Can you eat aloe vera? From lower blood sugar to better dental hygiene, here are all of the benefits and risks of aloe vera — and how to eat it.
Aloe vera can be applied to hydrate your hair and scalp, or on your face to treat sunburn and acne scars. But did you know that it can be eaten too? Aloe vera contains nutritional benefits such as vitamins C and B12, amino acids, and minerals such as zinc, potassium and calcium.
The most useful part of the aloe vera plant is the gel inside the leaves. When eaten it has a fresh taste and can be used in a variety of recipes. The skin of aloe vera can also be eaten, by cutting off the spiky edges of the leaves and slicing off the flat underside. It has a crunchy texture and is best used in salads or hummus. But is aloe vera really safe to eat? We’ll discuss the benefits of eating aloe vera and whether there are any risks involved.
Benefits of Eating Aloe Vera
So now you know that aloe vera is edible, you may be wondering if you can eat aloe vera raw. The answer is yes, with caution. The gel can be eaten raw or cooked, gel cubes should be washed to remove any dirt or bitter latex, which can be harmful. As mentioned above aloe vera skin can also be eaten raw, if washed thoroughly.
The benefits of eating aloe vera range from brain function to oral hygiene and include:
- Improves dental hygiene: Consuming aloe vera juice can improve oral health and using it as a mouthwash can reduce the build-up of plaque.
- Antioxidants: If you eat aloe vera regularly it can boost the body’s antioxidant levels, this helps to target free radicals which are connected to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
- Reduce blood sugar levels: A 2003 study found that aloe vera gel assisted in increasing insulin sensitivity by lowering blood sugar levels.
- Improve memory: Eating or drinking aloe vera gel may boost memory and reduce depression, according to a 2013 study on mice.
Risks of Eating Aloe Vera
It is important to stress that aloe vera skin care products and gels should NOT be eaten. They are designed to be used externally and as a result, they contain preservatives that extend their shelf life. Therefore, only fresh aloe vera (gel and skin) should be consumed. But care should be taken when doing so.
There is a layer of latex, a yellow substance, between the gel and the skin that poses some health risks, which is why it is essential to thoroughly wash the gel and skin before using them. Latex contains anthraquinones which have a laxative effect, causing diarrhea and stomach cramps; consuming latex can also be carcinogenic, causing some cancers.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid consuming aloe vera as it can cause uterine contractions, which can lead to miscarriage. Breastfeeding mothers should also avoid it as it may cause stomach cramps and diarrhea in their infants.
How Can You Eat It?
Learn how to eat aloe vera and get creative in the kitchen with our recipe ideas:
- Make aloe vera water by blending the gel from one aloe vera leaf with some water and a natural sweetener.
- Mix aloe vera with some fruit juice to add a boost to your juice.
- Combine with coconut milk and a banana to make a tasty smoothie.
- Add raw aloe vera cubes to a salad with mixed leaves, snow peas, and tomatoes.
Aloe vera gel can also be poached and eaten as a healthy breakfast on top of homemade yogurt. Cook the aloe vera gel from two leaves on low heat with one cup of sugar substitute and the juice from one lime. Initially, the gel will be quite slimy, so cook until the texture is firmer, like grapes.
Try adding aloe to your stir-fry. First, remove the spiky edges and chop them into chunks, cover with water, soak, and drain — wash again. Fry with dried spices such as cumin, turmeric, red chili powder, and mango powder, then mix with two tablespoons of yogurt to make an Indian-style curry.
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