Nopal Cactus (Prickly Pear) Contains Pectin

(*) See References and Disclaimer at the bottom of the page.

Nopal cactus (prickly pear) contains pectin. Pectin is the name for a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the cell wall of terrestrial plants. It's used as a gelling agent, emulsifier, and thickener for food(1*).

Like other thickeners or stabilizers such as agar and gelatin, pectin gives an even color and smooth consistency to artificially sweetened beverages, chocolate milk, frozen desserts, candies and ice cream. Without using thickeners or stabilizer chocolate particles would separate in chocolate milk and ice crystals would form in frozen desserts like ice cream. The stabilizers or thickeners are used to hinder deterioration and evaporation of the compounds giving flavor in puddings, cakes, and other food items.

Fruit remains firm and keeps its form because of the pectin found in the cells: it is the glue that holds the cells together. The pectin in fruit breaks down into simple sugars as it ripens and this is part of the reason that fruit softens as it ripens. Pectin is a carbohydrate that has no nutritional value aside from it being a source of fiber(2*).

The pectin in nopal cactus (prickly pear) provides water-soluble fiber and is capable of withstanding digestion(3*).

Pectin found in nopal cactus (prickly pear) can significantly decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein; the dangerous cholesterol) and blood cholesterol levels while not affecting HDL ("good" cholesterol). Pectin aids cholesterol from sticking to the body's arterial walls and by attaching to the cholesterol found in the intestines and carrying it out of the body during bowel movements.

Pectin's effect is more physical than chemical: it cleans the intestines like a broom sweeping a floor rather than by some complex chemical reaction(4*). The body cannot digest fiber and so it is pushed out. The cleaning effect happens because while the fiber is being passed it takes other, potentially harmful compounds, with it.

The pectin found in nopal cactus (prickly pear) lessens the rise in blood-sugar levels when it is consumed with food. The National Diabetes Associations of Australia, Canada, England, and the United States all endorse and strongly supports the role of pectin and other dietary fibers for diabetes and intestinal ailments(5*).

Pectin is useful in helping with dumping syndrome(6*) as it slows down carbohydrate absorption. Dumping syndrome is when food is consumed and then "dumped" into the small intestines soon after ingestion. Thus, the food in the intestines is largely undigested. As you can imagine, undigested food can cause many uncomfortable symptoms—indigestion being the least of them. Dumping syndrome is more common in people who have undergone vagotomy (partial or total severance of the vagus nerve in the stomach)(7*) and in people who have had portions of their stomach removed.

Sources of Pectin

Apples, Bananas, Beans, Grains, Grapefruit, Oranges, Pears and Nopal Cactus (Prickly Pear) from Natural Home Cures Freeze Dried Nopal Powder Capsules Nopal Cactus (Prickly Pear).

     Source References
(1) Wikipedia: Pectin
WebMD: Pectin
(3) LiveStrong: Food Sources of Pectin
(4) The Spruce Eats: Pectin sorbents clean the intestines
(5) Ehow: List of Foods Containing Pectin
(6) Pectin
(7) WiseGeek: What is Pectin