There are a lot of misinformation out there on cactus, especially its consumption during pregnancy, and this is because there wasn’t enough research and information about it few years ago.
As a women’s health expert, I’ve done a thorough research on cactus and here is the scoop – Pregnant women can safely eat nopal cactus or prickly pear cactus as long as they prepare and cook it properly.
Cactus is very nutritious. It is low in calories and rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. But here are few caveats to follow when you need to safely eat cactus during pregnancy:
- Portion control: As with any food during pregnancy, it’s essential to consume cactus in moderation.
- Preparation: Make sure to clean the cactus pads thoroughly, removing any spines or thorns. You should also remove the tough outer skin before cooking. The spines can be irritating and the skin- too tough to digest.
- Cooking: You can cook this plant in various ways like grilling, boiling, sautéing or even adding to soups and stews. Cooking is going to break down the mucilage, also the gel-like substance found in cactus which is usually difficult for the body to digest.
- Allergies and sensitivities: Some people may be allergic to it, thence, it’s a good idea to first introduce it slowly into your diet to see how your body takes them .
- If you have any concerns about the consumption of this plant, Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian.
So here’s the deal with cactus during pregnancy: When you cook it up right, it can actually be a pretty healthy choice for your baby bump menu. But, don’t go all-in on cactus alone!
You need to mix it up with other foods to make sure you and your little one get all the good stuff.
If you’re ever in doubt about what to munch on while pregnant, just go ahead and talk to your neighborhood healthcare pro a shout. They’ve got the scoop on keeping you and the baby in tip-top shape!
Is cactus high in potassium?
Yes, cactus, specifically nopales or prickly pear cactus is relatively high in potassium.
Potassium is like the body’s backstage manager. It ensures our nerves stay in top form, keeping our muscles in check. It’s also the peacekeeper, helping to maintain healthy blood pressure, and making sure everything runs smoothly inside our bodies.
The exact amount you’ll find in cactus vary depending on factors like the size of the pads and the cooking method used to prepare.
But on average you should find about 323 milligrams of potassium in one cup of cactus, which is approximately 149 grams.
This represents a decent amount of potassium that can contribute to the daily intake of essential mineral in pregnant women especially.
Consuming foods like this plant, which is a powerhouse of potassium, can be beneficial for maintaining the right electrolyte balance to support your health.
Regardless, it’s noteworthy to eat them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet because too much potassium can cause kidney problems especially for those with underlying kidney infections.
If you have specific dietary concerns or medical conditions, or planning to incorporate cactus long-term into your pregnancy diet, go ahead and talk to your doctor.
Is it safe to eat raw cactus?
It is safe for non-pregnant women, but during pregnancy you should make sure you cook it very well before downing it.
For non-pregnant people who chooses to eat it raw, they must also consider the particular specie because some cactus species cannot be eaten raw.
Some well-known species that are safe to be eaten raw include the Lemaireocereus marginatus, Cereus repandus, and Opuntia ficus-indica.
Aside talking about the species that can be eaten raw, they should also exercise caution because eating this plant raw, especially when binged on, can cause digestive discomfort, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains due to the indigestible fibers.
At the extreme, they can cause severe digestive and respiratory problems. So exercising caution is always advised.
What are the side effects of cactus plant?
While nopal cactus are generally deemed safe to eat even by pregnant women, there can be some side effects or potential issues linked to its consumption.
But it’s good to know that these effects are typically mild and uncommon and they usually even occur when cactus is not properly cooked or if you have underlying sensitivities or allergies.
Some people may notice gastric discomfort after eating it, especially if it is inadequately cooked.
This plant contains mucilaginous substance that if not properly broken down through cooking, it can cause digestive issues like gas, bloating and dirrhea.
Though it is rare, some people may be allergic to cactus. Allergic reactions can range from mild skin irritation to severe symptoms like itching, hives or breathing difficulty.
If you have doubts or suspect an allergy to it, talk to your dietitian.
This superfood is high in oxlates – the compounds that contribute to formation of kidney stones.
If you an underlying kidney condition, or have a history of kidney stones, it may be wise to eat smaller quantities and ensure you stay well-hydrated.
Blood sugar control
While some studies suggest that prickly pear cactus may have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, it can also have hypoglycemic effects.
If you have diabetes or are taking medications to control blood sugar, it’s vital to keep your levels in check when introducing cactus to your diet.
Interactions with medications
Prickly pear cactus may interact with certain medications – particularly those that affect blood sugar levels or blood pressure.
So if you’re taking such medication, talk to your doctor before adding this food into your diet.
Thorns and spines
When handling the pads, there is a high risk of getting picked by the thorns or spines, which may cause skin irritation and discomfort. So you be handle and clean it well to avoid this issue.
What foods are forbidden in pregnancy?
There are no foods that are universally forbidden during pregnancy, but there’re several that should be consumed in moderation or even avoided because they may increase your risk to foodborne illnesses that’ll consequently affect your growing bump.
Here are some examples:
- Raw or undercooked seafood or eggs can potentially carry the risk of foodborne illnesses like salmonella and listeria which can have some effects on the baby. All your foods, including eggs should be fully cooked.
- Unpasteurized dairy products including soft, unpasteurized cheeses like Brie, Feta, blue-veined cheeses and queso fresco may contain listeria so choose pasteurized ones to reduce the risk.
- Raw or undercooked meat and poultry: Just like seafoods, raw or undercooked meat can carry bacteria and so must be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
- High-mercury fishes like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish is a no-no in pregnancy because they are high in mercury which can hurt baby’s nervous system development. Always choose low mercury fish like cod, salmon, trout and tilapia.
- Alcohol or liquor should be avoided because it has been associated with birth defects and developmental issues in foetuses.
- Caffeine: Moderate of about 200 – 300 mg in a day is cool for pregnant moms, anything exceeding this can increase risk of miscarriage and preterm birth.
- Processed and high sugary snacks and beverages should be drank in moderation because they can make you gain unnecessary weight and increase risk to gestational diabetes.
So while pregnant, aim for the colourful plates with fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy. If you’re unsure, or have concerns, your doctor or dietitian got the snack-scoop for you!
Pregnant women can eat cactus, particularly nopales or prickly pear, and can make it a nutritious addition to their diet when cooked and prepared well all the time.
They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibers, making thema great source of nutrients for most expectant moms.
As with any food during this journey, eating smaller amounts is the key. talk to your doctor or dietitian if you need specific dietary needs per your current health condition – trust me, they’ll be happy to help.