Reviewed by Michael Smith on March 20, 2017


López-Romero, P. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, November 2014., Bacardi-Gascon, M. Diabetes Care, 2007., Washington University: "Nopal (Optunia ficus-indica, Optunia steptacantha).", Mayo Clinic: "I've seen prickly pear cactus promoted as a superfood. What's behind the hype?"

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Video Transcript

CLAUDIO: My abuelita has a special concoction. She calls this a "mejunje." It has raw egg, salt and pepper, lime juice, onion, garlic, and cilantro. And if you take it for nine days, it actually lowers your blood sugar. Does that even work?

JUAN RIVERA, MD: I am laughing because that word "mejunje" brings me back to my childhood. It's foul-smelling and tastes horrible ... but somehow -- because it's your abuelita's recipe -- you have to trust it.

Now this abuelita is a real chef with this home remedy! Should I taste this? Oh my God! I wouldn't give this to my worst enemy! This tastes bad!

And by the way, none of these ingredients have been proven to lower blood sugar. Even adding cinnamon, which some might argue is good for lowering blood sugar, can't fix the taste of this "mejunje."

I have a solution that abuelitas will approve: nopal, otherwise known as prickly pear cactus. It is a plant found naturally in the Southwestern desert regions of the United States and Mexico. This staple in the Latin American diet has become very popular here. You find the actual plant in supermarkets, especially if they have an international section, and in health stores in a supplement form. ...

Nopal -- or prickly pear -- is high in fiber and contains pectin, both of which help decrease the absorption of sugar in the stomach and in the intestines.

In studies, type 2 diabetes patients who added prickly pear to high carb breakfasts were able to reduce their blood sugar levels significantly. Now this isn't a replacement for healthy eating and exercise -- so no, sorry, nopal is not a magic plant, but it could help.

Are you ready to start your morning right? Here is my own recipe for a delicious "nopal mejunje," or as you might call it, a breakfast smoothie. 1/2 a prickly pear, 1/2 cup of swiss chard cut in pieces, 1/2 of a raw beet, 1/2 of a green apple, 1 stalk of celery, and 8 ounces of water. Put all the ingredients in the blender. ... And now, you're ready to start your day. Salud!