Surprisingly, it is only in recent years that medical researchers and food scientists have begun to scientifically study and report the chemical composition and nutrient values of Nopal. Today, there is a growing body of research on Nopal, the findings of which suggest that Nopal contains many of the “phytochemicals” that health and nutrition specialists consider to be important in aiding the human body regulate and maintain itself in a healthy state including its ability to resist certain types of health disorders such as Diabetes, heart disorders and cancer.
PHYTOCHEMICALS IN GENERAL
Phytochemicals found in plants (also known as “functional foods” and “ Nutraceuticals”) act in four basic ways to promote health and assist the human body resist disease:
- One group act as “Antioxidants” by eradicating oxygen deficient molecules known as “free radicals” which, if not eliminated cause cell damage that can lead to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other disorders.
- A second group act as “Detoxifiers” by supporting normal processes that allow the human body to recognize and destroy or eliminate toxic substances ingested or produced by the human body.
- A third group act as “Hormone Modulators” by triggering needed hormone production (such as insulin) and by substituting harmless hormone-like substances (such as phytoestrogens) for over-acting natural hormones and/or by reducing the production of excess hormones by the human body. Excess hormones can trigger cellar damage leading to various disorders including cancer.
- A fourth group act as “Cell Regulators” by assisting the human body control the rampant growth characteristics of tumors.
Nopal has been found to contain many of these phytochemicals in quantities and/or concentrations greater than is found in better-recognized plants. For example, Aloe Vera has become well known for its healing powers, which are in large part due to its content of mannans (more particularly “mannose”). Mannose has been found to have many health benefits. Among these as its ability to aid the body fight infection and virus by killing or eliminating disease carrying cells and its ability to boost the immune system by killing cancer cells. Recent chemical analysis of Nopal has revealed that Nopal has a concentration of Mannose that is 33 percent greater than is found in Aloe Vera. A second example of the comparative benefits of Nopal is found in the “Glycemic Index,” which is a relative measure of the rate at which ingested carbohydrates trigger a rise in circulating blood sugar and can cause elevated blood sugar levels. The carbohydrates found in Nopal have been found to have the lowest “Glycemic Index” among all plant foods tested to date.
In recent years hospital-based medical practitioners, health scientists in private practice and researchers at such institutions as the USDA Agriculture Research Service Food and Nutrition Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland and a number of University-based Health Science and Nutrition Centers have subjected Nopal to increasing study.
Classified as a vegetable, testing by the USDA has revealed Nopal to contain beneficial soluble and insoluble dietary fiber and essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other phytochemicals that have been diminished or lost in the modern diet. Conversely, Nopal is low in carbohydrate calories and sodium, and as indicated above, the carbohydrates that are found in Nopal are less likely to trigger elevated blood sugar levels.
THE ROLE OF AMINO ACIDS, VITAMINS & MINERALS
are the chief structure of proteins and are involved in a wide range of beneficial functions such as stimulating the immune system, maintenance of proper blood sugar balance and control of anxiety and depression. Nopal is a natural source of 18 Amino acids, 8 of which are essential and must be ingested as food.
Nopal contains the following Amino Acids:
- Aspartic Acid
- Glutamic Acid
A (beta-carotene), E and C act as antioxidants. Vitamin B-3 (niacin) lowers cholesterol and protects against arteriosclerosis. Vitamin E helps prevent blood clots and the formation of fatty plaques on the walls of the arteries and helps prevent nerve damage associated with adult-onset diabetes. Nopal is and excellent source of these important vitamins in a natural form.
Nopal contains the following Vitamins:
- Vitamin A (Beta Carotene)
- Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
- Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)
- Pantothenic Acid
- Folate (water soluble form of Vitamin B)
The primary role of minerals is to serve as facilitators of the many types of human body system activities. For example, iron is necessary for protein metabolism and plays a role in immune system resistance. Potassium helps prevent impaired glucose tolerance and impaired insulin secretion. Selenium is an anti-oxidant and helps preserve tissue elasticity. Additionally, minerals play special roles such as calcium in the building of strong bones and teeth. Nopal is an excellent source of 10 essential minerals.
Nopal contains the following essential Minerals: