Orange Juice is Just as Bad as Cola. Really?

Orange juice.

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Orange juice is no better for you than soda pop. So say a growing number of health professionals, who are trying to undo more than half a century of consumer mindshare captured by the citrus industry. A fascinating article in the LA Times brings us the “juicy” details:

“It’s pretty much the same as sugar water,” said Dr. Charles Billington, an appetite researcher at the University of Minnesota. In the modern diet, “there’s no need for any juice at all.”

A glass of juice concentrates all the sugar from several pieces of fruit. Ounce per ounce, it contains more calories than soda, though it tends to be consumed in smaller servings. A cup of orange juice has 112 calories, apple juice has 114, and grape juice packs 152, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The same amount of Coke has 97 calories, and Pepsi has 100. read more…

According to these numbers, people should be drinking less juice and more soda. But that’s not the whole picture. Fruit juice has lots of benefits such as vitamins and minerals, doesn’t it?

The answer is not so simple. Vitamin C, for example is totally lost through the processing of oranges, but is then added again before packaging. But fiber, which can be found in abundance if you eat the actual fruit, is all but gone from the resulting juice. Also, many juices are fortified, for example with calcium.

The correct answer is that people should be drinking lots more water and a lot less of everything else. Most of a person’s calories should come from food, not liquids. It is very hard to get satiated from liquids, but very easy to gulp down three, four, even five hundred calories, mostly from the fructose in juice, all in a single sitting.

What to do at the supermarket:

Opting for juice instead of pop is a first and important step for parents. More than anything it is an acknowledgment that sugary soft drinks are unhealthy and an alternative is needed.

But the next step should be encouraging children to drink more water and eat real fruit. If your kids love juice and guzzle down more than a cup or two a day, consider watering it down in order to reduce both the calorie count and the sweetness. You can start with just a bit of water and then work your way to half n half.

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  • http://www.betterschoolfood.org Dr. Susan Rubin

    Check out Squeezed by Alissa Hamilton and you’ll learn the unsweetened truth about orange juice.
    Like chocolate milk, juice is another drink that helps to make your dentist rich!

  • http://www.littlestomaks.com TwinToddlersDad

    I agree, OJ is far better than soda. But we do keep an eye on the sugar. One trick we have used with our kids which limits their OJ consumption is to offer it not as juice but as a frozen “ice cream”.

    http://www.littlestomaks.com/2008/12/product-review-homemade-oj-ice-cream-cup/

    Freshly squeezed OJ is the best of course. We do enjoy it on weekends sometime.

  • http://www.myheartsisters.org Carolyn Thomas

    Verrrrry interesting. This is a sobering assessment of the remarkable success of the powerful citrus producers lobby. In fact, they have been so successful that in many families, mine included, pouring those little glasses of orange juice every morning has become a breakfast tradition for GENERATIONS. This is a strong habit to break – like telling consumers they ought not to eat turkey at Thanksgiving!

    Will we be as successful in replacing that glass of sugar-water with a piece of fruit each day?

    As the book ‘Squeezed Out’ reminds us, introducing the concept of daily orange juice was an initiative of the citrus industry specifically to increase declining sales of their fruit (because it takes so many more oranges to make one glass of juice).

    No doubt, the citrus lobbyists will be all over Dr. Billington and his work!

  • http://www.lovehealthyliving.net Carrie

    Great post, thanks for highlighting this important health topic. I can’t believe that people can’t figure this out for themselves. I grew up with nasty juice from frozen concentrate…my parents should have just let me suck on a sugar packet instead. Now I reserve freshly-squeezed orange juice as a rare treat and my pancreas thanks me for it! :)

  • Carol

    I agree with watering it down (half & half), which is what I’ve been doing to juices for years. You get something more interesting than water, and some vitamin C and potassium, but without so much sugar. It actually tastes better once you get used to it — less syrupy, more refreshing, like a spritzer. Add a splash of lime for more flavor (and additional vitamin C). It’s definitely better than soda this way, and so easy to do.

  • Jessica Roberts

    When I walk past the juice isle (yes, one half of an ENTIRE isle at my Harris Teeter is allllll juice…and it’s directly across from the cereal/oatmeal. Nice product placement, eh?) in my grocery store I tell my two year old that the stuff is toxic poison…and that “wouldn’t you love an apple instead??” She agrees. I know that’s bad, and might possibly bite me in the rearend one day, but it’s worked so far. She prefers an actual apple (with the peel, mind you) or an orange to juice. Little victories!

    • David Whitman

      How exciting.

  • http://www.myqute.com kelly

    It’s not so much of the calories – you could reduce a lot of calories by reducing or staying away from meat and dairy products.

    Fruit juice you make at home, from non-GMO fruits, have NO ARTIFICIAL sugar – xylitol, sorbitol, splenda, aspartame, whasoever.

    However, fruit juice from any fruits or combination of fruits – can be deadly to diabetics. Normal people should really drink fruit juice with 40% freshly juiced vege — this combo prevents any likelihood of becoming diabetic.

  • http://www.cookitaly.com Carmelita Caruana

    I cannot give up my fresh squeezed orange juice when we have the wonderful Tarocco blood oranges in season here in Italy, in the months of January and February. I look forward to that time every year.

    I don’t drink any other OJ at any other time of year, and absolutely not packaged juice. And a couple of months is only a little over 25 Saturdays or Sundays!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog staff

      @Carmelita – sounds delicious…send us pics when you pick the first batch.

  • Christel

    ““It’s pretty much the same as sugar water,” said Dr. Charles Billington, an appetite researcher at the University of Minnesota. In the modern diet, “there’s no need for any juice at all.””

    >> maybe “overprocessed” OJ….Dr.Billington should be ashamed.

  • Raymond

    There’s got to be something different in the type of sugar and the way your body assimilates it because I never had any bad reaction from drinking fruit juices compared to drinking Coke or Pepsi.

  • bambam

    Wow very inturesting I didn’t know that orange juice could be bad for you but now that I know the truth I would say the best thing too do would be too water it down or add it in like a fruit smoothie or shake make it a bit more appitizeing for you and your kids too keep your body healthy and too still have a good satisfying drink

  • Dr_pepper224

    Also another reason that it is bad for you is because you add all that sugar and it still has carbs which also break down into sugar as your body processes it so make your own orange juice at home with oranges and skip all of the added sugar that is put in during the processing process

  • Rich B.

    Folks, the problem with juices is the sugar FRUCTOSE. It’s a toxin in our body. It is only metabolized in the body and all of its end products directly link it to METABOLIC SYNDROME (hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes type II, obesity, dyslipidemia). I’m sure the author, a registered dietician knows this. I apologize if any of the terms I used here are foreign to anyone as I am third year pharmacy student with a particular interest in diet and exercise.

    Here’s my question to the author, in lights of these facts, instead of orange juice are homemade smoothies are much better alternative to juices? Although they are “liquid” they came directly from the solid fruit and retain all macro and micronutrients. Thanks for your response! I appreciate it and will be looking forward to it!

    • Rich B.

      I found my own answer to this question. Yes smoothies are a much healthier alternative because they contain the entire the fruit, most important the fiber, which is natures antidote to fructose by itself (sugar water).

    • CatLat7

      @5a7efd9dd9836740649135e7a51efa74:disqus You should read my comment above. I’m sure you mean well, but the things you’re saying and that the article is saying are not scientifically sound. I encourage you to do some real research of your own rather than take my word for it, but make sure you really understand everything you’re saying and the principles that back it up from a scientific stand point.

      You do realize a fruit right off the tree has fructose in it right?

      • Heebee

        Yes, a piece of fruit right off the tree has natural sugar in it, but the fact is, a drink passes over teeth. Repeatedly. Stains, cavities, and a lifetime addiction to sugary drinks then happens. Juice is evil.  

  • Rich B.

    Oops! The 3rd sentance in my previous comment should read, “It is only metabolized in our liver…” Every is metabolized in our body, and our liver is the organ that most of our metabolism via the Phase I (CYP450 enzyme system) and Phase II metabolism (oxidation, glucuronidation, etc.). Generally speaking, things that are only metabolized in the liver and result in harmful metabolites/effects are deemed toxins.

    Sorry for the confusion, studying for an oncology exam on Friday :(

  • CatLat7

    Wow, as a scientist I have to say this article and many comments are supremely idiotic. First of all, fructose is any plant/fruit sugar and it is NOT toxic, its important to our bodies and diets. In excessive quantities however, fructose, glucose (“blood sugar”) and table sugar the Dimer sugar created by the joining of a fructose and gluscose molecules can all have severely adverse affects AKA type 2 diabetes.

    OJ has VITAMIN C!!! While I understand it has a lot of sugar, serving per serving it is helathier than soda because it does provide health benefits, vitamins and minerals for example (yes you can take a daily multivitamin, but that’s besides the point) soda is also carbonated and this can have an adverse affect on the body’s ability to properly deposit and store calcium in the bones.

    but seriously all,

    writers and commenter, research before you speak and don’t make generalizations! Apple juice is fairly worthless… but then again if you drink too much you’ll be shitting for hours- that does not happen with soda, no fiber there!

    Fructose a toxin! ha! then even vegan and other fancy unrealistic diets would be toxic! and we’d all be dead! If you feed too much of it to cells in a petri dish they go nuts… but that’s true of pretty much anything including water!

    I hate the new faux-science shrouds surrounding health, diet and beauty! Carefully qualify all your statements and stop acting like a bunch of sensationalist-driven pricks! As with anything, moderation is key.

    but again I emphasize, something being healthy is not based solely on its lack of “bad” attributes, but also upon its content of GOOD and vital nutrients. A single serving of OJ gives nutrients and doesn’t give excessive amounts of sugar/calories, even when you consume enough to cross that moderation boundry, you’re still getting vitamins, etc! Now water is always the default beverage of choice but soda and alcoholic beverages are about as low as it goes for empty calories.

    • soc333

      Do you work for Minute Maid/ Coca Cola?

    • Anonymous

      It seems safe to dismiss any comment starting out with a claim to be a “scientist” because if you actually were, you’d name a field of study — no one goes around saying they’re a “scientist”, people say they’re “biologists” or “anthropologists” or “astronomers”.

      Anyway, ignoring the magical thinking that fills your post, if you are not aware that fructose is toxic, you are totally unfamiliar with current medical science. Fructose is fine in the small quantities in which it occurred in our ancestors’ diets — from whole fruits and vegetables. The much more fructose-heavy diet we eat today is probably a huge contributor to our health problems. Juice, like soda (whether it’s sweetened with corn syrup or cane sugar) injects a huge amount of fructose right into our bodies, where it causes blood triglycerides to rise, and “bad cholesterol” in particular. It causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In the quantities in which we eat fructose, it’s definitely a toxin.

      So go get your “scientist” ass on JSTOR and start looking things up.

    • Miriaihtb

      If you are juicing your own juice using the Jack LaLane Juicer then you can drink as much juice as you would like to, because you are getting all of the natural vitamins and minerals.  If you are buying juice those vitamins and minerals are lost during processing…, this is a fact!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Buy a juicer and make your own juice.  You’ll be surprisesd to see that the juice you make versus the juice you buy is different in color, taste, price, and juice you make last for only a couple of days in the fridge!!! 

  • _V_

    Lame NWO article. You can do better with all the money you spend :D

  • Badia Daniela

    What about 100% real juice?

    • Anonymous

      The article’s about 100% juice. (What the hell is your diet like that you’d consider “juice” to include things that aren’t real juice?)

      It’s still calorie-dense, still removes a lot of the useful nutrition from fruit (particularly the fiber), still makes it easy to overindulge, still contains a ton of sugar. It’s a treat, not a health food. Part of the reason we should all be eating more fruit is that it’s low-calorie and filling; fruit juice is not. A glass of orange juice takes the sugar from about five oranges and allows you to take it all in at once. Eat the oranges whole, and you won’t be able to overindulge like that.

    • yoyocoleeoo

      also 100% orange juice is not actually 100% :/. go check out some news articles on how some companies are being scrutinized for doing this

  • Phil

    What about the V8 Splash stuff that’s 100% juice and has a serving of fruit AND veggies in it? I’m new to this site and looking into all of these details, so I’m curious as to what the veterans of this site say. Thanks!

  • Shaeward420

    I appreciate the blog, thanks. I think your point was proven. After the manufacturing companies are finished processing our beverage of choice, they can all be classified in the same category: BAD FOR US, lol. Drink water, get a juicer & know the poisons we’re ingesting. It’s our responsibility to be cynical of big & small business because society is now blatantly corrupt. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  • Reenavee

    When my kids were little I thought I was doing “the right thing” by giving them fruit juice instead of sugary drinks.  My oldest son began throwing tantrums and having bizarre behavior problems (from the age of nine months through two years).  His behavior problems ended at two years because we found out that he was “allergic” to juice made from concentrate, the very stuff that they put in juices specifically for babies!

    Once he was old enough to tell me what was going on he told me that he gets crippling headaches from juice from concentrate.  As I look back at pictures of him during that time, so often he had his hand to his temple and a look of misery in his eyes.

    Please, anyone who reads this, please:  If your child exhibits sudden behavioral changes, please look to the most obvious thing – over-processed food and beverages!

    We are a family of water-drinkers to this day!

  • Cutiepie

    I”VE NEVER BEEN TO A FUNERAL AND OVER HEARD SOMEONE SAY…….

    HE JUST COULD’NT PUT THE JUICE DOWN!!!

    • Simon Hand

      You’re an idiot

  • SoulChorea

    This is all assuming “calories” are a thing we should even be caring about. That crap is foolishness. Calories shouldn’t be given the respect it gets; all it does is lead people to foolish conclusions such as “fruit juice is just as bad as soda”. Take calories out of the equation, and you don’t come to that conclusion, so what do you really think?

  • Peter James Venezia

    The mouth is the perfect juicer. I agree with this article 100%.

    Salt and sugar are the culprits of so many problems in our diet.
    They MUST be consumed less.

  • StoptheBS

    “Folks, the problem with juices is the sugar FRUCTOSE. It’s a toxin in our body. ” Dumbest thing I have ever heard. ” I am third year pharmacy student “. Please stop and study something else. You’re clearly not understanding the courses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elau89 Eric Lau

    I absolutely see the point in comparing OJ to cola, but I think the title/article is far too exaggerated. Here are two facts that were not discussed/are extremely important:

    1.) Although Juicing oranges will depletes nearly all of the insoluble fibers (helpful in many ways including acting as a natural laxative/cleanser), OJ will still have a sufficient amount of soluble fibers. This helps moderate your glucose and LDL levels. Obviously, cola will not have this benefit.

    2.) OJ still includes a sufficient amount of potassium, Vitamin C, and folic acid. A lot of 100% OJ now is fortified with calcium and other vitamins/minerals as well.

    Even though fresh fruit and water is always better, a half glass of orange juice does still have a place in a healthy diet when cola simply does not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/elau89 Eric Lau

      Of course, too much of anything is bad. I would say the real problem is that people get the mentality that “OJ is healthy” which causes them to drink endless amounts. After a certain amount (very low due to the amount of potassium, vitamin C, and other necessary vitamins/minerals OJ contains), it becomes pretty much empty calories since all the useful nutrients are being removed from the body anyway. Like anything, OJ is something that should be consumed in moderation. It’s just less likely that the average individual understands how to moderate a “healthy” beverage compared to “unhealthy” beverages like cola.

  • james

    This article writer is misinformed. Some juice is fortified, from concentrate, and is mixed with water, citric acid, or other ingredients but NOT ALL! You can buy organic juices which are usually just straight 100% juice, with no water or anything else added, though of course it’s always better to just buy a juicer and make your own. Also real freshly squeezed orange juice has calcium, folate, vitamin C and other nutrients packed in it naturally, none of it is added during the manufacturing process. You can easily read the labels and ingredients on all juices in the store. It’s right there for all to know.

  • Ronald Magee

    @cutie pie..LOL

  • http://www.webhealthforyou.com/ Terry Shintani

    It’s okay to eat or drink orange but not too much because actually oranges are low in fiber, fat, protein, high in sugar, low in amino acid and minerals. So it is not really essential for our body’s health