Cactus fruit, also called cactus pads or nopales, is the edible part of the cactus plant, and you can have it in salads, soups or other dishes. It has similar nutritional benefits as other vegetables, and you may want to add cactus to increase the variety in your healthy diet.
Low in Calories
Each 100-g serving of raw cactus fruit provides only 16 calories. A high-calorie diet can lead to weight gain, and low-calorie foods can help you lose weight or prevent weight gain by helping you feel full without eating too many calories. About 94 percent of the weight of raw cactus is water, which is a natural, calorie-free appetite suppressant.
Cactus is naturally low in sodium, with 21 mg per 100-g serving. A high-sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk for heart or kidney disease or stroke, and healthy adults should have no more than 2,300 mg per day, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Provides Essential Nutrients
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and essential nutrient for proper wound healing and immune function. Each 100-g serving of cactus has 9 mg vitamin C, or 15 percent of the daily value. Cactus has 164 mg calcium, or 16 percent of the daily value, for this bone-strengthening mineral.
High in Fiber
Cactus fruit can help you increase your fiber intake because it provides 2.2 g fiber in each 100-g serving. Dietary fiber comes from the parts of plants that your body cannot digest, and a high-fiber diet may lead to lower cholesterol levels and better blood sugar control.
Anti-clotting may be a benefit of prickly pear cactus, according to a study published in the July 2003 issue of the journal “Prostaglandings, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.” In the study, participants with elevated cholesterol consumed 250 grams of prickly pear and showed reductions in clot promoting compounds and improved platelet sensitivity.