Orange juice is such a staple of breakfast, you may have never stopped to ask: is orange juice good for you? Oranges are a whole fruit, and like other whole foods, good for you to eat. But what about commercially produced orange juice that you buy at the grocery store? This article will explore what all is in orange juice, and whether those extra bits are good for you, or if you’d be better off staying home with a bag of whole oranges and a juicer.
The Benefits of Oranges
An orange all on its own is valuable for its vitamin C content, the fiber from the fruit flesh, the hydration it supplies, and the vitamins and minerals contained within. With thiamine (vitamin B1), folate, and potassium for heart health, it’s no question whether or not oranges are good for you: they are! But what happens to orange juice between grove and grocery store, what gets added in and what gets taken out, and are those changes beneficial to you or not? Read on to find answers to those questions.
Get the Details: Is Orange Juice Good for You?
Here’s what’s in your orange juice, and whether or not it’s a boon or a bust when it comes to healthy eating.
Carbs in Orange Juice
Unlike the orange itself, which contains fiber that aids in digestive health, there is almost no starch or fiber in orange juice. That means that most of the carbs you find in orange juice come from sugar. Pure orange juice will have the same naturally occurring sugar that oranges have (fructose), while store-bought brands of orange juice often have added sugars, and nutritionists and health care providers advise against consuming too much sugar, especially added and refined sugars.
Protein in Orange Juice
Orange juice contains fewer than 2 grams per serving. There are good sources of protein out there, but orange juice is not one of them.
Vitamins in Orange Juice
The vitamins in orange juice include the following:
- Vitamin C: A single serving of orange juice has the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against free radicals that, unchecked, can potentially cause cell damage and age-related diseases.
- Vitamin A: A fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin A is another antioxidant that can promote skin and eye health.
- Thiamine: Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, is known as the “anti-stress” vitamin for supporting energy function during stressful conditions.
- Other B vitamins: The other B vitamins include vitamin B6, folate, and niacin, which help convert food into energy.
Orange juice also contains the minerals potassium and magnesium, both of which are essential to proper functioning. Potassium is involved in muscle and nerve function, and works to counteract sodium (or salt, which is dangerously high in modern Western diets) to maintain fluid balance in the body.
Health Benefits of Orange Juice
Here’s what the contents of orange mean for your health.
The folate contained in orange juice plays a critical role in building red blood cells and stimulating blood flow to the body’s extremities. Along with keeping our organ systems oxygenated and functioning, folate is an important vitamin for the creation of DNA and the building of new cells. Folate is also key to preventing the birth defect spina bifida.
A 2003 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the vitamin C in a single serving of orange juice helps to stimulate aspects of our immune system, along with its ability as an antioxidant to neutralize dangerous free radicals. Vitamin C also boosts iron absorption in the body, crucial for cardiovascular health and to protect against anemia.
Again, this benefit is ascribed to vitamin C, as well as the antioxidant hesperidin, which is associated with stimulating apoptosis, meaning programmed cell death, in cancerous cells in the body.
Citrus fruits in general carry anti-inflammatory properties. Untreated inflammation can lead to increased insulin resistance, which is one of the major contributing causes of type 2 diabetes. One study showed that drinking orange juice along with a high-sugar, high-fat meal (that would otherwise contribute to inflammation in the body) protected the cardiovascular system by neutralizing the pro-inflammatory effects.
Lowered Blood Pressure
The hesperidin in orange juice can also positively impact the function of our small blood vessels, having a protective effect that brings potential for reducing overall blood pressure and guarding against the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Other Common Orange Juice Questions
By now you may be decided that orange juice is indeed good for you, considering all the health benefits contained within each glass, each gulp. Here are some other other common questions people tend to have about orange juice.
Can Orange Juice Cure or Prevent the Common Cold?
Not really. In the sense that vitamin C intake will strengthen your immune system, which might then prevent you from catching a cold or flu virus you’re exposed to, yes it can marginally help in prevention. As far as curing the common cold, nothing can do that (yet) except your own immune defenses. You can still help those defenses with orange juice, so it can’t hurt! In fact, if you are suffering from a cold, orange juice can indeed help you stay hydrated.
Will Orange Juice Cause Weight Gain?
The added sugars in store-bought orange juice will not help with weight loss. However, natural or homemade orange juice isn’t exactly a chocolate malt, and may be worth the calories for the sake of the nutrients it has to offer. Plus, a glass of orange juice in the morning can help curb your appetite while still getting you energized for the day.
Is Natural Orange Juice Better Than Store-Bought Orange Juice?
Yes, in many ways. No added sugars, and if you leave the pulp in, you can even add back some of the fiber that you lose when you don’t eat the whole orange flesh. Plus, you’ll have about 50% more vitamin C and nearly double the amount of thiamine and folate.
Is It Better to Eat a Whole Orange Instead of Drinking Orange Juice?
That depends on what you’re looking for: a whole orange has more fiber and fewer calories, but orange juice has way more vitamin C. If you get enough vitamin C from other fruits and veggies, then getting your oranges in the form of the whole fruit may be preferred.
Should I Drink Fortified Orange Juice?
This is the one benefit that store-bought orange juice can bring that doesn’t allow us to count it out completely. While, yes, there are often added sugars in commercial orange juice, you can shop for a more natural brand that can fortify with vitamin D and/or calcium. If that’s something you find valuable for meeting your calcium needs, then just check the Nutrition Facts label to make sure the extra calcium you’re getting is worth it. This is where the juice can beat the fruit as well, as a whole orange only has about 3% of the daily recommended value of calcium.
Asked and Answered: Yes, Orange Juice Is Good for You
Short of having a citrus allergy, orange juice consumption is a go, especially if you have fresh-squeezed orange juice, or have found a brand that’s light on added sugars but strong in fortification. When it comes to whether you’re better off with a whole fruit orange or the juice, it depends on what benefits you’re looking for, but who’s asking you to choose? Have orange juice with breakfast and an orange later with lunch, and that way you get the best of everything!