Orange juice vs. orange juice

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Orange juice is a healthy drink because it is made with oranges that are vitamins and antioxidants packed fruit. Only half of this statement is true. Or possibly true. That is because not all orange juices, or OJ, are created equal. There is the real kind and there is the manufactured kind. I suggest you go with the first one.

It took me a long time to wean my family off of bottled orange juice, the type that claims to be 100% pure OJ, or with added calcium, or half the fat, or half the calories, or half the sugar, or all of the above! That juice can only be best… if you compare it to worse, like sodas, sugary drinks or sports drinks, that may contain  high fructose corn syrup (more on that major topic in a coming post), preservatives, food colorant, additives, massive amount of caffeine…. Let’s not forget sugar, lots of it. Sugar may be the biggest issue with bottled OJ. In any cases, when compared to freshly squeezed oranges, bottled OJ is a highly addictive habit (hello sugar) you will want to kick out of your daily routine.

I know TV commercials play on healthy mornings starting with a big fresh glass of this fine concentrate. Two problems there: big glass and concentrate.

First, you, let alone children, do not need such a big quantity of orange juice to get the benefits of it (an orange yields about 2oz of juice vs. the average 8oz serving typically advertised) and should keep room for other nutritious foods that will get you going in the morning.

Second, concentrate. If it is from concentrate, then your morning OJ is pureed very ripe fruit, possibly old, possibly partly from foreign countries (bye bye Florida, hello Brazil, Chile…no offense by the way, just a falsely “made in the USA” promoted product for a not so green purchase) that was stripped out of water and oxygen so it does not oxidize and can live several days on store shelves. With that process, also gone are the orange natural flavor providing chemicals. Not to worry, they were conveniently replaced with “flavor packs”, created by fragrance houses to make it taste… like oranges again. Each brand created its own flavor formula, which is why one brand tastes differently from another, and why the juice from a given brand always tastes exactly the same… Oh, and concentrate is also loaded with added sugar, to help bring back that sweet taste lost in the manufacturing process. They probably also know that with sugar comes addiction, hence more juice purchased.

Even if your bottled OJ is not from concentrate but instead 100% oranges, all commercial squeezed orange juices get pasteurized, i.e. heated at a very high temperature for a short period of time. The process destroys unwanted micro-organisms (bacteria, mold…), but is really done to allow a longer life in store (freshly made juice needs to be sold the day they are prepared). The juice is then homogenized for marketing purposes (welcome back flavor pack for that signature branded taste), good nutrients and vitamins that got destroyed in the heating process are added back in (hence the customizable amount of calcium among other things, allowing coveted marketing claims), and all this is packaged in the same way-same quantity for an always-tasting-the-same end result, no matter what actual oranges go in the carton.

Fresh squeezed morning orange juiceMy advice is to resist those smart emotionally-based visuals of a happy family breakfast on a sunny morning, or of a refreshing drink after a ball game. OJ is not what makes a family or a child happy. But good health surely helps! OJ is so anchored as a good thing in our collective mind, that its use definitely goes beyond breakfast and in extreme cases, forget about water, OJ is what one reaches out to to quench a thirst. With family members, any attempt to even just reduce the quantity of orange juice consumed in a day may get you some “But it’s not a soda, orange juice is a healthy drink!” protests left and right. Both from little people, and bigger ones! I know, I have been there.

This is why switching from bottled juice to freshly made will be a successful move if it is a progressive one. I started by reducing the quantity of OJ bought on a weekly basis and watering it down to lower the sugar intake and train everyone’s taste buds for a move toward water. Progressively so that, when there is no more of it until the next trip to the store, we would have to make do with water. And I made sure to always have fresh water in the fridge for the “after the effort” consumption.

Making Orange JuiceOver a few months  I kept reducing the quantity bought from the store, while at the same time, introducing the real deal, freshly squeezed orange juice, that I would serve only once a day, in the morning. I wanted  it to become a once a day treat, and teach how to enjoy water at any other time. I did show and tells, associated Green Girl in the squeezing process from a early age, and as she was positively amazed at the different taste every day, I explained that different oranges should and do taste different. Eventually I kind of got everyone to comment on how a new, original and somewhat less sweet taste with every glass is a more pleasant experience for the palate than the same taste over and over again.

And this is how we went from buying two big jugs of industrial orange juice per week to buying fresh organic oranges (more coming on organic foods in a dedicated post) that we squeeze every other day to make sure we retain all the benefits of fresh fruit’s nutrients. And we dramatically increased our water intake (which may be as big of a benefit)!

Freshly cut orangesThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 1-6 consume no more than 4 to 6 oz of juice per day (less than one sippy cup) because it offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruits and  can contribute to other problems, like poor nutrition, obesity and tooth decay.

My next step, which I’ll alternate with freshly made OJ, is to have my family eat the orange itself. It is an even healthier choice since the fiber is a major benefit of oranges, but it gets lost in the squeezing process.

Do you drink juice, water, both plus other beverages in your family? Any tips you may share on how to increase the proportion of water? Decrease the proportion of sugary drinks?


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