Orange juice is a popular beverage that many people enjoy as part of a balanced breakfast. Some individuals even opt to drink orange juice daily due to its nutritional benefits. But what exactly happens to your body when you drink orange juice every day? Here’s a comprehensive look at the potential effects, both good and bad.
Nutritional Profile of Orange Juice
Before exploring the specific impacts, it helps to understand the nutritional makeup of orange juice. An 8 ounce (240 ml) serving of fresh-squeezed orange juice typically provides:
- 112 calories
- 25 grams of carbohydrates
- 21 grams of sugar
- 0.5 grams of protein
- 450 mg of potassium
- 60 mg of vitamin C (100% DV)
- 1 mg of calcium (10% DV)
- 0.12 mg of vitamin B6 (6% DV)
- 124 mg of phytochemicals like hesperidin
As you can see, orange juice is packed with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like vitamin C, potassium, and phytochemicals. Drinking it daily can help you meet and exceed the recommended daily intakes for these nutrients.
Here are some of the key benefits that can come from drinking orange juice every day:
Supports Immune Function
Orange juice is loaded with vitamin C, an essential nutrient when it comes to immune defense. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, protecting your cells against damage caused by free radicals. It also supports the production and function of leukocytes – the white blood cells that defend your body against infection and illness.
Studies show that consuming 100–200 mg of vitamin C per day, the amount in one serving of orange juice, can reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
Boosts Heart Health
The combination of nutrients in orange juice promotes heart health in several ways. The potassium helps regulate blood pressure. The phytochemicals like hesperidin have anti-inflammatory properties that can protect your heart and blood vessels. There’s also evidence that vitamin C lowers high triglyceride and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
According to a 2019 review, people who drank orange juice daily had better HDL “good” cholesterol levels and lower diastolic blood pressure compared to non-consumers.
Orange juice contains helpful compounds that support overall digestive health. The water content helps prevent constipation by softening and moving stool through your system. Citric acid stimulates the production of gastric acid, aiding nutrient absorption. Hesperidin may help prevent ulcers by strengthening the protective mucus barrier in the stomach.
One study in 87 people found that drinking 250 ml of orange juice with breakfast significantly increased gastric emptying rate and improved dyspepsia (indigestion) symptoms compared to drinking water.
Supports Brain Function
Some research indicates that drinking orange juice daily may benefit brain function. In one controlled trial, older adults who drank about 500 ml of orange juice daily for 8 weeks experienced improved memory and verbal fluency compared to non-juice drinkers.
The flavonoids in orange juice like hesperidin demonstrate anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the brain that can help prevent oxidative damage associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
May Help Lower Risk of Certain Cancers
The vitamin C and antioxidants in orange juice could potentially help lower the risk of certain types of cancer. In one large observational study in over 60,000 adults, drinking 100% fruit juice was linked to a 12% lower risk of overall cancer.
Other research shows that citrus fruits like oranges may help prevent cancers of the digestive and upper respiratory tracts. More studies are needed on orange juice specifically, but the antioxidant content could plausibly fight cancer cell formation and tumor growth.
Downsides to Consider
Despite the many benefits, there are some downsides to be aware of if you drink orange juice daily:
High in Sugar
The biggest concern with orange juice is its high natural sugar content. An 8-ounce (240-ml) glass packs about 21 grams of sugar, similar to a can of soda.
Consuming excess added or natural sugars can cause blood sugar spikes, inflammation, weight gain, and an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
May Cause Dental Erosion
Frequent exposure to citric acid from orange juice can erode tooth enamel over time. One study found that drinking orange juice twice daily for two weeks decreased enamel hardness by 84%.
To help prevent dental erosion, avoid swishing juice around your mouth, rinse with water after drinking, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
Contains Less Fiber Than Whole Oranges
Orange juice contains only a trace amount of fiber since it lacks the fibrous pulp from the fruit. An average orange provides 3 grams of filling fiber, while a glass of orange juice has 0.5 grams.
The reduction in fiber can cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar. It also results in less satiety, which may promote overeating and weight gain.
May Trigger GERD Symptoms
Citric juices like orange juice can sometimes aggravate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms. The acidic nature may relax the esophageal sphincter muscle, allowing stomach contents to leak back up into the esophagus.
If you have frequent heartburn or GERD, limit intake to smaller portions like 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) at a time.
While orange juice is generally recognized as safe, drinking it daily on a long-term basis may contribute to these adverse effects in some people:
Although orange juice provides some nutrients involved in oral health, its acidity may erode tooth enamel over time, leading to decay.
Frequently consuming the 21 grams of sugar in orange juice can potentially increase insulin resistance and diabetes risk in some individuals.
The oxalate content in orange juice may contribute to kidney stone formation for those predisposed to the condition.
The acidity can impact absorption of certain medications. People taking antibiotics or other critical drugs should separate dosages from drinking orange juice by at least a few hours.
Some people report feeling tired after drinking orange juice, possibly due to reactive hypoglycemia from blood sugar fluctuations.
Compounds called histamines in citrus juices like orange juice may provoke headaches in those prone to migraines.
How Much Is Too Much?
Moderation is key when it comes to orange juice intake:
- 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) per day is a reasonable amount for most healthy adults.
- Limit to 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) 1–2 times per week for those with diabetes or weight concerns.
- Avoid large amounts within a couple of hours of taking medications.
- Drink no more than 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) at once if you have GERD.
- Rinse your mouth with water and wait 30 minutes after drinking to brush teeth.
- Consume whole fruits and vegetables as well for fiber intake.
Keep in mind that less processed varieties like fresh-squeezed juice are preferable to heavily processed bottled juices high in added sugars and preservatives.
Alternatives to Consider
Here are some healthy alternatives if you want to cut down on orange juice but still enjoy citrus flavor and nutrients:
Diluted Orange Juice
Dilute fresh orange juice with water to reduce calories and sugar content. Try mixing equal parts water and 100% juice.
Orange Slices in Water
Add orange slices to your water for light citrus flavor without the concentrated juice.
Blend oranges with nutritious ingredients like Greek yogurt and spinach for more balanced nutrition.
Eat oranges whole for more fiber, less impact on teeth, and a satisfying sweet snack.
Enjoy the scent of oranges from the essential oil or peel without juice to avoid acidity issues.
The Bottom Line
Drinking orange juice daily offers many benefits thanks to its wide range of nutrients and antioxidants. However, it also contains a concentrated dose of natural sugar.
For most healthy people, 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) of 100% orange juice per day is safe as part of a balanced diet. But moderation is key, especially if you have issues like diabetes, kidney stones, GERD, or migraines.
Alternatives like diluted juice, whole oranges, or orange aroma allow you to get benefits without going overboard on acidic juice.
At the end of the day, orange juice can be enjoyed as part of an overall nutritious regimen for full advantage of its diverse nutritional profile.