Oranges versus orange juice: Which one might be better for your health?

Many health advocates advise people to eat an orange and drink water rather than opt for a serving of sugary juice. But in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report that the picture is not clear-cut. Although juice is indeed high in sugar, the scientists found that certain nutrients in orange juice might be easier for the body to absorb than when a person consumes them from unprocessed fruit.

Ralf Schweiggert, Julian Aschoff and colleagues note that oranges are packed with nutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids that, among other benefits, can potentially help lower a person’s risk for certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. But many people prefer to drink a glass of orange juice rather than eat the fruit. Sugar content aside, are they getting the same nutritional benefits? Schweiggert’s team set out to answer that question.

The researchers found that the production of pasteurized orange juice slightly lowered the levels of carotenoids and vitamin C. But at the same time, it significantly improved the carotenoid and vitamin C bioaccessibility - or how much the body can absorb and use. And contrary to conventional wisdom, although juicing oranges dramatically cut flavonoid levels, the remaining ones were much more bioaccessible than those in orange segments.


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Oranges or orange juice?

Most of the oranges we consume in this country are consumed as orange juice. Most of the orange juice we drink is prepared (not fresh) orange juice. Some of the orange juice is orange drink, not real orange juice. A lot of us eat oranges in one form or another because we have been taught that it is naturally a good source of vitamin C, and, while that is true, some of the OJ preparations we consume actually have vitamin C added

There is a lot of confusion about what how much vitamin C we need to be healthy. But there are a lot of good scientific studies to help inform recommendations. One trusted source, the Harvard School of Public Health, recommends the following:

“The current recommended dietary intake for vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women (add an extra 35 mg for smokers). There’s no good evidence that megadoses of vitamin C improve health (my emphasis). As the evidence continues to unfold, 200 to 300 mg of vitamin C a day appears to be a good target. This is easy to hit with a good diet and a standard multivitamin. Excellent food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits or citrus juices, berries, green and red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin C.”

Oranges versus orange juice: Which one might be better for your health To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

As with all foods, it is best to make an informed choice. If you really have an OJ craving and nothing else will do, find some fresh squeezed and savor it. When you want a high quality, portable snack, choose the orange. Take your time peeling it. Enjoy the tang you experience when some of the juice squirts you in the face. If all you want is vitamin C, take a multivitamin, if you prefer, but stick to the recommended daily intakes.


Michael Bernstein
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Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

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