount of any of these foods:
If you consume high amounts of these foods, you might still see some weight loss, even though they’re also high in carbs:
The Many Ways To Consume It
Nopal cactus is a pretty versatile ingredient. There are about a billion ways you can consume it.
- This is the quickest and easiest way to consume Nopal cactus. There’s nothing easier than popping a pill, and you also wouldn’t have to worry about losing any of the plant’s nutrient or fiber content while cooking.
- You could find supplements with Nopal Cactus as their sole ingredient, or you could find them amongst other vitamins, minerals and helpful weight loss ingredients.
But then, of course, you can have a little fun with it and consume it in a drink, a snack, or a meal.
The Nopal cactus plant is actually a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, so you could find plenty of different recipes for it. Its leaf is said to have a variety of flavors, but essentially tastes like sour green beans, with a sweet cucumber-like fragrance, a smooth mucilaginous texture and a slight crunch. Their fruit is said to taste like sweet watermelon with a floral tint to it. Their flavor depends on whether they’re wild or cultivated.
- This is also an easy way to have yourself some Nopal Cactus intake on the go. Including an ingredient in your diet, not just habitually, but as a fun part of your lifestyle is an easy way to guarantee you won’t forget it throughout a busy week.
Various brands even sell Nopal cactus or prickly pear water, as it provides you with electrolytes, potassium and antioxidants, and has less natural sugars in it than coconut water.
Juices and smoothies are quite the trend in healthy-eating culture, so you’ll find plenty of Nopal Cactus blends to choose from. You can also find many creative smoothies online to try out at home.
You can replace the greens in your favorite green smoothie with Nopal
leaf pads and see how you like its unique twist.
Here’s one recipe to try out:
Blend the following ingredients together:
- One large Nopal Cactus Leaf
- 12 oz. fresh pineapples
- One large (or 1.5 medium) banana (frozen)
- 1 cup of plain Greek Yogurt
- 1 lemon or lime
- 1 ½ cups almond milk
- 1/3 cup water
- Honey to taste
Useful smoothie tricks:
* Add ½ cup of oats or nuts for a more filling smoothie
* Add 1 egg white for more protein
3. Snacks & Meals
Since the cactus has been domesticated for a long time, you’ll find plenty of different snacks and meals that include it. Nopal leaf pads can be eaten raw, so you could chop them up and have them as a crunchy ingredient in your salad. It’s also made into chewy jerky, and its fruit can be made into jams, jellies and even alcohol. The fruit can also be eaten raw as well. The Nopal cactus flower petals works well as a salad components or garnish for your meals.
Nopal leaves could also be cooked as a regular vegetable. This would take the most effort, but it’s also the most versatile way to enjoy it.
How Cooking Affects Your Food:
Most cooking methods, such as boiling or simmering foods tend to cause nutrients like vitamin C and B complex to leak out into the surrounding liquid, therefore significantly reducing the amount you end up eating. Baking and steaming have the same effect (although it’s a healthier and lower calorie alternative to frying). You can fix this by saving the stock after you boil it.
Nopal Cactus would also lose some of its antioxidant effects when cooked. However, more importantly, the plant’s central component for reducing fat absorption- soluble fiber- also usually decreases when cooking high-fiber foods.
There’s no evidence to suggest just how much cooking affects Nopal Cactus’s fiber content, but it’s important to note nonetheless.
Other Health Benefits
Helps With Type 2 Diabetes
Because of its ability to regulate your blood sugar levels, Nopal cactus can be a good addition to your meals if you have Type 2 diabetes. It also supposedly helps with our cells’ insulin sensitivity, so it could absorb more of the sugar in the blood and keep your blood sugar down.
More research is needed about how effective this is for Type 2 diabetes, so be sure to check with your physician before trying this out.
No More Bad Hangovers?
If you consume Nopal Cactus before you go out for a drink, it can significantly reduce your likelihood to end up with a bad hangover. Research shows that the plant reduces symptoms such as nausea, dry mouth and anorexia, by reducing the inflammation usually associated with hangovers. Of course, this depends on your alcohol tolerance, how much you drink and how dehydrated you are, but sometimes we need all the help we can get.
Helps With Bad Cholesterol (LDLs)
Nopal cactus has also been shown to decrease the lipid levels of bad cholesterol (LDLs) in both mice and humans, so this could be a good veggie to include in your diet if you have cholesterol problems.
Any Side Effects?
As A Supplement
There are currently no known side effects from prickly pear supplements, unless you’re allergic to this plant. However, it’s important to check with your physician before trying them out, especially if you are:
– Hypersensitive/ allergic to Prickly Pear
– Pregnant or breastfeeding (due to lack of clinical studies)
– On other medications
As A Food
When consumed as a food, there may be some minor side effects:
This therefore may not be suitable for people diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It may still be worth a try, but approach with caution.