Cactus Juice: Benefits, Recipe & Side Effects
If you ever want to try an exotic vegetable juice, cactus juice is an excellent option, as it has a long list of potential health benefits, incredible nutrient density, and various powerful antioxidants when it is properly prepared. Cactus juice is actually known by many different names, including prickly pear juice or nopales juice, but they are all referring to the natural juice of the prickly pear cactus. There are more than a hundred different species in the Opuntia genus but many of them share similar physical and nutritional profiles. Native to the Americas, prickly pear cactus was first naturalized in Australia and has since spread to many other parts of the globe. It is believed that cactus juice has been a part of indigenous people’s culinary practices for thousands of years.
Extracting cactus juice requires a bit more effort than most other vegetable juices, but it is well worth the effort, provided you can find the appropriate prickly pear cactus pads to make the juice. Cactus juice is an excellent source of vitamin C, B-family vitamins, iron, calcium, beta-carotene, magnesium, numerous amino acids and other phytonutrients. It is also extremely low in calories, although it is quite high in omega-6 fatty acids. While you can purchase your own cactus juice in certain exotic food stores, it can be expensive and also packed with other additives or sugars. Making your own allows you to be creative with other ingredients and enjoy the many health benefits of this juice at a fraction of the price.
Benefits of Cactus Juice
The top benefits of cactus juice includes its ability to aid in weight-loss efforts, ease digestion, neutralize inflammation, lower blood pressure, relieve menstrual cramps, manage diabetes, lower stress, improve cardiovascular health, reduce cancer risk and eliminate hangovers quickly.
Cholesterol Levels: Studies have found that regular consumption of cactus juice can not only lower your LD cholesterol levels significantly, but may also reduce fat deposition, thus lowering your risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Weight Loss: Cactus juice is extremely low in calories, about 15 calories per cup, which means you can drink quite a bit of this juice without it affecting your daily intake of calories. However, it does have the ability to fill you up and deliver a number of key nutrients, so you can prevent snacking and overeating without compromising your diet!
Digestive Health: This juice has been recommended for intestinal problems for centuries, as it can form a protective layer in the gut that lowers inflammation levels and soothes the discomfort of irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and colitis. It can also help to clear up problems with constipation, bloating and cramping, as it clears out the colon and digestive tracts.
Diabetes: One of the soluble fibers that are bioavailable in this juice is pectin, which has a strong effect on blood sugar levels in the body. This compound can help to regulate insulin and glucose levels in the body, making it a great ally for those suffering from diabetes or people at risk of developing this disease.
Cancer: Aside from the vitamin C content in prickly pear cactus, there is also a compound called betalaine, a powerful antioxidant that has been directly linked to preventing carcinogenic activity by cells. This can prevent cellular mutation and protect your from various types of cancer.
Blood Pressure: There are impressive levels of potassium found in cactus juice, making it excellent for lowering blood pressure and symptoms of hypertension. This can lessen the strain on your heart, and lower your chances of heart attack and stroke.
Inflammatory Conditions: If you suffer from conditions like arthritis, gout, inflamed bowels, headaches, chronic muscle pain or high oxidative stress levels, the anti-inflammatory properties of this juice are precisely what you need. The phytochemicals and other antioxidants in the juice provide most of these soothing benefits.
Hangovers: Over the years, countless people have sworn by cactus juice as the ultimate hangover cure. Alcohol in excess can cause inflammation, while cactus juice can directly counter that, while also addressing some of the most common symptoms of a hangover, such as nausea and headaches.
Menstrual Cramps: The anti-spasmodic nature of the active ingredients in cactus juice make it a popular juice for women experiencing painful menstrual cramps. This juice can act rapidly to eliminate all abdominal discomfort and tightness, and also relieve stress and anxiety that often accompanies a woman’s period.
Stress Levels: If you suffer from chronic anxiety or stress, some of the active ingredients found in this juice can mimic the effects of cortisone, which can effectively lower your stress hormone levels and calm the mind, helping you focus or relax, and even get a better night’s sleep.
How to Make Cactus Juice
Making your own cactus juice at home may sound daunting, but it is only slightly more complicated than blending or juicing a normal vegetable. As mentioned, there are more than a hundred species of prickly pear cactus, but the most important thing is to remove the spines from both the pads and the rounded fruits. Mature pads and fruit will contain the most diverse and stable range of nutrients. To improve the flavor of the juice, many people add other citrus fruits to increase sweetness and palatability.
Step 1 – Remove any spines still stuck in the pad with tweezers or a knife.
Step 2 – Bring a pot of water up to boil and then drop in the two cactus pads.
Step 3 – Allow them to steep for 3-4 minutes, as they will begin releasing their juices.
Step 4 – Remove the pads carefully and let them cool.
Step 5 – Peel the pads and chop them into small cubes.
Step 6 – Add the chopped cactus to your blender, along with the oranges, lemon and coconut water.
Step 7 – Blend thoroughly until the consistency is even.
Step 8 – Place cheesecloth over a bowl or container and strain the blended mixture through it.
Step 9 – Press on the cactus pulp in the cheesecloth, removing as much juice as possible.
Step 10 – Discard the cactus pulp and refrigerate the juice.
Step 11 – Serve chilled and enjoy!
Side Effects of Cactus Juice
Cactus juice can be a wonderful addition to your health regimen, but there are some potential health risks and side effects of which you should be aware. Drinking an excessive amount of cactus juice worsen a hangover, dangerously low blood sugar, gastrointestinal problems and complications with other medications. Before using this nutrient-rich drink, it is best to speak with your doctor about your specific risk factors.
- Hangover – Although many people consider cactus juice a hangover cure, those with sensitive stomachs or severe reactions to alcohol may find that cactus juice makes the symptoms worse, including more painful headaches and additional gastrointestinal distress.
- Diabetes – Cactus juice is known for its blood sugar-lowering ability, but for people with low blood sugar, or those on medication for the condition, could experience dangerously low levels of blood sugar, causing weakness, cognitive confusion and even fainting.
- Stomach Issues – Common side effects for people who are not used to drinking cactus juice include nausea, diarrhea, cramping, bloating and other types of gastrointestinal distress.
- Drug Interactions – Experts do not recommend drinking cactus juice before taking daily medications, as the juice can inhibit a number of drugs, particularly those for kidney, liver and pancreatic conditions.