Orange juice just looks healthy, doesn’t it? So bright and vibrant, seemingly packed with the goodness of sunshine. But have you ever wondered if orange juice is truly a healthy choice for your kids?
Hold onto your oranges because the answer is juicy! Orange juice has sweet and not-so-sweet sides… and how the juice is made really matters.
Ready to get the real squeeze on orange juice and your kid’s health? Let’s go!
Pros and cons of orange juice
Unlike kale or candy, OJ isn’t purely “good” or purely “bad.” You can think of orange juice a little like most parents think of screen time. Sometimes it’s ok, but too much can be harmful.
Pros of Orange Juice
- Vitamin C: Yes, OJ contains vitamin C (also known as L-ascorbic acid), an antioxidant. Vitamin C is absolutely essential for immune system function, skin health, and wound healing. Kids need it! But is orange juice a good source? Read on to find out…
- Other nutrients and antioxidants: Orange juice also contains potassium, folate, and vitamin B1 (thiamine). Some brands contain other antioxidants, too, like flavonoids and carotenoids.
- Hydration: The electrolytes in OJ (such as potassium) can help with fluid balance.
Cons of Orange Juice
- Sneaky sugar: If you read your labels, you can find OJ with no sugar added. Watch out for brands that load their juice with sugars like high-fructose corn syrup.
- Lack of fiber: Unlike whole oranges, most juice doesn’t contain fiber. (Although juices with pulp do have a little fiber.) We need fiber not only for digestive health but also to help regulate blood sugar levels.
- OJ can be highly processed: Orange juice can be a little processed or a lot, depending on whether it’s fresh-squeezed, pasteurized, or made from concentrate. Processing often destroys the original nutrients. (Though sometimes vitamins are added back in after!)
Aside from these cons of orange juice, there are other considerations.
The combination of sugar and acid in orange juice can possibly erode tooth enamel and contribute to cavities. (Ouch!)
Even natural sugar in orange juice can be unhealthy because it’s not paired with fiber, which we need to slow the absorption of natural sugars. Juicing removes the fiber, so the sugar takes a shortcut to the bloodstream. Not great for kids’ health or their moods!
The facts about vitamin C in orange juice
The amount of vitamin C in orange juice can vary from about 60 to 100 milligrams per serving. That’s technically enough to meet your kids’ total recommended daily intake.
The catch? Not all of that vitamin C comes from oranges. In fact, only freshly squeezed, “raw” orange juice contains vitamin C straight from oranges.
When orange juice is processed, much of the vitamin C is destroyed. (So are other antioxidants and natural enzymes.) So, manufacturers add vitamin C back in or fortify the juice.
You can tell when juice is fortified with vitamin C by a quick look at the ingredients. It’s typically listed as "ascorbic acid," or the label may say "vitamin C added" or "fortified with vitamin C."
It’s a little like taking your vitamin C supplement in juice form.
Should kids drink orange juice when they’re sick?
This is a frequently asked question — and it’s a good one! Here’s what to consider.
- Do they need hydration? Staying hydrated is crucial if your kiddo is sick with a cold or flu. However, the sugar is a drawback. It might be better to offer water or an electrolyte solution for hydration.
- Do they have tummy troubles? The sugar in orange juice can potentially worsen certain conditions, like diarrhea or stomach upset.
- Is this the immune boost they need? An extra dose of vitamin C might help kids recover faster, but studies have shown spikes in sugar intake can suppress the immune system! Consider a sugar-free supplement instead of sugary juice.
- Will the acidity make them feel worse? Orange juice is acidic, which can be harsh on a sore throat or upset stomach. Try a soothing herbal tea with honey instead.
How much sugar is in orange juice?
All fruit juice is high in sugar, whether it’s 100% orange juice or an orange drink with added sugar. How high? The sugar in juice is almost on par with sugary sodas. That’s right! Both contain about 20-25 grams of sugar per cup.
Kids should have no more than about 25 grams of sugar per day — and the sugar in juice counts as sugar! Even if it’s naturally occurring, not added sugar. So, one cup of juice a day could take kids to their limit!
What orange juice is healthiest?
The less processed, the better! So, once again, a raw, freshly squeezed glass of juice is best. That’s as unprocessed as it gets.
What about concentrate vs. not-from-concentrate (NFC) orange juice?
From-concentrate juice is heavily processed, so avoid it if you can. The heavy processing destroys a lot of the nutrients in oranges.
NFC orange juice is still processed, but less so. It retains more of the natural nutrients of oranges, so it’s a better choice than juice from concentrate.
Avoid shelf-stable juices if you can. (Those are the ones that don’t have to be kept in the fridge.)
This type is also heavily processed.
What has vitamin C besides orange juice?
This won’t come as a surprise, but whole oranges have vitamin C! All citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, in fact.
Other foods that are high in vitamin C include some kid favorites (like kiwis and strawberries) and some foods that kids often just won’t eat (like kale and Brussels sprouts!!
H2: Choosing a healthy alternative to orange juice
Homemade smoothies are a healthy alternative to OJ because they contain whole fruits.
Just toss frozen fruits in the blender with water — it can really be that simple! When you blend frozen fruits, you keep all of that natural vitamin C, so it’s a better option than processed orange juice.
If you’ve been offering OJ for the vitamin C, try offering a quality vitamin C supplement instead! Choose one that’s formulated for kids, like Renzo’s Invincible Vitamin C.
Renzo’s is sugar-free and approved by picky kids everywhere! Just one to two melty tabs per day, depending on their age, is enough to boost their levels of this immunity-supporting, antioxidant vitamin.
So, is orange juice a healthy option?
Sometimes, a class of OJ is just fine for kids — especially if it's freshly squeezed.
Just keep in mind the high sugar content and remember that whole fruits and homemade smoothies with whole fruits are great alternatives to OJ.When your kids need more vitamin C, don’t forget, there’s Renzo’s Invincible Vitamin C. It has all the juicy taste of orange juice without the sugar!