Is Orange Juice Actually Good For You?

Orange juice is one of the most popular breakfast beverages, offering a hefty dose of vitamins and antioxidants. A single cup boasts nearly 140% of the recommended daily vitamin C intake, plus significant amounts of potassium and vitamin A. Packaged juices may contain added sugar, but you can prepare this beverage at home to cut out empty calories. Fresh orange juice has only 112 calories and 26 grams of carbs per cup.

This delicious beverage can make it easier to get more nutrients in your diet and stay hydrated. Plus, it may lower your risk of kidney stones by 12%, according to 2013 research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Soft drinks, by comparison, can increase the risk of developing kidney stones by up to 33%. Scientists say that potassium citrate, a nutrient in orange juice, can alkalize the urine and improve its composition.

But despite its potential benefits, orange juice isn't as healthy as you might think. In fact, you'd better off eating the whole fruit, as it contains more fiber and less sugar. One orange has less than 70 calories, 18 grams of carbs, 12 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of fiber, while a cup of juice provides about 26 grams of carbs, including 21 grams of sugars. 

This is why you should drink orange juice

The average adult should consume one and a half to two cups of fruit daily, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, just one in 10 Americans eat enough fruits every day, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Fruit juices, including orange juice, count toward the daily recommended fruit intake, making it easier to get more vitamins and minerals in your diet. Opt for 100% fruit juice to avoid added sugars, preservatives, and other extras.

Vitamin C, one of the most abundant nutrients in orange juice, stimulates collagen synthesis and fights oxidative stress. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, it may improve immune function and help protect against heart disease, explains the National Institutes of Health. What's more, this nutrient might lower your risk of cancer due to its antioxidant activity.

Orange juice also contains significant amounts of potassium, a mineral that regulates blood pressure and supports muscle function. In clinical trials, high potassium intakes have been linked to a lower risk of hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular problems, and kidney stones, notes Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This refreshing beverage also boasts small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The downside is that it's relatively high in sugars and low in fiber, which brings us to the next point... 

Orange juice may not be as healthy as it seems

With a few exceptions, most fruits contain sugar in the form of fructose, explains the University of Virginia. However, they also provide small amounts of fiber, a nutrient that slows sugar absorption into the bloodstream, points out Dr. Christopher S. Baird, an assistant professor of physics at West Texas A&M University. Fruit juice, on the other hand, has little or no fiber. As a result, the sugar goes straight into your system, which may contribute to diabetes in the long run, according to 2015 research published in the BMJ.

These beverages might also increase the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and liver disease, suggests a 2012 review featured in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers recommend limiting their consumption, especially among children. Another study found that each additional serving of fruit juice consumed may increase the risk of premature death, reports JAMA Network Open. As the scientists note, sugar is sugar. While it's true that fruit juices pack more nutrients than soft drinks, both types of beverages contain mostly sugar and water.

Commercial orange juice is by far the worst option, as it undergoes extensive processing and has little nutritional value (via The Atlantic). For this reason, experts advise drinking no more than one glass of 100% orange juice per day, per EatingWell. Your best bet is to eat the whole fruit or drink an occasional glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp.