Oranges or orange juice - which is the healthier option?
Starting your day with a glass of OJ may once have been considered healthy, but is it really? The fact that a glass of fresh orange jucie contains around 34g of sugar (even though this is natural fruit sugars) could be enough to take it off your breakfast menu. Which got us thinking, which is actually the healthier option - oranges or orange juice?
A new study (1) published recently in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry could have the answers. Teams of researchers from Germany and the Middle East compared orange juice, orange puree and fresh orange segments, looking at the levels of vitamin C, flavonoids and carotenoids in each three. Their results showed that the bioaccessbility of the nutrients (how easily they were absorbed by the body) in the orange juice was greater than the bioaccessibility of the orange segments' nutrients. In addition, the vitamin C in the orange juice was 10% more bioaccessible than the vitamin C in the orange segments or puree. What does this mean? Well, the nutrients and vitamins found in OJ can be more readily accessed and used by our bodies than the nutrients found in the fresh fruit itself. Hold on though, it's not all good news!
So what's the deal?
This research was carried out in a lab setting, using flasks, test tubes and other scientific equipment to mimic human digestion. Further studies would need to be conducted using human volunteers, in order for results to be conclusive. So don't rush out and stock on on cartons of OJ just yet! It seems that the fruit itself may actually be a healthier choice - because, when juiced, oranges lose much of their fibre. Consider the following:
- 1 cup OJ contains 0.7g fibre
- 1 cup orange segments contains 4.3g fibre
Fibre helps keep you regular and aids digestion, and with many orange juice drinks also containing added sugar and other ingredients, orange juice may not be the healthiest choice. Make sure you check the label when buying it, to ensure that what you're drinking is actually 100% juice.
Those keeping an eye on their sugar levels - so, that's most of us then - should also be concerned about the sugar content of orange juice. Whilst half a cup of orange juice contains 10.5g sugar, you'd need to consume 1.5 oranges (the quantity needed to make the juice) to reach the same sugar intake. Bear in mind that it's far easier to gulp down two cups of orange juice after a morning run or gym workout than it is to consume the 6 oranges that were needed to make the juice! Drinking too much juice could mean you're consuming unhealthy quantities of sugar.
Avoid juice drinks
Concentrated orange juice contains a similar level of nutrients to 100% pure squeezed juice, so it's fine to buy budget brand orange juice if you can't afford the premium stuff. But beware of 'juice drinks' or blends, which often contain added sugar, preservatives and other nasties. Some of these are so packed with sugar that you would be as well eating a bar of chocolate! We recommend freshly squeezed juice, if you can afford it, and if you're lucky enough to have a local market, you may be able to find oranges on offer during the summer months.
To juice or not to juice?
It's not all bad news though - you don't need to give up your daily juice habit. For many of us, a glass of freshly squeezed juice is a great way to wakeup, and as part of a healthy breakfast, that's fine. Make sure you're purchasing 100% juice on your weekly shop, or squeeze your own to be certain you're getting the very freshest juice around with no added extras! Half a cup of OJ counts towards your five-a-day, but drink any more than that and you could find you're consuming too much sugar and not enough fibre. The rest of your five a day should consist of fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables.
Juice your own
Whilst oranges may contain more fibre than juice, drinking juice in moderation is perfectly healthy. If you want to make your own OJ for weekend brunch, it couldn't be easier. Use a juice machine, hand juicer with a strainer or even your hands to squeeze the juice out of two ripe oranges and you'll be rewarded with a delicious glass of juice that counts as one of your five a day!
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