In our article about health benefits of nopal cactus, we saw the benefits of Nopal cactus pads and the fruit. Then why do we intend to write specifically about health benefits of prickly pear juice or nopal fruit juice? Possibly because we find much buzz about trivita nopalea juice and other producers of prickly pear juice, which is basically nopal cactus fruit juice along with other fruits and flavours. Most of them are being promoted through network marketing. Disadvantage about network marketing is that there are multiple marketing campaigns – hence multiple stories about benefits of trivita nopalea, some call it nopalea juice scam!
We would possibly like to answer some of these questions:
- Are dietary fibers passed from fruit to juice?
- What quantity of vitamin E and A passed from fruit to juice?
- Are all phtyto-nutrients present in fruit also present in juice?
- Is Cactus fruit more nutritious than the fruit?
- I have diabetes; should I drink Nopalea juice?
- Is antioxidant property intact even after so much of juice making?
Let us first understand how cactus pear juice is made, which will help us understand what part of the fruit actually goes into the juice. Across the web, we could find 4 major ways of making prickly pear juice.
Method 1: Clean – Peel – Blend – Coarse Sieve – Fine Sieve
Very much similar to this method found on EHow. First you clean the Nopal fruit from its glochids. Cut the tips and then place a longitudinal cut. This way you can peel off the fruit. The inner pulp along with seeds is then blended. Most people do not want seeds to be blended, so they sort out seeds or use a coarse blender. This blended pulp is then passed through course sieve. Depending of pulpy nature in fruit juice desired it is again sieved. Finally you get magenta colored (healthy?) prickly pear fruit juice.
Method 2: Clean – Boil – Cut – Mash/Squeeze/Blend – Coarse Sieve – Fine Sieve
Boiling is the only different step in this method. Book – Exotic Foods: A Kitchen and Garden Guide mentions about boiling. Boiling makes outer skin soft and eases blending. Infact juice can be extracted even by squeezing or mashing. This method is popular in most kitchens without electric juicers. Often the fruits are passed over flame to burn off the glochids.
Method 3: Refrigerate – Blend – Coarse Sieve – Fine Sieve
In this method, once the fruit is cut, you can directly refrigerate cactus fruit for couple of days. Refrigeration makes the fruit soft. This soft fruit is then blended and passed through various sieves. Multiple sieves are used to remove glochids.
Method 4: Clean – Juice press – Coarse Sieve – Fine Sieve – Pasteurize – Additives
Possibly this method is used in mass production of Juice. The cut fruits are passed through coarse scrubbers and cleaner which remove the outer thorns or glochids. They are washed with water to remove any remaining traces. The cactus fruits is then cut and directly passed into a juice press. These are basically extruding machines; they squeeze out juice and what remain are the fibers and seed. Extrusion ratio is very high, which means what finally remain are extremely dry solids. This pulp juice is then passed through different sieves. Fine sieves ensure that your bottle of nopalea juice does not find any glochids or trace solid remains. The liquid then passes through flash pasteurization – a process heating juice for less than a minute and then rapidly cooling it. This removes any microbial activity present in the juice and increases the shelf life. Prickly pear juice often lacks tartness required in fruit juice. So flavours and extracts of other fruits are added. These are mainly neutral organic acids including citric acid. Prickly pear is highly perishable. Hence preservatives are added to juice. Often natural preservatives like citrin found in grapefruit seed extract are added.
So what are we driving at or trying to point out?
Most of the dietary fibers and seeds are not present in the juice. So your juice may contain some amount of vitamin A, E and C. Traces of Vitamin B would possibly damage during the commercial processing. Content of minerals, amino acids and phyto nutrients are also reduced as we remove most of solid matter and seeds out.
So are there any health benefits of Prickly pear juice left?
Benefits attributed to dietary fibers had been weight loss, impact on diabetes and blood sugar and cholesterol control. With fibers removed, possible these health benefits do not exists in cactus juice. The book – Prickly Pear Cactus Medicine: Treatments for Diabetes, Cholesterol, and the Immune System, talks about dietary fibers or polysaccharides being responsible for anti diabetic activity and other health benefits.
Anti-oxidant activity due to Vitamins, Minerals and phytonutrients would be definitely present. But we are not sure about impact. Processing generally increases digestibility and fastens process of absorption. However same process may remove some of vital anti-oxidants. We feel, Nopal Juice may contain lesser anti-oxidants but its activity might be enhanced. Prickly pear juice is very similar to drinking alcohol neat. Absorption is fast and action is immediate.
So all nopalea reviews are far from reality, and nopal cactus juice scam is just a marketing push. Think before you fall in trap of superfood fad and shell out over 1-2 dollars per ounce of nopalea juice. Try out making some cactus fruit juice at home and enjoy its benefits at low cost.
You can definitely enjoy your nopalea drink irrespective of any reviews, it is definitely a health juice and beyond doubt there are health benefits of nopal cactus juice.
What are potential nopalea juice side effects? Same as what was for Nopal Cactus. Avoid outer skin glochids which are discomfort causing. Over dosage should be avoided. Nopal juice is no alternative for water. Drink adequate water to flush away any toxins. Check for additives and preservatives added in the cactus fruit juice. You should prefer one with natural ingredients.
We still recommend eating raw fruit to enjoy more benefits and complement your diet with other natural vegetables and fruits. You would get all health benefits of trivita Nopalea juice, in fact much more!!
So where to buy nopalea juice? You already know, look out for drinks and beverages section in your super markets. Most probably it would be inside a refrigerator.Image Credits: Flickr - Alissa Walker, Flickr - Eve of Discovery