Cactus doesn’t sound like the typical health food. It’s spiny, dry and tough, isn’t it? Actually, no; the nopal cactus, also known as the prickly pear cactus, is extremely healthy for you. The plant is among more than 100 species of cactus local to Mexico. It is commonly found in Mexican cuisine and has many health benefits for those willing to look past its outer appearance.

1. Appearance and Description

The nopal cactus has soft, green or purple paddle-like offshoots that are usually hand-sized. Long, sharp spines and smaller hairs protrude from the surface and base of the pads. The cactus itself can vary in size from less than one foot to more than seven feet tall. Edible red fruit grows from the fleshy pads.