Is Orange Juice Good for You? A Nutritionist Peels It Back

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Orange juice is a staple in most refrigerators. It’s how our moms taught us to start our day off right—with a boost of vitamin C. But is OJ as healthy as we grew up thinking it was? We investigate once and for all: Is orange juice good for you? Yes…and no. Don’t worry, we’ll explain.

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What are the health benefits of orange juice?

One cup of OJ is packed with the good stuff. In fact, one serving (an eight-ounce glass) of orange juice has all the vitamin C you need in an entire day. It’s got a little bit of protein (about two grams) and an alright amount of calcium (4 percent of what we need each day, unless you’re drinking a calcium-enhanced OJ, which you should only do if your doctor says so since there are several downsides to having too much calcium in your system, but that’s a horse of a different color) and it’s virtually fat-free. Orange juice is high in potassium and is an excellent source of two B-complex vitamins—folate and thiamine—the building blocks of good health. It also boosts your immune system, and it might even prevent cancer, but more research is needed on that front. 

What makes orange juice unhealthy?

It was looking good for orange juice until we got to three key lines on the Department of Agriculture’s nutrition facts chart: 110 calories, more than 11 grams of carbs (sorry, keto dieters) and a whopping 20 grams of sugar per serving. Juicing an orange also gets rid of the fiber you’d otherwise benefit from if you just ate an orange instead, thanks to the concentration process, says nutritionist Lisa Young, Ph.D, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. And all orange juices are concentrated to one degree or another—meaning the fiber and water have been nearly eliminated from those cartons on your grocery store shelf. This isn’t necessarily a reason to avoid OJ, Young says, but don’t forget to add more fiber to your diet, from foods like broccoli, beans and whole grains. So OJ isn’t the worst thing to consume, but drinking several glasses a day probably isn’t the best idea.

Is orange juice with pulp healthier?

Speaking of fiber, Young tells us that orange juice with pulp will give you a little bit of that extra fiber you need, but it’s still not nearly enough. Since it’s more of a preference than an actual health benefit, don’t force yourself to buy full pulp if you think it’s gross. (It is. Don’t @ me.) Orange you glad we’re not insisting you drink the pulp?

Can I drink orange juice every day?

If you gotta have your juice, Young suggests keeping it to one glass a day. And if you’re worried about the sugar and calories, “dilute four ounces of juice with four ounces of water to cut back on both,” she says. Young would also tell anyone keeping an eye on their weight not to have more than one four-ounce glass of OJ in a day because of how easy it is to overdo it with calories and sugar—specifically when you’re drinking them.

Which orange juice brands are healthiest?

Any brand that can guarantee its OJ is 100 percent real orange juice is a healthy option—full stop. 

What orange juice brands should I avoid?

Avoid products that market themselves as OJ but are more like neon-orange sugar water hidden in plain sight. Look for words on the packaging like orange juice cocktailorange drink and orangeade. These typically mean that the product contains a bunch of added sugar instead of real juice.

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From 2019-2020 Ariel Scotti held the role of Editor at PureWow covering trends, wellness and more.