Orange juice nutrition: Why you should rather eat real oranges
We are in Yorkshire, England in the early 1920’s. Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey enjoys a glass of orange juice with breakfast for the first time in her life. Like always brand new ideas are first discovered by the American’s and then exported to Europe. Lady Grantham finds the idea of drinking an orange comforting and sends a warm smile to her lady’s maid. What an invention!
So that’s how it all started decades ago. It is still believed that a healthy breakfast includes a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice. And when that is not available, the juice out of a box will do just fine. Think before you drink!
Let’s investigate the health benefits of orange juice, the most popular breakfast beverage in more detail.
100% orange juice healthy. The vitamin C in orange juice prevents us from getting colds
BUT… is this really true?
I took this for granted. Before I started nutrition school it was one of the few things that were written in stone. But the claim that vitamin C has the potential to prevent and treat common colds, is a controversial topic. There are studies that disprove that claim and studies that suggest that it is valid. Who said orange juice nutrition is going to be easy?
One cup of orange juice has 125% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C
BUT… can your body store it?
Oranges are a great source of vitamin C. In the 1700s, sailors with the British navy died from scurvy because of vitamin C deficiency. Most animals produce ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the liver. However, we humans have lost this ability along our evolution journey.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that the body doesn’t store it. It can perform its magic in your body for about 2 hours. Within 3 to 4 hours it’s out of the blood and eliminated from your body. Even when your body was able to absorb all the 125% of vitamin C, it’s gone within 2 hours. What about the rest of the 22 hours of the day? That is like being on a 24-hour cruise and the cold beverage supply lasts only for the first 2 hours. Not so funny, right? Also vitamin C is used up even more rapidly when you’re stressed, when you drink alcohol or smoke.
So it is clever to have smaller amounts of vitamin C more often during the day. The vitamin C of one orange is all you need for a great start into the day.
Fortified orange juice contains extra calcium, which is important for healthy bones
BUT… does our body absorb it?
Let’s talk about fortification or enrichment, which may sound good on first impression.
Fortified means that product is processed and thus likely to be of lower quality than the original food. Most orange juice is pasteurized (heated to an elevated temperature for a short period of time to kill bacteria). Unfortunately vitamin C is easily lost during heating.
It is not necessary better when you add an isolated nutrient back into processed food. What is the quality of the added nutrient? Is the calcium extracted from rock or real foods? Some nutrients can me made synthetically. Is it bioavailable, meaning can your body absorb it? Is vitamin D around, which is needed to absorb calcium?
Furthermore calcium’s best friend is magnesium and the calcium-magnesium balance is important. When you supplement with calcium, it is suggested that you increase your magnesium intake as well. To make things even more complicated supplements of calcium are not well absorbed in the present of food. So what are the chances that you really benefit from the added calcium in your OJ?
Whole foods are balanced starter kits. Everything you need to absorb the nutrients is available in the whole food. If Mother Nature wanted you to have calcium with your orange then she would have put calcium into the orange.
Fortified orange juice contains extra vitamin D, which is a key player for overall health
BUT … is it the good vitamin D3 form?
Most beverages are fortified with a synthetic form of vitamin D2. Supplemental vitamin D comes in two forms. Vitamin D2 and D3. Studies suggest that vitamin D2 increases mortality risk, while vitamin D3 decreases it. So the vitamin D2 in orange juice might be more harmful than doing any good.
100% orange juice is free of fat, cholesterol and sodium
BUT… isn’t that the case for most fruits and vegetables?
Yes, that is true and probably a good thing for a processed food. Yet it is also true for most fruits and vegetables. The natural occurring nutrients in whole foods are good and beneficial. Nature engineers whole foods with all its ingredients to make the best possible use out of it.
Orange juice is free of ADDED sugars
BUT… what about the natural occurring sugars?
Fruit juice should always be free of added sugars. But one glass (8 oz./250 ml) of orange juice comes with an amazing 25 grams of fruit sugar, the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit. That equals 6 sugar cubes! Imagine putting 6 sugar cubes into your coffee. Yikes! Trust me, you don’t want 6 sugar cubes for breakfast. Along with the other sugars that might linger in your breakfast they all affect your blood sugar level. Other sugars hide e.g. in cereals, bagels, donuts, toast, jam, or pancakes with syrup. It’s not a good thing! Any excess sugar is converted to body fat. Which none of us wants!
One glass of orange juice is equal to 4 to 5 oranges
BUT… concentrated forms are not always better.
More is not always better. When was the last time you ate 4 or 5 oranges at once? Nature packages everything so perfectly, one orange = one serving. With one orange you still get lots of vitamin C but eat less calories and spare extra sugar. Not only are you taking a step towards better health but also sparing the environment some added garbage.
Orange juice nutrition, orange juice calories & benefits of orange juiceOrange juice nutrition: Why you should rather eat real oranges by Tanja Knapp