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Is organic orange juice better than regular?

Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. Walk down the juice aisle at any grocery store and you’ll see a variety of options – from regular old orange juice made from concentrate to premium not-from-concentrate juices to organic and even fresh-squeezed options. With so many choices, it can get confusing trying to figure out which orange juice is the healthiest and tastiest choice for you and your family.

Two of the most common types of orange juice are regular and organic. But what’s really the difference between regular and organic orange juice? Is one healthier than the other? Does organic orange juice taste better? And is it worth paying extra for organic?

In this article, we’ll break down the key differences between regular and organic orange juice – from how they’re made and regulated, to nutrition, taste, and cost. We’ll help you decide whether upgrading to organic OJ is worth it.

How Regular and Organic Orange Juices Are Made

To understand the differences between regular and organic orange juice, it helps to first look at how they’re made:

Regular Orange Juice Production

Most non-organic orange juice sold today is made using a production method that was developed in the 1940s to meet the demand for orange juice year-round, not just during citrus season. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Oranges are picked when ripe and juiced at the processing plant.
  2. The fresh juice is stored in oxygen-free tanks for up to a year.
  3. When ready for packaging, the juice is filtered, heat pasteurized, and has flavors adjusted.
  4. For not-from-concentrate juice, the process stops here.
  5. For from-concentrate juice, the juice is concentrated into a syrup and frozen for storage.
  6. When ready for consumption, the concentrate is reconstituted with water and re-flavored.

The result is a consistent, year-round supply of orange juice. However, some natural flavors and nutrients are lost during processing.

Organic Orange Juice Production

Organic orange juice is made with the following key differences:

  1. Oranges must be grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.
  2. No GMOs are allowed.
  3. Freshly squeezed juice is briefly heat treated to extend shelf life.
  4. Flavor adjustments are not allowed.
  5. Concentrating the juice is not permitted.

As a result, organic orange juice retains more of the natural taste and nutrients of fresh oranges. However, availability is limited by seasonal harvests.

Nutrition Comparison

When it comes to nutrition, organic orange juice and regular orange juice are fairly similar, though organic has some advantages:

Regular Orange Juice Organic Orange Juice
Calories 112 per cup 112 per cup
Total Carbohydrates 25g per cup 25g per cup
Sugars 21g per cup 21g per cup
Protein 2g per cup 2g per cup
Vitamin C 124mg per cup (208% DV) 129mg per cup (215% DV)
Folate 40mcg per cup (10% DV) 44mcg per cup (11% DV)
Potassium 496mg per cup (14% DV) 522mg per cup (15% DV)

As you can see, calories, carbs, sugars and protein are the same. But organic OJ contains a bit more vitamin C, folate and potassium. This is likely due to organic oranges ripening longer on the tree and avoidance of high heat pasteurization.

Taste Test

When it comes to taste, many people report preferring the flavor of organic orange juice over regular. Here’s why organic may taste better:

  1. Fresher oranges – Organic oranges are often harvested closer to ripeness and juiced sooner than conventional oranges.
  2. No flavor packs – Organic juices don’t use “flavor packs” which are added back to conventional OJ to standardize taste.
  3. No concentrating – Organic is never from concentrate, which can degrade flavors.

However, taste is subjective. Some people find little taste difference between organic vs regular orange juice. It pays to sample each and decide which tastes better to your palate.

Cost Comparison

One downside of organic orange juice is it typically costs 20-30% more than regular orange juice. Here are some average prices:

Regular Orange Juice Organic Orange Juice
Half Gallon $4 $6
59 oz Carton $3 $4.50
10 oz Single Serving $2 $3

The increased cost of organic orange juice reflects the higher production costs:

  • Organic oranges cost more to grow
  • Tight regulation increases processing expenses
  • Seasonal production limits economies of scale
  • No government subsidies like conventional farms

For many families, the higher price is worth it for the peace of mind that comes from avoiding pesticide residues and getting a product perceived as more natural and environmentally friendly.

The Verdict

So is organic orange juice better than regular? Here’s the final breakdown:

Nutrition

Organic OJ contains slightly more vitamins and minerals. But both regular and organic have similar calorie, carb, and sugar content.

Taste

Organic often tastes fresher and more natural. But taste preference is subjective.

Cost

Organic is 20-30% more expensive due to production differences and no government subsidies.

Environmental Impact

Organic production reduces pesticide use and promotes biodiversity. But some studies show conventional farming can produce higher yields on less land.

The Bottom Line

While organic OJ is likely the healthier and more environmentally friendly choice, the differences are small enough that regular orange juice can still be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Drink the juice you enjoy and can afford. Just stick to 100% orange juice and avoid added sugars or blends. After all, orange juice should be a treat, not a daily habit. Moderating juice intake and eating whole oranges and other produce is ideal for overall nutrition.

When it comes to regular vs. organic orange juice, the choice is mostly personal preference and budget. Both provide vitamin C, potassium and other benefits. Organic offers slightly more nutrition and a fresher taste for those who feel the upgrade is worthwhile.