I have never really been a big fan of orange juice or juice in general. I suppose for me, the term “never drink your calories” has stuck and so I made a conscious choice to eat chocolate instead (guilty pleasure:). Because of this, I typically don’t buy juice much in our house. But every once in a while I crave a glass of orange juice and I find myself thinking, is orange juice healthy? When I scan the labels at the grocery store I expect to see obvious ‘bad’ ingredients but instead I often only see one ingredient, 100% pure oranges and not from concentrate.
I knew there had to be a catch.
After all, how come ever glass of 100% pure not from concentrate orange juice always tastes the same? That seems odd to me so I decided to do a little more research. Here is what I found:
Its all in the processing.. “Aha!…Of course.”
How orange juice is processed makes all the difference. Think about it: If you were to freshly squeeze an orange yourself and drink it, it would taste freshly squeezed AND each time you made it, it would taste different depending on the season, the type of oranges and many other factors, such as where the oranges are from. But pre-made 100% juice all tastes the same. Every time.
The truth about the processing of orange juice
In a nutshell, the chemistry of how orange juice is made has more to do with the final product than the nature of the orange.
For mass quantities of orange juice to be made, the industrial companies must store the orange juice in large holding tanks after the oranges have been squeezed. In order for the oranges to stay fresh and keep from being spoiled, all of the oxygen is removed from the holding tanks. This will allow the orange juice to stay fresh for one year.
Removing oxygen also removes the flavor
The problem with this is that the flavor is also destroyed from the juice once the oxygen is removed. So “flavor packs” are added to the juice to make the final product, which is why it tastes the same with every glass.
Why are flavor packs not listed on the label?
Here is what Food Renegade has to say about flavor packs and why they are not listed on the ingredients label:
“When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. “
But that isn’t the only reason to think about cutting back or stopping juice in your diet.
Juice is just concentrated fructose
Did you know it could take up to 8 fresh squeezed oranges to make 1 8oz glass of orange juice? That is equal to a whopping 8 teaspoons of sugar in one glass. Compare this to a can of soda pop which is equal to 10 teaspoons of sugar. This is clearly more than the recommended daily amount by a long shot.
I don’t want to give the impression that fresh squeezed orange juice is not healthy, it certainly has a lot of added benefit including vitamins that help maintain the daily recommended amounts. But it is dangerous to get into the habit of drinking the juice instead of eating the fruit, for a number of reasons;
With the whole fruit you get all the added benefit of the fiber, the pectin, and all the nutrients from the skin, including healthy gut bacteria. Fiber is necessary as it slows down the absorption process which helps to prevent over indulgence of unnecessary calories. Additionally, fresh fruit leaves behind fiber in the digestive track which helps to moisten and cleanse which softens mucus that builds up over time.
The soluble fiber found in oranges is fermented by our gut bacteria but you must eat the whole fruit to retain this benefit since the soluble fiber is found mostly in the skin or the membranes that divide the segments of the orange.
Also, during the processing of orange juice, a lot of the antioxidants are lost, especially in a pasteurized product. Antioxidants are important for our overall health and to keep our systems clear of free radicals that cause damage to cells. What we ultimately want is to consume products that are generally higher in antioxidants rather than diminishing their potency.
Most importantly, pay attention to your fructose levels. The recommended daily amount by Dr. Joseph Mercola is 25 grams of fructose per day for a person of a healthy weight. For an obese person it is recommended to lower that level to 15 grams per day. At least half of your daily fructose should come from whole fruits. There are plenty of charts available on the internet that will give you a list of fruits and the fructose levels they contain. They are quite shocking actually, so you may want to pay attention to how much you fructose you are taking in with just fruit alone. A high intake of fructose has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.
So where to go from here if you are a juice lover?
If you want to drink juice, one suggestion is to squeeze your own as long as you limit it (remember how many oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice and I don’t think you would regularly eat 8 oranges in one sitting…). Better yet, invest in a high power blender such as the Vitamix and put the whole fruit in your drink so that you get the goodness of all of it’s parts. Try to be aware of how much fructose you are ingesting and if using a high power blender such as the Vitamix, try to limit the fruit and add more veggies to help balance your nutrition.
Do you buy a lot of juice? What are your secrets to limiting your sugar intake?