Healthy Hollywood: Ask Keri Glassman — Why Should I Drink Cactus Juice?
First Published: August 16, 2012 4:00 PM EDT Credit: Access Hollywood
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Nutritionist Keri Glassman, who regularly shares her expertise on Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live, is answering your nutrition, diet, and health questions.
Want to know which foods to curb sugar cravings? Or, what should you eat before a workout? Ask Keri anything!
Keri will choose one great question a week to be answered Thursday in our Healthy Hollywood column.
To submit questions for Keri, click HERE!
This week’s question…
“I hear cactus juice is really good for arthritis. My parents are buying it whole and blending it. True?” – Alex S., Wisconsin
What Is It?
Cactus juice, also known as prickly pear juice or nopales juice, is exactly as the name suggests – juice from an edible cactus plant. And no, this juice that we’re referring to is not vodka (in case you didn’t know, certain types of alcoholic beverages are made from cactus plants). These cacti are common in Mexico and other regions of Central America. Recently becoming more popular in the United States, these fruits are popping up in specialty stores and farmer’s markets.
What Are The Health Benefits?
Cactus juice is loaded with nutrients that give it many health benefits including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As we age (no stopping this process sorry!) our cells break down and produce what are known as free radicals. Free radicals are “bad guys” because they cause oxidative damage, which disrupts normal cell functioning and is linked to inflammation, premature aging, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other illnesses.
Free radicals also arise from pollution, the sun and even some foods we eat! In a nutshell, free radicals cause damage and antioxidants can help protect us from them. Vitamin C is one of the many powerful antioxidants found in cactus juice. Though not clinically proven to cure arthritis, cactus juice may help alleviate inflammatory-associated pain for some people. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects given cactus juice showed significantly improved markers of oxidative stress (aka free radical damage).Another bonus – cactus fruit is a good source of calcium.
Calcium is important as most of know, for building healthy teeth and bones. So smile and show off those pearly whites because the benefits don’t stop just yet. Studies have shown that nutrients found in certain types of cactus plants can improve your hangover by fighting inflammation accompanied with alcohol intake! That’s right - the same family of plants used to make alcohol can also save you when you’ve drank too much. Looks like the insides of these plants are nothing like their dangerous spiky outsides.
So, Is It Worth It To Drink This Stuff?
Let’s see. One cup of raw prickly pear juice has about 15 calories, small amounts of sugar, and contains roughly 15% of the daily value for calcium andvitamin C. As far as nutrients go, yes, it seems to be worth it.
Brand names of this juice can be expensive, so if you don’t want to spend the extra cash you can try making it fresh or remember all the other ways to get your vitamin C such as berries and kiwi.
Though this elixir is not a magical cure for anything there are definite health and there’s no harm in trying it out! If nothing else, it’s a great low-cal way for you to increase your calcium and vitamin C intake, and reap the benefits of antioxidants.
-- Terri MacLeod & Keri Glassman
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