If you’re remotely health conscious and if you enjoy incorporating healthy drinks packed with natural benefits like coconut, aloe, or birch water into your diet, there’s a new player in town – cactus water. Also known as prickly pear water, it is widely hailed as the next big thing in the wellness industry.
But what exactly is cactus water, how and when should you drink it and, most importantly, is it worth the hype? Here’s everything you need to know about this tasty new elixir.
What Is Cactus Water?
Cactus water is made using real, extracted puree of the prickly pear, the superfruit of the Opuntia cactus. This is one of the many varieties of cacti that populates Mexico, Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and other parts of the Southwestern United States. Prickly pears, known as ‘tuna’ in Spanish, are bright pink in color and are found on giant succulents (they can grow up to 7 meters!).
The fruit itself is a staple in Mexican cuisine and tastes like watermelon and bubblegum had a baby. Sweet, juicy, and surprisingly familiar! Crazy, right? The fruit is often eaten raw or made into jams or added to smoothies.Prickly pear is packed with natural antioxidants and electrolytes like vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. Antioxidants help support our body’s immune system, and all these nutrients are essentially squeezed into prickly pear water. So let’s explore the many cactus water benefits (all backed by science).
What Are the Main Cactus Water Benefits?
1. Packed with antioxidants
We don’t want to put you to sleep with a chemistry class, but antioxidants deserve a little explanation. Antioxidants promote health in that they are instrumental in fighting free radicals, which are responsible for the occurrence of many chronic conditions. To put it in simplest terms, antioxidants keep us healthy on the cellular level.
If this sounds a bit too abstract, let’s just say that the most famous ones are vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E), selenium and flavonoids, all of which naturally occur in fruit and vegetables.
The prickly pear water contains some of the most potent plant-based antioxidants and has been scientifically linked to toxin removal.
2. Prevents dehydrationIt’s no news that our bodies are largely made of water. H20 helps our metabolism to work properly, it’s also responsible for skin health (yes, that glow you’re after), and it improves memory and prevents headaches.
Even though we’re all too familiar with the recommended daily water intake, in practice, we fail to keep up. We often reach for caffeine or a fizzy drink to quench our thirst or to get that energy kick.
Another problem is that we can often mistake thirst for hunger. A recent study published in The Seattle Times confirmed that the respondents interpreted thirst correctly only 2% of the time, while they misinterpreted it for hunger 62% of the time. This is because:
- Some symptoms of mild dehydration like headaches or difficulty concentrating resemble symptoms of hunger.
- The same part of the brain (the hypothalamus!) is responsible for deciphering hunger and thirst... and even our own brains can get confused sometimes.
How can cactus water prevent dehydration? Unlike plain water, and thanks to its vitamin and mineral content, cactus water is tasty and energizing. Compared to the popular coconut water, it contains half the sugar and calories, so you can drink cactus water guilt-free, all day. It’s taste is not overpowering, so you won’t have to chase that sweetness down with something else.
3. Helps fight inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s response to fight foreign invaders and is increasingly being recognized as a trigger or at least a contributing factor to numerous auto-immune diseases (including diabetes 1 and 2) and migraine. To reduce inflammation, which can be responsible for brain fog, PMS, acne and unexplained fatigue, it’s important to have an anti-inflammatory diet.
With its high antioxidant activity and anti-cancer properties, prickly pear fruit is considered a superfood. The same goes for prickly pear infused water – several publications list it among the top foods and drinks for liver health.
4. Hangover relief
We can’t say cactus water exactly cures hangovers, but it definitely makes them more bearable. Thanks to its unique combination of antioxidants and powerful hydrating properties, prickly pear speeds up liver recovery so you'll get rid of hangover symptoms like nausea, dry mouth, and headaches much sooner. A recent study found that chugging on cactus water reduced the risk of a “severe hangover” by half.
5. Perfect post-workout drink
Muscle soreness is equally dreaded by professional athletes, gym rats, and yogis. Although the pain usually peaks 48 hours after an intense workout (or vacuuming your apartment for the 10th time during COVID), it’s possible to reduce its intensity by taking antioxidant supplements. In fact, athletes take them strategically to reduce aches during the periods of competitions and tournaments. But, you don’t have to be an Olympian to accelerate muscle recovery.
And now you can do it while staying hydrated too. Naturally rich in antioxidants and low in calories and sugar, cactus water is the perfect choice to replenish your fluids and get the necessary antioxidants after an intense workout on a hot day. An added benefit is that, unlike commercial sport drinks, prickly pear water contains no artificial ingredients and comes with only 35 calories per serving.
If you’re wondering how to drink cactus water, the possibilities are endless – mix it in a smoothie, add it to your favorite cocktail (remember those anti-hangover properties?), or drink it straight from the can. Bottoms up!