Nothing says "breakfast" like a glass of orange juice. But when it comes to nutrition, does your cup of sunshine fall short?
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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 one 8-ounce serving of orange juice, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 27 grams
  • Sugar: 20 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sodium 9.6 grams
  • Calcium: 41 milligrams
  • Vitamin C: 60 milligrams

This nutrition information may vary depending on the manufacturer.

Orange juice on a designed background of question marks
Credit: Getty Images / Pineapple Studio / Savany

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 tend to 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, healthcare professionals, including registered dietitians, recommend that adults consume no more than 1 cup of 100% fruit juice each day. Why? We want to encourage people to eat mostly whole fruits because they offer additional 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 gram of fiber per serving. It's not much, but it counts toward the recommended goal of 25 to 34 grams of fiber per day, which is what the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend.

What about orange juice concentrate? It's a convenient choice, but if you choose to drink concentrate, read the labels and avoid anything that says, "beverage, punch or cocktail." These terms likely mean it only contains a small percentage of real 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 the orange juice following the package directions, adding the recommended amount of water for dilution.

Health Benefits of Orange Juice

It Provides a Full Serving of Fruit

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that most females and males consume 1½ to 2½ cups of fruit each day. According to MyPlate, which is based on the DGA, 1 cup of 100% juice provides one serving of fruit. That means 1 cup of orange juice at breakfast helps fulfill about half of your daily fruit needs. Just keep in mind that the type of orange juice you choose matters, as does the amount.

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, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), both vitamins C and D help support a healthy immune system. "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," explains Jones. Orange juice also supplies other important nutrients such as potassium and folate, which promote heart health, per the NIH, as well as powerful antioxidants, including carotenoids and flavonoids. And a 2022 review in Advances in Nutrition suggests that 100% orange juice might also help reduce inflammation within the body; inflammation is responsible for many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

It's a Kid-Friendly Way to Get 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 over-consumed. This translates to fewer nutritive calories and more nonnutritive calories.

But what about juice? In a 2021 longitudinal study published in Public Health Nutrition, researchers found that children (ages 9 to 16) who drank 100% orange juice did not appear to have an increased risk of having excess weight or obesity. Moreover, the children who drank more orange juice also appeared to have healthier diets and lifestyle habits.

Marina Chaparro, M.S., RD, a pediatric dietitian and author of Diabetes & Pregnancy, agrees that 100% OJ can complement a child's nutrition. Just keep the amount in mind. "Keep portions small, as growing bodies need a vast array of nutrients from a variety of different foods," says Chaparro.

This is consistent with the 2017 guidelines the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) set forth, which no longer recommends juice for any child under the age of 1 year.

The AAP recommends:

  • Under 1: no juice
  • Ages 1 to 3: no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) per day
  • Ages 4 to 6: no more than 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to 3/4 cup) per day
  • Ages 7 to 18: no more than 8 ounces (1 cup) per day

The Bottom Line

Orange juice has health benefits, but not all juices are created equal. At the store, read the labels and choose fortified, 100% orange juice. Avoid juice beverages, juice cocktails and juice punch, as they are basically sugar water and typically contain only a small fraction of real juice. And like all good things, enjoy your glass of sunshine—in moderation.