- With Mayo Clinic nutritionist
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.read biographyclose window
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
As a specialty editor for the nutrition and healthy eating guide, Katherine Zeratsky helps you sort through the facts and figures, the fads and the hype to learn more about nutrition and diet.
A Marinette, Wis., native, Katherine is certified in dietetics by the state of Minnesota and the American Dietetic Association. She has been with Mayo Clinic since 1999.
She is active in nutrition-related curriculum and course development in wellness nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and nutrition education related to weight management and practical applications of nutrition-related lifestyle changes.
Other areas of interest include food and nutrition for all life stages, active lifestyles and the culinary arts.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served a dietetic internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and worked as a registered dietitian and health risk counselor at ThedaCare of Appleton, Wis., before joining the Mayo Clinic staff.
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Does prickly pear cactus have health benefits?
I've seen prickly pear cactus promoted as a superfood. What's behind the hype?
from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
Prickly pear cactus, also called nopales, is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It is also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some preliminary evidence shows that prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Research also suggests that prickly pear cactus extract may lessen the unpleasant effects of a hangover. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
It's too early to call prickly pear cactus a superfood, but it can be part of a healthy diet. Indeed, prickly pear cactus is popular in many areas of the world, particularly Latin America, because it is high in fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids.
The edible parts of prickly pear cactus are the leaves, flowers, stems and fruit. Prickly pear cactus is eaten whole (boiled or grilled). It is also made into juice and jams.
If you'd like to try prickly pear cactus, consider easing into it. Prickly pear cactus can cause side effects, including mild diarrhea, nausea, increased stool volume, increased stool frequency and abdominal fullness, for some people.Next question
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- Prickly pear cactus. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Sept. 13, 2012.
- Feugang JM, et al. Nutritional and medicinal use of cactus pear (Opuntia spp.) cladodes and fruits. Frontiers in Bioscience. 2006;11:2574.
- Hichem A, et al. Protective effect of Opuntia ficus indica f. inermis prickly pear juice upon ethanol-induced damages in rat erythrocytes. Alcohol. 2012;46:235.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., Sept. 13, 2012.