I've seen prickly pear cactus promoted as a superfood. What's behind the hype?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Prickly pear cactus — or also known as nopal, opuntia and other names — is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It's also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some preliminary evidence shows that prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Some research also suggests that prickly pear cactus extract may lessen the unpleasant effects of a hangover, possibly due to its anti-inflammatory effects.

It might be too early to call prickly pear cactus a superfood, but it can be part of a healthy diet. It's high in fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids. Indeed, prickly pear cactus is popular in many areas of the world, particularly Latin America, where it is a native plant.

The edible parts are the leaves, flowers, stems and fruit. Prickly pear cactus is eaten whole (boiled or grilled). It is also made into juice and jams.

If you'd like to try prickly pear cactus, consider easing into it. Side effects for some people include mild diarrhea, nausea, increased stool volume, increased stool frequency and abdominal fullness.

Dec. 05, 2018 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. A Very Happy Brain
  2. Acupuncture for back pain?
  3. Alternative cancer treatments: 10 options to consider
  4. Aromatherapy: Is it worthwhile?
  5. Candida cleanse diet
  6. CBD safety
  7. Chronic fatigue: Can a natural remedy boost my energy?
  8. Colloidal silver supplements
  9. Colon cleansing
  10. Considering complementary therapy
  11. Cupping therapy: Can it relieve fibromyalgia pain?
  12. Detox foot pads
  13. Diabetes treatment: Can cinnamon lower blood sugar?
  14. Do infrared saunas have any health benefits?
  15. Ear candling
  16. Ear infection treatment: Do alternative therapies work?
  17. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  18. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  19. Herbal supplements: Not risk-free
  20. Herbal supplements: Safety first
  21. Supplements and heart drugs
  22. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  23. Integrative approaches to treating pain
  24. Integrative medicine: Different techniques, one goal
  25. Integrative medicine: Find out what works
  26. Kombucha tea
  27. Kratom: Unsafe and ineffective
  28. Kratom and pregnancy: Not a safe mix
  29. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  30. Learn to reduce stress through mindful living
  31. Massage
  32. Medical marijuana
  33. Meditation 2.0: A new way to meditate
  34. Mindfulness exercises
  35. Mindfulness practice: Can it reduce symptoms of MS?
  36. Miracle cure or marketing scam?
  37. Natural aphrodisiacs
  38. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  39. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  40. Pet therapy
  41. Probiotics and prebiotics
  42. Fish oil supplements
  43. Tai chi
  44. Tai Chi and Cardiac Rehab
  45. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  46. Tai chi
  47. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  48. Alternative psoriasis treatments
  49. What is hot yoga?
  50. What is reflexology?
  51. Wheatgrass
  52. Why aromatherapy is showing up in hospital surgical units
  53. Yucca: Can it relieve arthritis pain?
  54. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?