In the last couple of decades, there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of orange juice as an essential part of breakfast. Oranges became available everywhere, and the technology required to make juice has become available and wide-spread globally.
However, I’d like to address the debate of store-bought juice vs. freshly squeezed orange juice. A lot of people around the world have this idea that every type of orange juice is good and healthy for you, and while this is true, there are a few caveats there. So, let us dive into all the juicy details and see how you should approach this healthy morning snack. Who knows, maybe we get to talk about making your own juice in the end. Stay tuned and read on!
Orange Juice Nutrients
As you may know, orange is a “go-to” fruit whenever we want to boost our immune system, or get that daily dose of vitamin C. But there is more to this story, especially if you drink oranges rather than eating them.
Before we dig into the nutritional values of oranges and orange juice, I’d like to begin with a disclaimer – it would always be best to eat whole oranges (peeled of course) if you have that opportunity daily. Unfortunately, not a lot of people can spare the time and the effort to consume whole oranges every day, so they turn to juices, which is also fine if you know your juice facts and plan accordingly.
Vitamins are the micronutrients we all need for our bodies to function properly. We get these helpful little molecules from all sorts of ingredients and foods, and the amounts we actually need are tiny. Oranges and orange juices are world-famous for their vitamin C content, among other useful bits in smaller quantities. But I urge you to be careful around the quantities of juice you consume because no matter what anyone tells you, orange juice (especially store-bought) can help you put on a few extra pounds.
Does orange juice have vitamin C?
In the last fifty or so years, the orange became the queen of vitamin C. Though foods like peppers and cabbage have more vitamin C than oranges, this citrus fruit took the throne thanks to its flavor and accessibility. I mean, how often do you actually snack on fresh cabbage? Orange juice is a much simpler and easier way to consume the daily dose of this vitamin. Without getting into the biochemistry of vitamin C, I can tell you that a glass of high-quality orange juice has all the vitamin C you need in a day, and maybe more.
Vitamin C plays an important role in body recovery – it helps us recover and repair muscles, tendons, skin, and blood vessels. It also boosts our immunity and fastens the immune response when we get exposed to germs and viruses.
2. Calories (carbs)
Ah yes, I am sure that you once thought that fresh glass of healthy orange juice cannot possibly increase your daily caloric intake. Well, I’m afraid I have to tell you that if you still believed that – you’d be wrong. Now, I’m not saying that you need to panic and look for an alternative right away. As always, moderation is key, and oranges are, after all, full of sugars.
Sugars are bad for your health, right? Well, yes and no. Our bodies are trained to use sugars as a primary energy source. We need the energy to maintain body temperature, move, and metabolize food among other things. But, take too much, and all the excess energy turns to fat and goes to storage for later, aka how we get fat. So, how does this connect to oranges?
From oranges, we can get a dose of these three elemental sugars:
- Glucose – the simplest of sugars, goes directly into metabolic processes and gives us energy
- Fructose – a bit more complex, turns into glucose with the help of our liver. It is found mostly in fruit and honey, and too much is not good for our liver.
- Sucrose – this sugar is made of the previous two. From the caloric point of view, sucrose is the most packed, and it should be taken with moderation. Table sugar is pure sucrose, so you get the idea.
Every type of fruit and veggie out there has some sort of fiber in it. Fibers, as you probably already know, are the complex carbs that make our bowel movements better and more natural. Whole oranges have a substantial amount of fiber content, both soluble and insoluble, but orange juices are another story.
To make things clear, oranges should not be your main source (nor only) source of fiber because the fiber content isn’t exactly ideal. By peeling alone, we remove a lot, and by juicing we almost totally eliminate insoluble fibers from the fruit. More on the fiber game of orange juices in the following sections.
The story of antioxidants is relatively new. Oranges are rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, carotenoids, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). We consume antioxidants mainly through fruit like berries, but oranges are a good competitor as well. These molecules play an important role in body recovery and maintenance on a micro level – they protect our cells from damage caused by, well, living.
Benefits of Drinking Orange Juice
By now, I’m sure that you got the idea regarding the use of oranges, and by extension, orange juice. Eating whole oranges will get you more useful fibers, yes, but that doesn’t mean that orange juice has no benefits. Let’s see what kind of general benefits you can expect from drinking orange juice.
1. Vitamin C balance (obviously)
Of course, the biggest benefit of drinking orange juice is vitamin C intake. If you have a strict diet that doesn’t allow for a lot of natural vitamin C rich foods, drinking a glass of fresh OJ in the morning is going to be a blessing (as long as you don’t go overboard with the quantity). Remember – Oranges contain a lot of sugar, and you do not need to squeeze out more than one or two to get the daily dose of vitamin C.
No matter if you opt for a freshly squeezed juice, or you go with the store-bought one, the juice will suffice when it comes to vitamin C intake. On the other hand, if you decide to make a long-lasting batch of OJ, keep in mind that pasteurization destroys most of those vitamin C deposits. Juice companies have a different approach, though – they pasteurize and add vitamin C after the process.
2. Kidney Stone Prevention
Believe it or not, lemon juice is used as a kidney stone prevention measure in people that are prone to kidney stones. This citrus feature is somewhat present in oranges as well. The thing is, the acidity of these juices has a direct effect on mineral deposits that tend to aggregate in our kidneys and eventually grow into stones.
So, by ingesting a batch of acidic liquid (which OJ kind of is) you get to work on crushing those stones before they even form. There have been studies that prove that orange juice (a glass a day) can actively lower the risks of developing kidney stones by an astonishing 12%. But I think that this should be taken with a grain of salt because we are all individuals, and I don’t want people thinking that orange juice is a remedy for kidney stones. It will help you prevent them, and if you do have kidney stones, or you think you do, please go see your doctor.
3. Is orange juice good for a sore throat?
Surprisingly enough, orange juice is not that good of a sore throat remedy. As a matter of fact, if you do decide to drink orange juice when you get a cold, you can put yourself into a bigger problem, soreness-wise.
You see, orange juice is good for boosting your immune system, but it is also (as I mentioned earlier) on the acidic side of the pH scale. So, basically, if you drink OJ while you have a sore throat, you will get the vitamin benefits, but you will also introduce acidic environment to your already sore throat, making it hurt even more. If you want to speed up your recovery, I suggest nothing more than the good old plain water – a LOT of it.
* some studies indicate that orange juice has anti-inflammatory properties, but that is related to muscle recovery and some chronic diseases. Long story short – avoid orange juice if your throat hurts!
4. Electrolytes for active people
Have you ever tried drinking mild OJ in the middle of a gym training session? I highly recommend it. Intense workouts tend to get all the electrolytes (the salts that help our muscles contract) out, through sweat. Oranges, acidic as they are, have a lot of electrolytes inside, and OJ (with a lot of water) can get those electrolytes quickly to your muscles.
Another benefit of drinking orange juice in the gym is the sugar content. You get an additional pack of energy through glucose and fructose, next to electrolytes found in orange juice. Those few extra calories from sugars will burn out fast, and you will also get to refresh yourself with the fresh orange flavor.
Store-bought Orange Juice
Ok, so, I mentioned that store-bought orange juice comes with some downsides. Let’s tackle that quickly. If you ever made OJ at home, you know that it can last for 2 to 3 days at best. This is the natural process of oxidation that makes the juice slowly spoil over the course of 72 hours. But store-bought orange juice can last for up to 100 days, right?
Mass production of orange juice (and other juices) became possible thanks to a process called pasteurization. I won’t bother you with the details (I covered it in another article) but the fact is – a lot of nutrients (including vitamin C) get destroyed along the way. The juice companies add the vitamins after, that’s true, but you can essentially say goodbye to fibers and some antioxidants found in oranges.
Another downside of drinking store-bought OJ is all the excess sugar they put it in. Pasteurization destroys the natural orange flavor, so big juice companies add a lot of sugar to make up for it, making the drink palatable. Some even add high-fructose corn syrup, which is not exactly the healthiest option out there.
Always read the labels and try to pick out the juice that has no added sugar, especially corn-based high-fructose syrup. But, if you do decide to make your own juice, well, that is another story.
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
Freshly squeezed orange juice is one of my favorite natural liquid snacks. I say snacks because a glass of juice can have between 100-200 calories, which is close to a snickers bar. But, there’s a twist.
Homemade juices retain the soluble fiber, which makes stool passing easier. They also keep all the natural sugar content, making them super-tasty, and to top it all, the vitamin C content is just right.
If you are feeling enthusiastic, you can even pasteurize your own OJ, but keep in mind that, while it will give it shelf-life, pasteurization will destroy a lot of nutrients. So, make your juices and drink them right away! Speaking of making orange juice…
How to Make Orange Juice?
Making orange juice by hand, no matter how satisfying it feels, is a wasteful process. The manual tools to do it do not account for everyone’s strength, and you will always lose fruit content. On the other hand, using a dedicated machine (like the small juicers) can make all the difference in the world.
The sole process of making orange juice is not that complicated, and the only thing you need to practice is the pulp quantity. And, trust me, you want that pulp because it has a lot of fiber inside. So, cut the oranges into pieces just large enough to go through the juicer chute. Remember to remove the seeds because not all juicers can process them. Push the oranges through using the tamper, and wait for the juicer to do its magic.
Now, the tricky part is to determine how much pulp you want to return to the juice after it’s done. Me personally, I like to get as much pulp as possible, to the point where juice becomes thick. But this is up to you and your preferences – start small and build your way up.
Orange juice is the staple of a healthy breakfast, there’s no doubt about it. If you can, eat whole oranges, but if not, a glass of OJ will do just fine. I’d like to urge you once again to, if you can’t make your own OJ, read the labels of store-bought juices carefully, avoiding the brands that add a lot of sugar.
And remember to not overdo it – orange juice does have natural juices, homemade or not, and it is not exactly calorie-free. Now go and pour yourself a fresh glass and enjoy one of the best natural flavors in the world. I know I definitely will. Cheers!