Coconut water has been all the rage for quite a few years now, but there’s a trendy new plant water on the market for health-conscious consumers: cactus water. Cactus water, while pricey, is sweeping the U.S. at the moment, promising additional health benefits to what you’ll find in coconut water. If you feel like cactus water is going a little too far, think again: There are actually many benefits to drinking the juice of the prickly pear cactus. Here’s what you need to know about coconut water, cactus water and the differences between the two.
First, let’s start out with the plant water we’ve all grown to know and love: Coconut water. In its purest form, coconut water is found directly inside the body of an immature coconut. Before a coconut is fully grown, it is green, devoid of the coconut hairs you’re familiar with, and full of a tasty, nutrient-rich juice. And this is where coconut water comes from.
However, many of the coconut waters sold commercially in the U.S. come with added sugar and flavors. They may also be made from concentrate.
Beyond that, there are lots of nutritional benefits to coconut water. For one, it’s extremely high in electrolytes, making it a great choice for athletes or anyone looking to replenish their stores. In fact, according to Natural Society, coconut water contains all five of the major electrolytes: potassium, sodium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium.
And that’s not all. Coconut water also contains amino acids, making it a great addition to vegan diets that may otherwise be lacking in amino acid content. And finally, it contains a broad range of B vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
Now for cactus water. When we say “cactus,” we don’t mean that just any kind of cactus can provide drinkable water. The stuff we’re talking about is the water from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, and trust me, you don’t want to drink water from just any dessert planet—many cactus juices can make you sick.
But if you decide to splurge on cactus water, you will be getting lots of nutritional benefits. For one thing, it’s more palatable than coconut water, which many people simply don’t like. Cactus water has a mild berry-like flavor.
Secondly, cactus water has about half the amount of calories of coconut water, so if you’re watching your calories it’s definitely the way to go. It also has lots of antioxidants—much like coconut water—but it has a slightly different spectrum of ingredients. One stand-out antioxidant, according to Elle, is taurine.
“Taurine is an amino acid that is naturally made in the body. It functions as a really powerful antioxidant, so it helps to quench free radicals and [reverse] muscle tissue damage. But then on top of that, it has been shown to improve athletic performance by increasing the body’s ability to transport and utilize oxygen (VO2 max), and the length of time before exhaustion sets in.”
Betatins are another group of antioxidant that cactus water has and coconut water lacks. Belatins are particularly important for fighting free-radical damage and keeping the skin looking plush and young.
The Bottom Line
In the end, both cactus water and coconut water are good sources of nourishment that couple antioxidants and electrolytes with hydration. Either one is great to sip on, but make sure you choose a product that isn’t from concentrate and doesn’t contain any added sugars. If you’re watching calories or dislike the taste of coconut water, cactus water is probably the way to go. But if you’re in need of amino acids, energy or electrolytes, spring for coconut water. You really can’t go wrong with either choice.