Is drinking store-bought orange juice healthy?

Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. A glass of chilled, store-bought orange juice can seem like a refreshing way to start the day. But despite being packed with vitamin C and folate, the high sugar content and lack of fiber in store-bought orange juice means it may not be as healthy as eating a whole orange. This article examines whether drinking store-bought orange juice is a nutritious choice or best limited to an occasional treat.

Nutritional content of orange juice

There’s no doubt that 100% orange juice provides some beneficial nutrients. One 8 oz glass provides:

  • 112% of the RDI for vitamin C.
  • 12% of the RDI for folate.
  • 12% of the RDI for potassium.
  • 10% of the RDI for thiamine.

Orange juice also contains beneficial plant compounds like carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids which act as antioxidants. The levels can vary depending on the variety and ripeness of oranges used.

Nutrient Amount per 8oz % Daily Value
Calories 112 6%
Total Carbohydrate 25 g 9%
Sugars 21 g N/A
Vitamin C 93.8 mg 112%
Folate 54 mcg 12%
Potassium 496 mg 12%
Thiamine 0.2 mg 10%

Downsides of store-bought orange juice

Despite the nutrients it contains, there are some important downsides to store-bought orange juice:

  • High sugar content – An 8 oz glass contains around 21 grams of sugar. The majority come from naturally-occurring fructose in oranges, but some brands also add extra sugar.
  • Lack of fiber – Whole oranges supply around 3 grams of fiber per orange. This is lost when juice is extracted, meaning store-bought orange juice has negligible fiber.
  • Low satiety – The lack of fiber paired with liquid form results in low satiety. This can lead to poor appetite control.
  • Glycemic impact – Despite the natural sugars, orange juice has a high glycemic index around 50 when tested alone and 66 when taken with a breakfast meal.
  • Oxidation – Crushing oranges exposes the juice to oxygen which can degrade antioxidants and vitamin C over time.

These cons mean drinking store-bought orange juice may not lead to the same health benefits as consuming whole oranges or freshly squeezed juice.

Glycemic index and load of orange juice

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar. It ranges from 0 to 100, with pure glucose being 100. Foods are considered high GI if 55 or above.

Orange juice has a moderately high GI, around 50 when tested on its own. When taken with breakfast, which slows absorption, the GI rises to around 66.

Glycemic load (GL) factors in the carb content. GL under 10 is low, 11-19 is moderate, and over 20 is high. Orange juice has a GL around 10-12 for an 8 oz serving.

Food Serving GI GL
Orange juice 8 oz (250mL) 50 12
Orange juice with breakfast 8 oz (250mL) 66 10

This data indicates orange juice can cause sharper rises in blood sugar than ideal, even if not to levels considered very high GI or GL.

Oxidation of orange juice during storage

Freshly squeezed orange juice contains the most antioxidants and vitamin C. But store-bought varieties undergo processing steps that can degrade nutrients over time:

  • Juice extraction – Crushing cells releases antioxidants and vitamin C, exposing them to air.
  • Storage – Juice may sit in tanks for weeks before bottling, continuing oxidation.
  • Light exposure – Clear containers allow light to strike riboflavin that generates free radicals.
  • Temperature – Warm storage degrades vitamin C and antioxidants faster.

One study found antioxidant activity decreased by around 10% in the first 3 weeks of storage. After 56 days activity was 20% lower.

Another study found vitamin C levels declined by around 19% after 3 months of storage before bottling. Loss of vitamin C continued gradually during shelf storage.

Storage time Antioxidant activity loss Vitamin C loss
3 weeks 10% N/A
56 days (8 weeks) 20% N/A
3 months N/A 19%

This data shows pasteurized, store-bought orange juice undergoes gradual but meaningful nutrient loss over time. Optimal nutrition is found in freshly squeezed varieties.

Pulp and fiber content of orange juice

Orange juice can be pulp-free, pulp-containing, or high-pulp. But even high-pulp orange juice contains only around 0.5-1.5 grams of fiber per 8 oz serving. This is low compared to the 3 grams in a whole medium orange with peel.

The pulp is also bottled juice is smaller and more broken down compared to fresh oranges. This results in a different metabolic effect, releasing sugars faster rather than providing the benefits of whole fruit fibers.

Orange juice type Fiber per 8 oz
Pulp-free 0 g
Some pulp 0.5 g
High pulp 1-1.5 g
Whole orange with peel 3 g

Overall, even high-pulp store-bought orange juice contains only a fraction of the fiber found in whole oranges. This reduces satiety and benefits to digestion.

Potential benefits of orange juice

There is research suggesting orange juice could have some benefits:

  • Lowers blood pressure – Citrus flavonoids may improve nitric oxide levels, reducing blood pressure.
  • Anti-inflammatory – Antioxidants help lower inflammation linked to chronic disease.
  • Kidney stone prevention – Citrate in orange juice inhibits kidney stone formation.
  • Increased antioxidant status – Carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin C act as antioxidants in the body.

However most research uses concentrated fruit juice, freshly squeezed juice, or extract supplements rather than store-bought varieties. Benefits are likely reduced compared to fresh orange juice or whole fruit intake.

Risks and downsides of orange juice

There are also some potential risks and downsides to drinking orange juice regularly:

  • Weight gain – The combination of sugar and low fiber can lead to fat gain over time.
  • Diabetes risk – Frequent consumption is linked to increased diabetes risk, likely due to effects on blood sugar.
  • Dental erosion – Acids in the juice erode tooth enamel over time when exposure is frequent.
  • Heartburn – The high acidity of orange juice may provoke heartburn in susceptible people.
  • Bloating or gas – Some people experience GI upset due to fructose overload when consuming juice.

These adverse effects appear most often in those drinking large quantities of juice. Moderation is key for minimizing risk.

Tips for choosing healthy orange juice

Here are some tips for picking the healthiest orange juice if you want to include it in your diet:

  • Opt for 100% orange juice instead of juice drinks with added sugar and flavors.
  • Pick freshly squeezed juice when possible for maximum nutrition.
  • Choose orange juice stored in paper cartons instead of clear bottles.
  • Look for chill-pressed, pasteurized juice to preserve antioxidants.
  • Avoid very large size bottles to prevent overconsumption.
  • Consider diluting juice with a little water to reduce acidity.

Also aim to limit intake to around 4-8 oz per day and consume alongside protein and fiber for better blood sugar control.

Should you drink orange juice?

Drinking store-bought orange juice instead of soda can seem like a healthier choice. But the pros and cons show moderation is key:

Potential benefits:

  • Rich in vitamin C and folate
  • Source of beneficial plant compounds
  • Convenient, flavorful way to get nutrients

Potential downsides:

  • High natural sugar content
  • Low fiber compared to whole oranges
  • Higher glycemic impact than whole fruit
  • Nutrient degradation during processing

Drinking orange juice a few times per week, around 4-8 oz at a time, is likely fine for most healthy people. But daily high intake may cause problems for those watching sugar and weight.

Eating whole oranges, with peel when possible, gives greater fiber intake and nutritional benefits overall. But orange juice can provide valuable vitamin C, folate, and antioxidants when consumed in moderation.


Orange juice retains beneficial vitamins and plant compounds from fresh oranges. But the juicing process results in high sugar with low fiber and potential nutrient degradation over time. While orange juice is a better choice than soda, its high consumption may promote weight gain and other problems. Enjoying whole fresh oranges and limiting juice to 4-8 oz per day is optimal for health.

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