June 13, 2024


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Orange Juice: Benefits, Nutrition, and Risks

Orange juice, made by squeezing an orange, is a breakfast staple in many households. It’s a concentrated source of several health-promoting nutrients like vitamin C, folate, and potassium.

Studies suggest drinking orange juice may benefit heart health, cognitive health, and immune function. It may also help protect against kidney stones.

However, not all orange juice is created equal. Some varieties contain minimal amounts of real orange juice yet have a ton of added sugar and other ingredients that may do more harm than good.

Here’s everything you need to know about the health benefits of orange juice, including its nutrition content, risks, and healthful ways to consume it.

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 5 deaths in the United States. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking are primary risk factors for the disease.

A 2022 review of eight randomized control trials looked at the effects of regular orange juice consumption on cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure, and markers of inflammation in overweight and obese adults.

Researchers found that orange juice consumption was linked to improvements in blood pressure and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol. Other risk factors for heart disease, including total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, blood sugar, and C-reactive protein (CRP)—a marker of inflammation—were unchanged.

The exact way orange juice promotes heart health is unknown. However, researchers believe hesperidin, a naturally occurring flavonoid in orange juice, may be responsible for the beverage’s ability to lower blood pressure.

Fresh squeezed and pasteurized orange juice is rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin C.

Antioxidants are chemicals that neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing cell damage. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals formed naturally in the body that, at high concentrations, can damage DNA and other cells. This can lead to the development of cancer and other chronic health conditions.

One eight-week study found that drinking 750 milliliters (mL) of orange juice increased the antioxidant capacity of both overweight and normal-weight individuals.

Cognitive health—the ability to think clearly, learn, and remember—is important for healthy aging.

One large observational study found that higher intakes of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly citrus fruits like orange juice, were associated with decreased odds of self-perceived cognitive decline.

Similarly, a randomized control trial found that 240 milliliters of flavonoid-rich orange juice improved cognitive function and alertness more than a placebo drink with the same amount of calories.

A healthy immune system is vital for survival, fighting against everything from the cold and flu to serious health conditions like cancer.

A glass of orange juice provides all the vitamin C you need in a day. It also offers a good amount of folate. Both nutrients are known for supporting the health of many different immune cells.

Studies show that a deficiency in vitamin C is linked to impaired immune function and an increased risk of infection.

However, further research is needed to assess the direct effect of orange juice on immune function.

A kidney stone is a hard, pebble-like piece of material that forms when you have high amounts of certain minerals or salts in your pee. Kidney stones can vary in size and can be as small as a grain of salt or as large as a pea. Large stones that don’t pass through the body can cause severe pain and discomfort.

Orange juice can increase urinary citrate and pH levels, which may help protect against kidney stones. Some evidence suggests that orange juice is more effective than lemon juice at protecting against kidney stones.

However, choosing varieties of orange juice without added sugar is essential, as excessive sugar in juices may increase the risk of kidney stones.

The nutritional value of orange juice can vary between brands. However, an eight-ounce glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice provides around:

  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 0.5 grams (g)
  • Sodium: 2.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 25.8 g
  • Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Sugars: 20.8 g
  • Protein: 1.7 g
  • Vitamin C: 137% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Folate: 19% of the DV
  • Potassium: 11% of the DV

Folate is a B vitamin that helps with red blood cell production and healthy growth and development. It is particularly important during pregnancy it may help protect unborn babies against serious birth defects.

Potassium is a mineral that helps generate muscle contraction and a normal heartbeat.

Many commercial orange juice varieties are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but they’re generally lower in vitamin C, folate, and potassium than freshly squeezed juice.

An 8-ounce glass of enriched orange juice provides the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0.3 g
  • Sodium: 4.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 25.9 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugars: 20.7 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Vitamin C: 100% of the DV
  • Calcium: 35% of the DV
  • Vitamin D: 25% of the DV
  • Folate: 15% of the DV
  • Potassium: 10% of the DV

Calcium and vitamin D work together to support healthy bones and prevent bone loss.

Research suggests the diets of 100% orange juice consumers are higher in vitamin C, potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and antioxidants. Regular consumers of orange juice also tend to have lower waist circumferences and body mass index (BMI) compared to non-consumers.

While this doesn’t establish a direct connection between orange juice and weight loss, it does suggest that 100% orange juice can be part of a healthy diet.

While moderate consumption of orange juice may offer health benefits, it’s still a source of calories and sugar.

One cup of orange juice contains over 100 calories, which can quickly add up if you’re sipping orange juice throughout the day. In addition, unlike whole oranges, orange juice has little to no fiber. This means it’s less likely to keep you feeling full for an extended period.

Furthermore, due to its low fiber content, the natural sugars in orange juice can be quickly absorbed by the body, leading to spikes in blood sugar.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming fruit in whole form, with no more than half of a day’s fruit intake coming from 100% fruit juice.

For example, people following a 2,000-calorie diet should consume about 2 cups of fruit daily, with less than one cup coming from fruit juice.

Children under 12 months should not be given 100% fruit or vegetable juices. Children between the ages of 1 to 6 years old should have no more than 6 to 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice daily.

People with kidney disease who are on dialysis may need to avoid or limit orange juice because it is high in potassium.

Lastly, although rare, if you have a citrus allergy, you should avoid consuming orange juice as it may trigger allergy symptoms, including a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

There are many orange juice varieties on the market, including:

  • 100% orange juice without and without pulp
  • 100% orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D
  • 100% fruit juice made from oranges combined with another fruit, such as pineapple and apples
  • Orange juice-like beverages, like Sunny D or Tang
  • Frozen orange juice concentrate
  • Diet orange juice made with artificial sweeteners

Most orange juice-like beverages have added sugars. For example, even though it provides 100% of the DV for vitamin C, a cup of Sunny D has 12 grams of added sugar. Consuming large amounts of added sugars can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

To maximize the health benefits of orange juice while minimizing health risks, choose 100% orange juice free of added sugars or make your own fresh squeezed juice. Frozen orange juice concentrates are also good options if they’re made from pure orange juice.

Note that pregnant people and young children should avoid freshly squeezed juices as they may contain harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

If you have diabetes, consider pairing orange juice with a meal or snack containing protein and fat to help slow blood sugar spikes.

Fresh squeezed orange juice is a good source of antioxidants, vitamin C, folate, and potassium. Many store-bought orange juice varieties are fortified to add calcium and vitamin D.

In addition to being a nutritious addition to a healthy diet, orange juice consumption has been linked to improvements in heart health and cognitive health. It may also help reduce the risk of kidney stones and support a healthy immune system.

However, due to its high calorie and sugar content, it’s a good idea to consume orange juice in moderation. You’ll also want to opt for 100% orange juice or make your own to avoid consuming added sugars. If you have kidney disease or diabetes, talk with your healthcare provider to determine how much orange juice you can safely drink.