This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact-checked by experts.
Nopal Cactus has many traditional uses but it is most commonly known for its weight loss properties. It is a common ingredient in most weight loss supplements and can also be a delicious food choice by itself.
But to what extent does Nopal Cactus actually promote weight loss? And do weight loss supplements containing Nopal Cactus extracts actually work? We have researched the available scientific studies on this topic and have answered the questions detailed in this article.
What Is Nopal Cactus?
Nopal Cactus is a staple food in many parts of Latin America. It is a soothing, and flavourful plant that is rich in antioxidants, and electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It has very few carbohydrates, most of which are fibres. And this is the reason why it is recommended by health experts as a great addition to any diet that is focused on weight loss.
How Does Nopal Cactus Help In Weight Loss?
One look at the nutritional profile of Nopal Cactus reveals the reason why it is a phenomenal choice for people looking to minimise their calorie intake while still feeling satiated and also fulfilling their nutritional needs.
Firstly, it contains a measly 16 calories per 100 grams. Secondly, the same 100 grams fulfil 8% of your daily fibre needs. It also packs a whole lot of Magnesium and Calcium (two important electrolytes that are commonly lacking in people’s diets).
A 150-200 gram portion of Nopal Cactus can become a major part of your daily weight loss diet. It provides the following benefits:
1. Keeps You Hydrated
These days, most people are chronically dehydrated. Since Nopal Cactus consists mainly of water, it helps you to meet your daily requirements. Water is also a healthy and non-caloric way to keep your gut relatively filled which plays a big part in the next reason.
2. Keeps You Satiated
One of the main challenges in following a weight loss diet is that reducing your calorie intake usually means reducing the outright amount of food you consume. In the initial stages, the body can have a hard time adjusting to this change and will produce hunger pangs that can be extremely unpleasant and distracting. Staying well hydrated and consuming a good deal of fibrous food such as Nopal Cactus is a great way to naturally suppress cravings and maintain your quality of life while you make radical changes to your body.
3. Supports Gut Health
Your gut is your second brain, and also the place where the most important digestive processes take place.
Fibre is food for the life-supporting microorganisms that call your gut their home. Eating an adequate amount of natural fibres helps these microorganisms flourish, which in turn has a cascading positive effect on your overall health. It helps you metabolise your food more efficiently and effectively, and gives you a greater amount of energy, and mental clarity. All these can help you achieve greater results on your weight loss journey.
4. Reduces Fat Absorption
Fibre binds to the excess fat molecules and carries them off towards the intestines for excretion. This prevents it from entering our bloodstream anyway and forming unwanted fat deposits or worse, plaque in our arteries (which can lead to fatal cardiovascular diseases) Nopal Cactus delivers you a big portion of your daily fibre needs. If coupled with a low fat diet, it can ensure that no excess fat enters your bloodstream and the existing fat stores can be eliminated more quickly.
5. Improves Metabolic Health
A small study of 30 women has conclusively proved that Nopal Cactus improves metabolic rate by controlling blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity. Fat has been ostracised for many years but recently sugar has been identified as an even bigger threat and the leading cause for the global obesity crisis. High fibre intake helps to lower blood sugar, which in turn leads to greater insulin sensitivity. So when your insulin levels fall as a result of lowered blood sugar, the body will burn fat stores more rapidly.
6. Supports Physical Performance For Faster Fat Loss
With impressive amounts of key electrolytes magnesium, calcium, and potassium, Nopal Cactus is also a wonder food to achieve fitness goals faster. Electrolytes are required for some of the most fundamental cellular functions. Some of the broadest functions they perform are controlling muscle contractions which can keep your heart chugging along as you perform intense workouts. They also aid in sleep and recovery which is when our body repairs and also consumes massive amounts of energy (which is why we literally wake up feeling lighter after a good night’s sleep).
The Best Ways To Consume Nopal Cactus
The above deep dive into Nopal Cactus clearly reveals that it performs really well as a weight loss agent due to its overall nutritional profile and not due to any one particular natural chemical or enzyme found within it.
So while weight loss supplements can be helpful in their own right, we do not recommend getting one just for the Nopal Cactus extract contained within as it will not have the same efficacy as the whole fruit.
If you live in an area where Nopal Cactus is readily available, then it is one of the best foods we can recommend you add to your weight loss diet. If you do not live in South America, or a nearby country in North America where the fruit is exported in bulk, then there might be similar fruits that might be indigenous to your region and work in a similar way. You should look for a fruit or vegetable that is extremely low in calories, provides a lot of dietary fibre, and is packed with essential nutrients that fulfil your daily needs. Check out our other articles to discover a plethora of alternatives.
- “Nutritional profile of Nopal Cactus” Source – USDA, FoodData central search. FDC ID: 169388, NDB Number:11964. Source Link
- “Unravelling the Effects of Soluble Dietary Fibre Supplementation on Energy Intake and Perceived Satiety in Healthy Adults: Evidence from Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised-Controlled Trials.” Source – NCBI, PMCID: PMC6352252, PMID: 30621363. Source Link
- “Effects of Cactus Fiber on the Excretion of Dietary Fat in Healthy Subjects: A Double Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Clinical Investigation.” Source – NCBI, PMCID: PMC4109417, PMID: 25067985. Source Link
- “Physical and Dietary Intervention with Opuntia ficus-indica (Nopal) in Women with Obesity Improves Health Condition through Gut Microbiota Adjustment”. Source – MDPI, Ref: Nutrients 2022, 14(5), 1008. Source Link
- “Insulin regulation of lipolysis in nondiabetic and IDDM subjects”. Source – PubMed, PMID: 2573554, DOI: 10.2337/diab.38.12.1595. Source Link
- “Adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity”. Source – NCBI, PMCID: PMC3519150, PMID: 22988148. Source Link