What is orange juice?
Orange juice (OJ) is the most popular and widely produced fruit juice in the world. Often dubbed "America's favorite morning beverage," it's one of the most common drinks people have with their breakfast. Besides its delicious and refreshing taste, this juice is also known for its high nutrient value.
You can get huge amounts of vitamins C, potassium, and different antioxidants from drinking just one glass of orange juice. Besides that, many commercial brands are also fortified with vitamin D and calcium, making them all the more nutritious.
The United States Code of Federal Regulations defines orange juice as the "unfermented juice obtained from mature oranges of the species Citrus sinensis or of the citrus hybrid commonly called Ambersweet". Many varieties of oranges are used when producing this juice commercially, including the sweet orange, bitter orange, mandarin orange, and blood orange.
Just like other fruit juices, making OJ at home is very easy. You just need to squeeze the fruit, after which point you may or may not strain the juice, depending on whether you prefer a purely liquid or pulpy drink. However, it's hard to sell this freshly squeezed juice on a commercial scale since it takes a lot of processing to preserve it.
Therefore, in the market, you can mostly find the fruit juice being sold as:
- A reconstituted liquid: Originally present in a concentrated form, it's diluted before being sold.
- Single-strength beverage: This is an unconcentrated liquid, which also goes by the name NFC (Not From Concentrate).
- Frozen concentrate: This can be used after being diluted with water.
The first two forms are also marketed as Ready-to-Drink juices and are usually the most popular.
What are the nutrients in orange juice?
You can get these nutrients from 8 oz (240 ml) of orange juice:
While the nutrient content in OJ varies slightly from brand to brand, most of them have very few proteins or fats. Instead, they are an excellent source of:
Carbohydrates. Orange juice contains almost no starch or fiber. Almost all of its carbohydrates are present in the form of sugars, which are responsible for most of the calories you get from drinking it. Naturally occurring sugar — fructose — gives 100% orange juice its distinct, sweet taste. However, some brands also add extra sugar to the juice.
Vitamins and minerals. You can meet 100% of your daily vitamin C needs with just one cup (8oz) of orange juice. One serving of this fruit juice provides more vitamin C than you could get from one cup of kale, two cups of cauliflower, or three medium-sized tomatoes. OJ also contains high amounts of thiamine (vitamin B1), folate (vitamin B9), and potassium.
Antioxidants. Orange juice is counted among the best antioxidant sources found in an average American diet, along with wine, tea, berries, vegetables, and supplements. It's packed with powerful antioxidants, including carotenoids (carotenes and xanthophylls), flavonoids (naringenin and hesperetin), ascorbic acid, and many more beneficial phytochemicals. All of these have potent anti-inflammatory effects and health-boosting properties.
What are the health benefits of orange juice?
May keep the heart healthy. Scientists have found that the risk factors for cardiovascular disorders — like increased cholesterol and high blood pressure (BP) — tend to be reduced in those who take OJ regularly. This, in turn, helps you to keep your heart in good health.
Some studies indicate that drinking orange juice for a long time helps to reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), and others show that this fruit juice has a positive effect on high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) levels. There is also some evidence showing that this juice has the potential to lower diastolic blood pressure.
May improve blood health. The vitamin C in OJ is known for keeping connective tissues and blood vessels healthy. You also need this vitamin to heal wounds. Moreover, orange juice contains large amounts of folate, which is required in your body for the formation of red blood cells and healthy cell growth.
May reduce the risk of kidney stones. There are various ways that OJ may prevent kidney stones from forming. Orange juice is known to raise the pH of the urine, marking it alkaline. Research shows that the more alkaline urinary pH is, the lower the chance of kidney stone developing. Moreover, there is a large amount of potassium citrate in this fruit juice. By binding with calcium, this nutrient creates certain conditions that make it hard for kidney stones to develop.
Such positive effects of orange juice have been proven by many studies. For example, people who take OJ at least once every day reportedly have a 12% smaller chance of developing kidney stones compared to those who don't drink it on a weekly basis.
May keep muscles and nerves healthy. The potassium found in orange juice plays a key role in maintaining muscle and nerve function. This mineral is also known to regulate sodium and body fluid balance.
May reduce inflammation and related diseases. Long-term inflammation can be detected in your body by measuring the levels of markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Those with high levels of these inflammatory markers are known to be more prone to heart disorders, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancers.
Studies show that the antioxidants in OJ have anti-inflammatory effects and the ability to reduce the levels of these markers of inflammation. It has also been seen that those who drink orange juice regularly — both fresh and commercial — have lower levels of IL-6 and CRP levels in their body.
May help to boost immunity. Drinking orange juice provides you with large amounts of folate and vitamin C — a water-soluble vitamin that's not made or stored in your body. Both these vitamins play an important role in maintaining your immune system by supporting the function of immune cells like B-cells, T-cells, natural killer cells, and phagocytes.
Are there any side effects of drinking orange juice every day?
Drinking orange juice daily could have some of these negative effects on your body:
Weight gain. Orange juice contains a lot of calories, most of which come from the natural and added sugars present in them. However, it has almost no fiber, which makes it less filling. This could lead to overdrinking and cause you to gain weight over time.
The same has been proven by several studies, which show that drinking fruit juice regularly leads to more weight gain. Per one study, it takes just 4 weeks for body fat to increase in those who drink OJ three times a day between meals.
Diabetes. Due to its high content of sugar, OJ can raise your blood sugar and lead to diabetes over time. Moreover, this fruit juice has negligible amounts of digestion-slowing nutrients like healthy fats, proteins, and fiber, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash fast.
Research has found a strong link between sweetened drinks like fruit juices and type 2 diabetes. For example, some studies show that drinking fruit juice every day increases your risk of developing diabetes by 21%. However, the risk of having type-2 diabetes drops by 23% in those who have whole fruits regularly.
What is the best way to have orange juice?
To reduce your risk of side effects and gain the most benefits from drinking orange juice, make sure you follow these steps:
Opt for 100% orange juice. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 100% orange juice as a means to meet your daily required fruit intake. Doing so would also give you the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Moreover, 100% OJ is free of any added sugar, which helps you get the most health benefits and experience the least side effects.
This is why, either you should make your own and drink freshly squeezed juice or select 100% OJ when buying from the market. If you're unable to find 100% orange juice, dilute your juice — whichever brand it is — with water to reduce calories and your risk of gaining weight.
Drink in moderation. Since orange juice is rich in sugars, always make sure to have only the recommended amounts. Medical experts recommend having 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit daily. Keep in mind that 1 cup of fruit is equivalent to an 8-ounce (240 ml) glass of 100% orange juice.
For children, the recommended amounts differ based on their ages. For example, while younger children (2 to 6 years old) shouldn't have more than 4 to 6 ounces of fruit juice daily, for older kids, the recommended daily intake is 8 ounces.
Have OJ with meals. If you wish to drink orange juice daily, make sure you have it with your meals. If you do this, the other foods in your meal will cause the sugar in your fruit juice to be digested more gradually and help you prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
BMJ: "Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies."
Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: "Soda and other beverages and the risk of kidney stones."
Federal Register: "Orange Juice."
Florida Department of Citrus: "Florida Orange Juice Serving Size."
FoodData Central: "ORANGE JUICE."
Frontiers in Immunology: "Effects of Citrus Fruit Juices and Their Bioactive Components on Inflammation and Immunity: A Narrative Review."
International Journal of Obesity: "Changes in water and beverage intake and long-term weight changes: results from three prospective cohort studies."
ISRN Nutrition: "Effect of fresh orange juice intake on physiological characteristics in healthy volunteers."
Journal of Nephrology: "Urinary pH and stone formation."
Lipids in Health and Disease: "Long-term orange juice consumption is associated with low LDL-cholesterol and apolipoprotein B in normal and moderately hypercholesterolemic subjects."
National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin C," "Potassium."
Nutrients: "Greater Total Antioxidant Capacity from Diet and Supplements Is Associated with a Less Atherogenic Blood Profile in U.S. Adults."
Nutrition & Diabetes: "High orange juice consumption with or in-between three meals a day differently affects energy balance in healthy subjects."
Produce for Better Health Foundation: "Is Orange Juice the New Superfood?"
ScienceDirect: "Orange Juice."
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