Orange juice made its first appearance in the early 20th century as a canned beverage, according to Alissa Hamilton, author of "Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice," and in its early form it was largely undrinkable. During World War II, the government began processing a tastier version to supply troops with a convenient source of vitamin C. Today, dozens of brands and varieties of orange juice -- in cartons and frozen, from concentrate and not, with pulp and without -- flood the supermarket, making it hard to know which to choose for nutritional value.
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Types of Processed Orange Juice
After World War II, Hamilton says, Florida orange growers found themselves with a surplus of fruit. They learned to evaporate the water from juice, making concentrate that could be frozen and easily transported -- the juice that many Americans grew up with. Then, in the 1950s, Anthony Rossi invented a method of pasteurizing fresh-squeezed juice that could be packaged in cartons. Today, production methods have changed and Rossi's company, Tropicana, and other carton juice manufacturers market their products as "not from concentrate." That doesn't mean they're fresher than concentrate, Hamilton notes. In fact, the pasteurized not-from-concentrate juice can be stored for as long as a year and then spiked with "flavor packs" of orange essence and oil to freshen its taste and smell. Both concentrate and not-from-concentrate juices, Hamilton says, are heavily processed.
In terms of calories, the juices of the three top orange juice manufacturers are identical. Tropicana 100 percent Pure Premium No Pulp and Florida's Natural Premium, which are both not from concentrate and Minute Maid Original Premium Orange Juice, which is from concentrate, each have 110 calories per 8-oz. glass, with 0 calories from fat. The not-from-concentrate juices have slightly less sugar, 22 g per glass, than Minute Maid, which has 24 g.
Vitamins and Minerals
All three juice brands supply 120 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C per 8-oz. glass, making them excellent sources of this vital nutrient. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body, fighting free radicals that can damage cells and lead to diseases like cancer. The concentrate and not-from-concentrate juices provide identical amounts of other essential vitamins and minerals, too: folic acid, 15 percent; thiamine, 10 percent; and magnesium, 6 percent.
Neither concentrate nor not-from-concentrate juices supply dietary fiber. The dietary fiber that naturally occurs in oranges, especially in the white membranes, is removed in the juicing process. The fiber in citrus fruits helps to lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
Nutrition expert Marion Nestle, author of "What To Eat," recommends eating a fresh orange instead of orange juice, since whole foods have higher nutritional content than processed. For example, in addition to 98 mg of vitamin C, one large orange supplies 4.4 g fiber, 74 mg of calcium and 131 mcg of beta-carotene -- nutrients that are all lost in the juicing process. Nestle says that fresh-squeezed orange juice is second in nutritional value to an orange.