Cacti grow in desert climates, but they’re known for their ability to hoard water. If you ever find yourself lost in the desert and come across a cactus plant, you might be tempted to try and cut into one, but cacti protect their water with lots of stomach-churning chemicals. That’s why the concept of bottled cactus water seems really weird, but it’s becoming a trend. What’s the deal?
Cactus water is actually made from the cacti’s fruit, and it’s a specific cactus: the nopal or “prickly pear” cactus. Native to Mexico, the fruit is a popular ingredient in scrambled eggs and tacos. The bottled water is a concentrate of the prickly pear fruit and has a sweeter taste than coconut water. It’s low in calories (about 18 per cup) with 4 grams of carbs and 159 mg of potassium.
Its big health benefit, however, is taurine, an amino acid. It’s an antioxidants that supports the repair of muscle tissue, making it great for athletes and other people who exercise frequently. Studies have shown taurine can even boost your performance. The nopal cactus also has 24 betalains, another antioxidant that might be healthy for the skin. The prickly pear is the only fruit with all 24.
So when would you drink cactus water? After an intense workout would be a good idea. The water has also been shown to help nausea from alcohol, so people will drink it before going out to reduce their chances of getting hungover. If you’re drinking coconut water and want something with less calories, cactus water is a good option. Truenopal is the first big brand, while Cali Water is also popular. Cali Water also has fruit-flavored options if the natural flavor isn’t your favorite. Be prepared to pay more than you would for coconut water, however. Until cactus water becomes more affordable, it probably won’t become a common staple in most fridges.