Is Orange Juice Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Says
Orange juice is sweet and downright delicious. Fresh-squeezed or straight from the carton, it's a beloved beverage enjoyed beyond breakfast. But is orange juice good for you? Juice is often deemed as the less-nutritious option compared to eating whole fruit. But why? Let's take a closer look at the nutritional profile of orange juice and see what the experts have to say.
Orange Juice Nutrition
Here is the nutritional information for 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) of fortified orange juice (Tropicana Pure Premium Calcium Vitamin D, no pulp):
Fat: 0 g
Sodium: 0 mg
Potassium: 450 mg
Carbohydrates: 26 g
Fiber: 0 g
Sugars: 22 g
Protein: 2 g
Calcium: 350 mg
Vitamin C: 90 mg
Vitamin A: N/A
Vitamin D: 2.5 mcg
Folate: 60 mcg
The Healthiest Orange Juice to Buy
The best orange juice option when it comes to store-bought juice is fortified, 100% orange juice. It has no added sugar and has been supplemented with calcium and Vitamin D—two nutrients Americans fall short on. Fresh-squeezed is also a great option, but often more expensive when compared to packaged varieties. Fresh-squeezed juices also don't have the same amount of calcium and Vitamin D as their fortified counterparts.
As for how much orange juice you should be drinking, health care professionals (including registered dietitians) recommend that adults consume no more than 1 cup of 100% fruit juice each day. Why? Because we want to encourage people to eat whole fruits, too, because they offer other nutritional benefits. And even though the sugar in 100% juice is naturally occurring, keeping your juice habit to 1 cup a day keeps calories in check and helps prevent blood sugar spikes. If you're looking for a little boost of fiber, consider choosing varieties that contain pulp; they'll supply around 0.5 to 1 grams of fiber per serving. It's not much, but it counts towards the recommended goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day.
What about orange juice concentrate? It's a convenient choice, but if you choose to drink concentrate, read labels, avoiding anything that says, "beverage, punch or cocktail." These terms likely mean it only contains a portion of orange juice and has added sugar mixed in, and possibly colorings, to achieve the flavor and color of real orange juice. Instead, look for fortified, 100% orange juice concentrate. The only ingredients listed should be 100% orange juice, as well as a source of calcium and vitamin D. And, remember, this is a concentrated product, so prepare your glass of OJ following package directions, adding the recommended amount of water for dilution.
Orange Juice Benefits
1. One glass provides a full serving of fruit
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that most women and men consume 1½ to 2½ cups of fruit each day. According to MyPlate.gov, which is based on the DGA, 1 cup of 100% juice provides one serving of fruit. That means your 1 cup of orange juice at breakfast helps fulfill about half of your daily fruit needs. But the type of orange juice you choose matters, as does the amount.
2. It can help support a healthy immune system
"An 8-ounce glass of fortified 100% orange juice is a delicious and easy way to get more than 100% of your daily needs of vitamin C and 15% for vitamin D," says Jerlyn Jones, M.S., M.P.A., RDN, LD, CLT, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Both vitamins C and D help support a healthy immune system—something we've all become more aware of since the start of the COVID pandemic. "Vitamin C strengthens our immune system by protecting our cells, and vitamin D plays an important role in regulating our immune responses and may help immune cells fight off bacteria and viruses," she says. Orange juice also supplies other important nutrients such as potassium and folate, which promote heart health, as well as powerful antioxidants, including carotenoids and flavonoids.
3. It's a kid-friendly way to get in nutrients
When it comes to orange juice and kids, you may be wondering if juice is a suitable beverage for children. The increasing availability of foods and beverages with high amounts of added sugars has been a contributor to the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in children. Whole, nutritious foods are often replaced when these foods and beverages are overconsumed. This translates to fewer nutritive calories and more nonnutritive calories. But what about juice? In a recent longitudinal study published in Public Health Nutrition in 2021, researchers found that children (ages 9 to 16) who drank 100% orange juice did not appear to have an increased risk for being overweight or obese. Moreover, the children who drank more orange juice also appeared to have healthier diet and lifestyle habits.
Marina Chaparro, a kids' dietitian and author of Diabetes & Pregnancy (buy it: amazon.com, $14), agrees that 100% OJ can complement a child's nutrition. But she has this advice: "Keep portions small, as growing bodies need a vast array of nutrients from a variety of different foods." This is consistent with the advice set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which no longer recommends juice for any child under the age of 1 year. They also advise that toddlers (ages 1 to 3) should have no more than 4 ounces per day, children ages 4 to 6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces per day and older children (ages 7 to 18) should consume no more than 8 ounces of juice each day.
Orange juice has health benefits, but not all juices are created equal. At the store, read labels and choose fortified, 100% orange juice. And like all good things, enjoy your glass of sunshine, but don't overdo it.