The Tohono O'odham and Pima's traditional diet before world war two
was made up of foraged wild wild foods, which consisted of mesquite
pods, cactus fruit and chiles. They also cultivated indigenous crops,
such as corn, beans and squash. When they switched to typical American
processed diets, the O'odham and Pima developed nutrition-related
health problems(diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure,etc.).
When the O'odham reversed this trend and returned to their traditional
diet, the health benefits of indigenous crops became quickly apparent.
They found that a diet high in desert plants can slow down and even
reverse diabetes and high cholesterol !
Fiber, the desert plant's way of absorbing and conserving water, is
what makes desert plants a good option. High-fiber foods slow the
digestion and absorption of sugars in the body, and therefore help to
regulate blood glucose levels. Plant-based diets also help reduce
cholesterol, a serious concern for non-insulin-dependent diabetics,
who are generally overweight and at higher risk for coronary heart
The prickly pear cactus, known as
nopal, belongs to the genus, Opuntia, the most abundant plants of the
desert. The green stems and fruits of Nopales have been a source of
nourishment for Native Americans well before the colonial period, deep
within Pre-Columbian times. Nopales can be flavored with green chilies
and a touch of vinegar, rolled in a flour tortilla. A refreshing salad
is commonly made from nopales, tomatoes, and onions topped with a
vinegar and mustard dressing. Other recipes include nopalitos con queso
(a mixture of nopales, onions, and chilies, stir fried and sprinkled
with cheese) and revoltijos (potatoes, shrimp, and nopal strips cooked
in mole rojo; a red chili sauce).
1 cup cooked and
3 tablespoons diced onion
6 tablespoons oil
1/4 tsp oregano
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a
skillet and add the Nopalitos. Beat the eggs in a bowl and pour over the
Nopalitos, then add a teaspoon of water to avoid sticking. Stir for a
minute while cooking to avoid burning, then add the oregano and salt.
Cook evenly for 5 minutes. Serve with tortillas and salsa.
16 oz. cooked
Nopalitos, diced and drained
8 oz. canned or fresh roasted chiles, diced
2 lb. fresh or 16 oz canned tomatillos, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 to 4 canned chipotle peppers, finely diced
3 T white vinegar
1 T salt
1 cup finely chopped white onion
ingredients and refrigerate. Serve as a garnish or fold in sour cream to
taste then fill a tortilla and roll up.
and Pork ,chicken,fish
1 cup of cooked
Pork loin or 3–4 chops, deboned (try with chicken or fish as well)
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
14 oz. can of pureed or stewed tomato
1/2 cup fresh or canned corn
2 bay leaves
1 T oregano
Chile powder to taste
Heat a greased
skillet on medium temperature, then add the onions and garlic and sauté
until tender. Add pork. When the pork turns white, add the Nopalitos,
corn and tomato. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bay
leaves, oregano and chile powder. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve
over rice or with tortillas.
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nopal. Archivos de
Investigacion Medica (MEX). 10 (1979). 223-230.
2. Roman-Ramos, R., Flores-Saenz, J.L., Alarcon-Aguilar, F.J.
Anti-hyperglycemic effect of some
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3. Fernandez, M.L., Lin, E.C.K., Trejo, A., McNamara, D.J. Prickly pear
(Opuntia sp.) pectin
reverses low density lipoprotein receptor suppression induced by a
hyper-cholesterolemic diet in
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4. Fernandez, M.L., Lin, E.C.K., Trejo, A., McNamara, D.J. Prickly Pear
(Opuntia sp.) pectin alters
hepatic cholesterol metabolism without affecting cholesterol absorption
in guinea pigs fed a
hypercholesterolemic diet.(Biochemical and Molecular Roles of
Nutrients). Journal of Nutrition.
v124, n6 (June, 1994):817-823.
5. Ciesla, Bill. Opuntia: points about the prickly pear. Americas
(English Edition). v40, n4 (July-
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Huizar-Contrera, M.D., Munguia-
Mazariegos, M., Mejia-Arreguin, S., Calva, E. A purified extract from
prickly pear cactus
(Opuntia fuliginosa) controls experimentally induced diabetes in rats.
Ethnopharmacology. 55 (1996) 27-33
7. Aguilar, C., Ramirez, C., Castededa-Andrade, I., Frati-Munari, A.C.,
Medina, R., Mulrow, C.,
Pugh, J. Opuntia (prickly pear cactus) and metabolic control among
patients with diabetes mellitus
(abstract). Annu Meet Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care, 1996, 12:14.