Is Orange Juice Good For You? Why Orange Juice Isn’t a “Health Food” (And The Truth About Vitamin C)
Is Your Morning Orange Juice Actually Good For You or Bad For You?
How many of you think that orange juice is part of a healthy, balanced breakfast?
And how many of you think that orange juice is a superfood packed with vitamin C, and that it is, in fact, the best source of vitamin C?
If you said yes to the two above questions, then you’ve been conned by very clever marketers and businessmen. Let me explain.
At some point during the Vitamin C era, when it became very popular as a supplement, some smart marketer learned that oranges had vitamin C. People in the alternative health space at this time were buying Vitamin C by the boatloads because they believed that it protected them against the common cold and flu.
So, some smart marketer thought “hmm, millions of people think vitamin c protects them from the cold and flu, oranges have vitamin C, orange juice tastes good, let’s play this up!”
And then after adding “A fantastic source of Vitamin C!” to trillions of bottles of orange juice, in most people’s minds oranges and orange juice became the de-facto best source of Vitamin C.
Except it’s not true.
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Is Orange Juice Actually a Good Source of Vitamin C For You?
Okay, let me first say this. I was raised taking two 500 mg tabs of vitamin c every night as a child. My mom told me to take them every night so I wouldn’t get sick. If I was sick, I would take 1-2,000 mg of vitamin C. We were raised in a family that was into alternative medicine and healthy eating in general.
As I got older, I started asking “why” a lot more and stopped taking it. Somewhere near the end of college, as I kept hearing the vitamin C thing repeated over and over (go take an airborne!), I figured it was time to jump in and see what the research says.
In one study, researchers gave test subjects 0.2 g of vitamin C a day to see if vitamin C reduced the incidence, duration, or severity of the common cold (when used as an on-going thing, or after symptoms had already set in).
The results? Unless you’re a marathon runner, a soldier in an arctic environment, or someone who lives in a very cold environment — it won’t do much.
It’s not going to be producing magical results though, so don’t expect that. If you think you’re getting sick, taking vitamin C isn’t going to have a very noticeable effect. This is the same reason why the company behind the supplement Airborne was sued — it was marketed as something that “will protect you from a germy environment and prevent you from getting sick.” Obviously since the science doesn’t support this, it’s false advertising. They ended up settling for $23 million dollars.
Regardless of whether or not you are taking vitamin C supplements though, the right diet is naturally very high in vitamin C.
And that brings us to the next point: veggies are actually much higher in vitamin C (and other vitamins) than orange juice or oranges.
Three Foods That Have More Vitamin C Than Your Orange Juice For You (And Less Sugar)
Alright. So how much vitamin C is in an orange? Around 50-75mg.
How much vitamin C is in a cup of orange juice? Based on my Tropicana carton in the fridge, “~100%” which, based on the RDA of vitamin C, is about 75-90mg.
So there are actually a lot of very common vegetables that give you the same (or a lot more) vitamin C than oranges, however, they don’t contain the added sugar or “carbohydrate nature” that orange juice has. They also don’t contain an insane amount of fructose, which is part of what is slowly killing you.
Why Drinking Orange Juice is Not a Health Food
People seem to think that just because they’re drinking orange juice, it’s healthy. Just because it’s natural, it’s healthy.
But not all sugars behave the same way in your body. Fruits, for example, contain Fructose. Fructose originally didn’t make up much of our diet because, for those of us in the temperate regions, the main natural source of fructose is fruit – which is seasonal.
But now because of the massive use of High Fructose Corn Syrup — which basically tastes like sugar but is cheaper to make — Fructose makes up a much higher percentage of our diet. Fructose is in everything. Soft drinks. Candies. Crackers.
Fructose, when you consume it in normal proportions, is fine. But because people now are drinking 2 glasses of orange juice, then a soda with High Fructose Cornsyrup, and some crackers and chips (also with High Fructose Corn Syrup), and even bread that has it, fructose consumption is at an all-time high.
In studies, high fructose consumption has been linked to alterations in fat levels, cholesterol changes, as well as other obvious changes that occur with a high energy intake like weight gain, metabolic disorder, and cardiovascular issues.
Alright. I get it. I’m not supposed to consume a ton of fructose or sugar. But what about fruit?!
Two Reasons to Avoid Packaged Fruit Juices If You’re Trying to Lose Weight (And If You Do Consume Fruit – Eat It)
There are a couple reasons why you should avoid excess fruit consumption if you’re trying to lose weight (and get rid of all fruit juices:
#1 Lots of fruit juice = higher liquid carbohydrate intake. For many people, slightly reducing their carbohydrate intake (done effortlessly by just eating the right foods)produces sustained weight loss. Fruits are indeed carbohydrates, and fruit juice has a much quicker, more measurable effect on fat gain than it’s solid counterpart. Liquid carbs (like beer) tend to be more fattening in general than solid carbs. Additionally, there are more nutrients and vitamins in fresher food. Eat your fruit if you are going to be consuming it at all.
#2 Lots of fruit juice = Lots of Fructose (Sugar). Not all sugars are created equally. Frosted flakes, soda, and fruit juice don’t all behave the same once they enter your body. A study that was highlighted in TIME magazine compared the effects of a diet that had 25% of calories coming from liquid drinks that were either glucose or fructose. At the end of the 12 weeks, the weights were similar (both test groups studied were already obese), but the group consuming lots of fructose showed signs of liver damage and fat deposits forming. No such change was shown in the glucose group. Chill on the fructose. Also, many fruit juices have sugar added (including High Fructose Corn Syrup). Christ man, it’s orange juice.. do we really need to make it sweeter!?
# 1 – Don’t freak out about “getting your vitamin C” from oranges. When cold and flu season comes around, instead of drinking 3 glasses of orange juice a day (which will probably add 5 pounds to your waist by the end of the month), increase your vegetable intake (particularly the ones listed) and sleep more. Smart marketer’s have somehow made you believe that oranges are the best and only source of vitamin C. It definitely tastes the best though…
# 2 – Vitamin C supplements honestly won’t help you much. Unless you’re already very unhealthy with a nutrient-poor diet or an extreme athlete who trains a lot, or someone living in freezing conditions, you won’t see much of an immune system bump from taking two 500mg tabs of vitamin c per night. The best defense is a proper diet and sleep.
# 3 – If you want to lose weight or are struggling to keep consistent weight loss, drop the fruit juice. Fruit juices can be high-carb and high-sugar. Even though they’re “good for you” there are better sources of nutrients with a fraction of the sugar (or none at all). Eat fruit, don’t drink it.
My Verdict on Fruit Juice and Orange Juice
I wanted to just share three things here.
Is fruit juice inherently bad for you? No, but:
There are way better sources of vitamin C than orange juice;
If you drink a lot of fruit juice every day you are drinking a lot of sugar (and you’re better off eating the fruit instead)
One glass a day won’t kill you or make you fat – this is primarily for people drinking many glasses a day, hammering it down before they get sick for the “vitamin C,” or people who naturally think they’re doing their body a favor by drinking fruit juice 3x a day rather than soda
How I Recommend Losing Your Next 20 Pounds Instead
If you want to focus on fast weight loss (that’s healthy) without counting calories, I would recommend changing little habits (not dieting).