Saturday, August 11, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Nopal (Prickly Pear) Water

     This week I'm returning to an old post, sort of.  Way back on February 16, 2013 I discussed eating a couple of types of cactus, including the fruit of the prickly pear.  However, in the past couple of months I've seen another option--cactus water.  This is made from the same fruit, only mixed up with water, and assorted natural, and sometimes artificial flavors, consumed as a beverage.  The two I tried were True Nopal from True Me Brands, LLC, and Kuii, made in Mexico, and distributed by RP Foods LLC.
     Much of the hype about cactus water concerns its alleged health benefits.  The True Me website, and others, touted many of these.  Cactus water is supposed to help with diabetes, energy and stamina, depression, heart disease, high cholesterol, the prostate, menstrual cycles, eye health, weight management, mental awareness, muscle repair after gym workouts, and reducing the puffiness underneath one's eyes.  It's also said to add a glow to your skin, and help treat hangovers.  Some folks refer to it as a superfood (or a superbeverage, I guess--see my May 1, 2014 post for more on those).  As usual, though, I have to add the caveat that these benefits aren't yet supported by medical science.  The Mayo Clinic website, for example, mentions that cactus water might be good for diabetes, and with hangovers, but more research is needed.  And that the potential adverse side effects of this drink include mild diarrhea, nausea, increased stool volume and frequency, and something called "abdominal fullness."  The clinic concluded that cactus water is probably healthy, but not necessarily the magic medical breakthrough that its proponents often claim.
     Prickly pear (nopal is its name in Mexican Spanish) is certainly an important food source in Mexico.  The "leaves," or pads, are avidly eaten, both raw and cooked, and it's also used as animal feed.  114 different kinds grow in Mexico.  And, to come back to a somewhat repellent aspect of my day job, archaeology, evidence of prickly pear consumption has been found in human coprolites (fossilized feces) dating back to 65 B.C.
     True Me's website was a bit terse.  It essentially talked mostly about how healthy cactus water is, and bragged that their main product contains no preservatives, no added sugar, no gluten, no gmo's, and is suitable for vegans.  They also went out of their way to disparage coconut water, apparently a main competitor.
     RP Foods was founded in 1999, and carries products from Mexico, Asia, and Europe.  Other offerings include aloe drinks (see June 17, 2012 post), fruit juices, oils, cookies/biscuits, tomato sauce, and assorted corn products.  Other flavors of Kuii include a cactus/hibiscus/(see June 9, 2017 post)passion fruit one, a cactus/coconut/pineapple flavor, and a cactus/orange/pineapple kind.  Somewhat depressingly, under "News" on the website is absolutely nothing.
     Here's what I thought.

1) True Me True Nopal cactus water:  Listed ingredients were filtered water, nopal concentrate, and natural flavor.  Came in a liter sized, cardboard box.  Color of this was red.  Taste was not good, very weak.  "Ugh," as I put it in my notes.  Very disappointing, what little flavor there was isn't pleasant at all.  It was expensive, too, costing $5.49.

2) RP Foods Kuii Power Drink, cactus/kiwi/strawberry flavor.  This one came in a 592 ml. (20 ounce) bottle, and was a green color.  This was 15% juice.  Listed ingredients were water, citric acid, nopal powder, kiwi and strawberry natural flavors, xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, artificial colors, maltodextrin, aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose, and preservatives.  I liked this one.  The kiwi and strawberry flavors were evident, and it was sweet enough to be interesting.  It was much better than the True Nopal.  There were some vitamins, too--Vitamin C, B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, biotin, and pantothenic acid.

     So, in closing, I had very different reactions to these two kinds of cactus water.  To my tastes, the one with more artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, etc., while arguably less healthy, was by far the tastier beverage.  I might get this kind of Kuii again, and its alternate flavors if I see them.  But both of them weren't as good as coconut water, in my opinion.

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