Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. It’s tasty, convenient, and provides important nutrients like vitamin C. But not all orange juices are created equal when it comes to health. Some contain added sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors that can negate some of the benefits. So which orange juice is the healthiest option?
Freshly squeezed orange juice is probably the healthiest choice if you have the time. Squeezing your own oranges allows you to control what goes into your juice. You get all the natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the orange fruit without any added sugars or preservatives. It’s delicious and nutritious!
To make your own fresh squeezed orange juice, you’ll need:
- Oranges – Look for juicy, fresh oranges without any blemishes or soft spots.
- Citrus juicer or reamer – This handy tool will help you squeeze out the most juice.
- Glass pitcher – To collect the fresh squeezed juice.
Wash the oranges thoroughly, then roll them on a hard surface while applying light pressure to loosen up the juice inside. Cut the oranges in half and squeeze them using a citrus juicer or reamer, removing any seeds. Pour the fresh orange juice into your pitcher and enjoy!
Not From Concentrate
If you don’t have time to make your own, look for 100% orange juice that is not from concentrate. This means the oranges were freshly squeezed and then packaged without removing the water. Not from concentrate orange juice will be closer to fresh squeezed in taste and nutrition compared to juice made from concentrate.
When choosing not from concentrate orange juice, read the label carefully and look for:
- 100% orange juice – Make sure orange juice is the only ingredient.
- No added sugars, sweeteners, or preservatives
- Pasteurized – This heat process preserves nutrients and kills bacteria.
Popular brands of not from concentrate orange juice include Simply Orange, Florida’s Natural, and Tropicana Pure Premium. Shake the container well before pouring since the pulp can settle.
Orange juice from concentrate has had most of the water content removed. This allows it to stay fresh during shipping and storage. When water is added back, it returns to a drinkable juice. The concentrates also often have flavor packs added to boost taste.
While juice from concentrate is shelf-stable and budget-friendly, it loses some vitamin potency during processing. Added flavorings and thickeners like guar gum may also be present. Read the ingredient list closely.
If choosing orange juice from concentrate, look for ones labeled 100% juice with no added sugar. Minute Maid and generic store brands are common examples. Dilute it a bit with water if the taste is too strong.
High Pulp vs Low Pulp
Another decision is high or low pulp. Pulp is the soft, stringy bits of orange. It adds texture and more botanical compounds like bioflavonoids to the juice. But some people dislike the mouthfeel or find it gets stuck in straws.
High pulp orange juice contains all or most of the natural pulp. It has a thicker, richer texture and deeper orange color. Low pulp has most of the pulp filtered out while still retaining some for light texture.
Choose high pulp for the most benefits or low pulp for easier drinking. Kids often prefer low pulp juices. You can also strain out unwanted pulp from high pulp juices through a sieve.
Many orange juice brands add calcium to the juice through calcium lactate, calcium citrate, or tricalcium phosphate. The calcium helps fortify the beverage with an important mineral many people don’t get enough of.
Calcium is crucial for building strong bones and teeth. It also supports muscle function, nerve signaling, hormone secretion, and heart health. Older adults in particular need sufficient calcium intake to help prevent osteoporosis.
If you want the calcium boost, look for calcium-fortified orange juice. The calcium content should be listed on the Nutrition Facts label. Shoot for at least 350 mg per serving.
Added Vitamin D
Some orange juices also contain added vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption. The body produces vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. However, many people are deficient, especially in winter or with inadequate sun exposure.
Getting enough vitamin D is important for bone health, immunity, mood, and more. It works hand-in-hand with calcium. Look for orange juice fortified with both calcium and vitamin D for optimal intake.
Organic orange juice comes from oranges grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic farming practices promote ecological biodiversity and sustainability. The USDA organic label ensures at least 95% organic ingredients.
While not conclusively proven, some studies suggest organic oranges may have slightly higher vitamin C and antioxidant levels. However, nutritional content can vary greatly based on the soil, climate, ripeness, and other factors. Taste and ethics may be bigger reasons to go organic.
Popular organic orange juice brands include Lakewood Organic Pure Orange Juice and Organic Florida’s Natural Orange Juice. Look for the USDA organic symbol to verify.
Pasteurized vs Unpasteurized
Most store-bought orange juice is pasteurized to kill pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and mold. Pasteurization involves heating the juice to high temperatures for a short time.
Unpasteurized orange juice is also available. While some claim it tastes fresher and retains more nutrients, raw unpasteurized juice carries risks of foodborne illness if contaminated.
Those with compromised immune systems like the elderly, pregnant women, and young children should avoid unpasteurized juice. Make sure any unpasteurized juice is handled properly and freshly squeezed.
Added Sugars and Sweeteners
Check the ingredient list for any added sugars or sweeteners. Sugars like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and cane sugar boost the sweetness but drive up calories and undermine health.
Artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame K provide sweetness without calories but may cause digestive issues in sensitive individuals. They lack nutritional value.
Ideally, choose 100% orange juice with no added sweeteners. Concentrates and flavor packs often contain extra sugars. If buying juice from concentrate, minimize added sugars.
Storage and Shelf Life
Commercially packaged orange juice lasts 1-2 weeks after opening when refrigerated. Check the best by date and consume within 5-7 days of opening for highest quality.
Freeze extra juice in ice cube trays, then store cubes in airtight bags. Thaw as needed for up to 3 months.
Homemade fresh squeezed orange juice only lasts 1-2 days in the refrigerator. Freeze any extras in ice cube trays or muffin tins immediately after squeezing.
Here’s how the main types of orange juice compare nutritionally per 8 oz serving (247 ml):
|Orange Juice Type||Calories||Total Carbs||Sugars||Vitamin C|
|Fresh Squeezed||112||26g||21g||124mg (207% DV)|
|Not From Concentrate||112||25g||20g||93mg (155% DV)|
|From Concentrate||120||29g||24g||83mg (138% DV)|
As you can see, fresh squeezed tops them all nutritionally! But even juice from concentrate still provides important antioxidants and a big vitamin C boost.
The Healthiest Choice
What’s the healthiest orange juice to drink? Here are some key tips:
- Make your own fresh squeezed for maximum nutrition and flavor.
- If buying, choose 100% not from concentrate juice with no added sugars or sweeteners.
- Go for calcium and vitamin D fortified varieties if you want the added bone benefits.
- Select organic juice if you want to avoid pesticides.
- Low pulp is easier to drink, while high pulp offers fuller texture and nutrition.
- Look for pasteurized juice unless you’re certain about the safety of unpasteurized.
- Store properly in the refrigerator and consume within 5-7 days of opening.
While orange juice can’t replace whole fruits and veggies, it makes a tasty and convenient way to get antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and other important nutrients. Just be choosy about your juice for the greatest health benefits. Your body will thank you!
When it comes to the healthiest orange juice, nothing beats fresh squeezed at home. But 100% not from concentrate juice with minimal processing and no added sugars is a good option when you’re pressed for time. Look for calcium and vitamin D fortification for bone health. Organic, high pulp, and pasteurized are also smart choices. Read labels closely and choose wisely for the optimal healthy beverage.