Is orange juice healthy?

If you think a glass of orange juice is healthy, think again!

The traditional English breakfast has always included a glass of orange juice—the supposedly ‘healthy’ addition. In general, orange juice is considered to be part of a healthy lifestyle, particularly to boost your energy levels and get you off to a good start first thing in the morning. But despite popular belief, processed orange juice is actually very toxic, addictive and inferior compared to eating a whole orange, in terms of nutritional value and health benefits.

Here, we’ll discuss this issue and answer a couple of pertinent questions: What is the difference between orange juice and the whole orange? Should we encourage drinking orange juice in the morning?

Unlike the natural whole orange, conventional processed orange juice is sweetened by high Fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sugar additive that billions of people around the globe are addicted to. HFCS is made up of equal amounts of glucose and fructose, but otherwise devoid of nutrients. This makes it energy-dense but nutrient-poor.

Why Whole Oranges Are Great

Natural whole oranges also contain fructose and glucose in equal amounts, but are rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fibre. These vitamins include vitamin B1, pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin C, folate, and vitamin A, and minerals like calcium, copper, and potassium. Therefore these not only provide you with energy but nourish the body too, providing you with some of the essential vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.

However, although these vitamins and minerals are good, the essential nutrient that makes the whole orange natural and healthy is actually fibre. There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, and each plays an important role in the gut. Soluble fibre makes globules around the glucose molecule, while insoluble fibre forms a continuous layer along the gut wall to slow down glucose absorption and prevent insulin spikes. This means the energy you get from a whole orange is sustained over time, not like a sugar high experienced when eating refined sugars.

Fibre is not digested in the small intestine and hence, it passes intact into the large bowel. Consumed by the friendly gut bacteria, fibre is converted into short chain fatty acids. These nourish the large gut wall and have been found to prevent diseases, particularly cancer.

The Problem With HCFS

In contrast, HFCS contains equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Glucose is the universal source of energy. It stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin—the hormone that opens the gate for glucose to enter every cell in the body and provides us with energy.

However, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion and is metabolised exclusively through a specific pathway in the liver. Here, fructose is converted into triglyceride fats, which are then stored as fat by the body’s cells.

Fat accumulates in the liver and other viscera and results in fatty livers and central obesity. Leading to metabolic syndrome in both obese and slim people that increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This is what is meant when people refer to ‘skinny fat’, when someone appears slim on the outside but carries hidden fat around their internal organs. Fructose is also converted into uric acid, which can result in hypertension and gout.

By now you may be thinking ‘OK conventional orange juice is bad why don’t we replace it with fresh orange juice instead?’

No doubt, fresh orange juice is a better option than conventional orange juice as it contains most of the natural orange’s nutrients. However, although juicing oranges retains the vitamins and minerals, it removes the fibre. The better alternative is to use a blender to produce a whole orange juice that contains everything, including that essential fibre.

Conventional orange juice is not a healthy option

In summary, conventional orange juice is not a healthy option. This is because it is loaded with energy, but is devoid of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Instead of getting the nutritional benefits you no doubt believe you’re getting, you are actually getting empty calories that can have a detrimental impact on your health.

I would recommend you get the most nutritional benefits by eating a whole orange for breakfast. Or if you prefer to drink it as orange juice, using a juicer will provide your body with all the nutrients, except the fibre. Using a blender to make orange juice is even better, as it will provide everything that the natural orange contains, including the essential fibre.

I hope this is enough to convince you to switch from processed fruit juice with added HFCS, and enjoy a whole orange or blended orange juice instead. Furthermore, I hope this has also demonstrated why you should avoid sugar and carbohydrates in the morning; as at this time your insulin sensitivity is low, so sugar and carbohydrates are immediately stored as fat. Instead, leave them for the afternoon, when your insulin sensitivity is optimal, and start enjoying a healthier life.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about this subject, or leave a message using the comments box below.