Think juice is packed with sugar and empty calories? While it's true that drinking too much orange juice can affect your waistline, an occasional glass won't hurt. This healthful beverage is loaded with vitamin C, niacin, folate and other essential nutrients. It's also a good source of antioxidants that strengthen your natural defenses and scavenge oxidative stress.
Orange juice boasts high doses of antioxidants, vitamin C and phytonutrients. The downside is that it has little fiber and a lot of sugar. When consumed in excess, it may lead to weight gain and may increase your risk of diabetes. Additionally, the citric acid in orange juice can affect your teeth.
Nutritional Value of Orange Juice
Orange juice is relatively low in calories and sugars, offering both flavor and nutrition. A half of a cup, or one serving, provides 69 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C and moderate doses of vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and B-complex vitamins. It contains:
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- 56 calories
- 12.9 grams of carbs
- 0.9 grams of protein
- 0.2 grams of fiber
- 10.4 grams of sugars
- 69 percent of the DV of vitamin C
- 1 percent of the DV of vitamin A
- 5 percent of the DV of potassium
- 3 percent of the DV of magnesium
- 6 percent of the DV of copper
- 1 percent of the DV of iron
- 1 percent of the DV of calcium
What makes this beverage stand out is its high antioxidant value. Freshly squeezed orange juice packs large doses of lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenoids and other bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties. One whole orange, by comparison, has 62 calories, 15.4 grams of carbs, 1.2 grams of protein, 3.1 grams of fiber, 12.2 grams of sugars and 77 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake.
According to a research paper published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in April 2015, orange juice may improve diet quality in adults and children alike. When consumed in moderation, it's unlikely to cause weight gain or affect your health.
Sugary drinks, on the other hand, have been linked to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and premature death. For example, a study published in the April 2019 edition of the journal Circulation states that both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages increase the risk of death from cancer and heart disease.
The same source states that soft drinks are the primary source of added sugar in the American diet. A single serving provides more than 140 calories and up to 37.5 grams of sugar.
Read more: The Top 10 Beverages to Avoid
Another study, which appeared in the journal Stroke in March 2019, suggests that regular consumption of diet soda may lead to stroke, coronary heart disease and death from all causes. As the researchers point out, these beverages also affect metabolic health and may contribute to weight gain, obesity and elevated blood insulin levels.
Orange juice has none of these side effects. However, it may cause you to pack on pounds when consumed in excess. Despite their high nutritional value, fruit juices contain just as much as sugar and calories as soft drinks.
Whole fruits, by comparison, are rich in fiber, which slows sugar absorption into the bloodstream and increases satiety.
Potential Risks of Orange Juice
This beverage is promoted as a natural alternative to soft drinks. Drinking too much orange juice, though, can be just as bad for your health — and your waistline — as drinking soda.
Think about it: A half of a cup of orange juice has 56 calories — that's a lot less juice than most people consume in one sitting. Plus, this beverage tastes best when consumed fresh, so if you make a large batch, you want to drink it the same day. If you take in more calories than you burn, the pounds will add up.
Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from fruit juices or soda. It provides just as many calories (4) per gram as table sugar and can harm your health when consumed in excess.
A recent study published the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in May 2019 states that fruit sugars produce the same biological response as the sugar in soft drinks. Researchers have found that the risk of all-cause mortality increased with each additional serving of soda or fruit juice consumed. Furthermore, whole fruit consumption has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, while fruit juices seem to increase diabetes risk.
Just like soda, fruit juices may contribute to obesity and diabetes when consumed in large amounts.
The same study indicates that fruit juices may have protective effects on the heart and brain when consumed in moderation (fewer than seven 5-ounce glasses per week). Scientists attribute these benefits to the high doses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in fruit juice and recommend drinking no more than 8 ounces per day. Children under six years old should not exceed 4 to 6 ounces of fruit juice daily.
Contrary to popular belief, fruit juices are not a better option than soft drinks for people with diabetes, as reported in a July 2015 research paper published in the BMJ. Both types of beverages seem to be positively associated with a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the risk of developing this disease increased by 7 percent for each additional daily serving of fruit juice consumed. Artificially sweetened beverages pose similar risks.
Also, beware that drinking too much orange juice can damage your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, are highly acidic and can erode the teeth enamel. If you have mouth sores, avoid acidic foods and beverages as they may worsen your symptoms.
Orange Juice Benefits
Despite its high sugar content, orange juice is nutritionally superior to soft drinks. Soda contains nothing but empty calories. Fruit juices, by contrast, are loaded with antioxidants and micronutrients. The key is to enjoy them in moderation.
According to an August 2013 study published in Lipids in Health and Disease, long-term consumption of orange juice may improve blood lipids and diet quality. Subjects who consumed two cups of orange juice per day for at least one year had significantly lower cholesterol levels than non-consumers. Their LDL/HDL ratio improved, too.
LDL is the "bad" cholesterol that affects cardiovascular function. HDL, the "good" cholesterol, helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels and keeps your heart healthy.
The study authors point out that orange juice contains flavonoids that may protect against cardiac events, increase good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Furthermore, they state that orange juice doesn't contribute to weight gain or obesity.
As you see, the research is conflicting. One thing is for sure, though: More isn't always better. Excessive orange juice consumption may or may not affect your health, but it can add inches to your waist. Consume this beverage in moderation or, better yet, eat the whole fruit to boost your fiber intake and prevent blood sugar spikes.
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Orange Juice"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Oranges"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "100% Citrus Juice: Nutritional Contribution, Dietary Benefits, and Association With Anthropometric Measures"
- AHA Journals, Circulation: "Long-Term Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Mortality in US Adults"
- AHA Journals, Stroke: "Artificially Sweetened Beverages and Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, and All-Cause Mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- Duke University: "Demystifying Sugar"
- JAMA Network: "Are Fruit Juices Just as Unhealthy as Sugar-Sweetened Beverages?"
- BMJ: "Consumption of Sugar Sweetened Beverages, Artificially Sweetened Beverages, and Fruit Juice and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes: Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Estimation of Population Attributable Fraction"
- American Dental Association: "Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth"
- NCBI: "Long-Term Orange Juice Consumption Is Associated With Low LDL-Cholesterol and Apolipoprotein B in Normal and Moderately Hypercholesterolemic Subjects"
- American Heart Association: "HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides"