Nopal Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 08/03/22 •  9 min read
nopal cactus benefits and side effects

What are nopal benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are nopal pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on nopal benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about nopal benefits and side effects. This will include nopal benefits for your health and potential risks, nopal water footprint and nopal carbon footprint, nopal sustainability, if nopal is vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if nopal is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about nopal benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Must-Know Nopal Benefits And Side Effects

Health

Nopal cactus health benefits may include:

Nopal cactus is…

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Environment

Water footprint: low, cacti are drought tolerant, nopal cactus has a relatively low water footprint

Carbon footprint: low, 0.9 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of fruits, a car driving equivalent of 2 miles or 3.25 kilometers

Destruction: low, nopal cactus production is relatively sustainable, there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc.

Nopal cactus is…

Animals

Kills: none, nopal cactus production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, nopal cactus production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from nopal cactus production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Nopal cactus is…

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Laborers

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Nopal cactus…

Nopal is grown in 18 of the 31 Mexican states.

The top nopal exporting country is China, followed by Spain, Mexico, Belgium, Ecuador, Netherlands, Poland, USA, Portugal and Guatemala.

Yes! Nopal cactus is full of antioxidants.

Another name for nopal cactus is prickly pear.

nopal is gluten free. nopal benefits include fitting into a gluten free diet.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Is nopal cactus gluten free?

Yes, nopal cactus is gluten free. Nopal cactus does not contain gluten. Nopal cactus is a type of fruit, therefore making it a naturally gluten free food. 

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

nopal cactus is not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is nopal cactus a common food allergen?

No, nopal cactus is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to nopal cactus but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

nopal likely has a low water footprint. nopal benefits include not requiring too much water.

water footprints of food and products

Does nopal cactus have a high or low water footprint?

Nopal cactus likely has a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods since cacti are drought tolerant.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

nopal cactus is sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is cabbage eco friendly? Is cabbage sustainable?

Cabbage production is relatively sustainable since there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used. Be sure to buy non GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc. when using regenerative practices.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

nopal cactus is vegan. nopal benefits include not killing, harming or using animals.

benefits of vegan food to eat on a vegan diet which helps save animals

Is nopal vegan?

Yes, nopal is vegan. Nopal is a fruit and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. 

Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

nopal cactus may have laborer issues or human rights concerns.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is nopal cactus a product with laborer concerns?

At this time there are no major concerns with nopal production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks.

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

Conclusion

Nopal pros include:

Nopal cons include:

This post was all about nopal benefits and side effects.

Sources:

Nopales, raw – FoodData Central – USDA

Field Guide for Managing Prickly Pear – USDA Forest Service

Adriane Marie

Grocery Guru, Material Maven, Conscious Consumer Connoisseur. I organize ethical info for us to comprehensively see how purchases impact people, animals and the planet. I hope you find HEALabel helpful! Use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.

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