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What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Orange Juice

Is it really that healthy to drink regularly? We asked the experts.
Pouring orange juice

It's safe to say that orange juice is a beverage staple in the American diet. Maybe it's the first thing you drink in the morning with a homemade omelette, what you wash down a hearty diner breakfast with, or a refreshing mid-afternoon sipper. But what happens to your body when you drink orange juice? As it turns out, there are plenty of potential benefits to incorporating this beverage into your diet.

Between 2019 and 2020, Americans consumed an estimated 532,000 metric tons of orange juice. And that should come as no surprise, when you consider that it's widely available, it's undeniably tasty, and it's an easy and convenient way to squeeze some fruit into your diet.

As for how healthy it is—well, that depends on the type of orange juice you're drinking, how often you're drinking it, and the state of your current health. Here's what experts want you to know about the effects if regularly drink orange juice.

1

You'll get a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals.

Unhealthy orange juice bottle held in front of fridge
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According to Amanda A. Kostro Miller, an RD/LDN who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living, drinking orange juice boasts many of the same nutritional benefits as eating an orange. She also notes that some commercial brands fortify their juice with other nutrients as well.

"Orange juice is rich in vitamin C (1 cup or 8 ounces contains about 67% of the recommended dietary allowance for adults daily), folate, potassium, and a small amount of magnesium," explains Vive Nutrition founder Andres Ayesta (MS, RD, LD, CSCS, CSSD).

If you opt to drink orange juice that's fortified with calcium and vitamin D, you'll reap additional perks as well. Lindsey Kane, RD and Director of Nutrition at Sun Basket, notes that these nutrients work together to support bone health.

Fun fact for vegans and vegetarians: according to Kane, vitamin C can enhance your body's absorption of non-heme iron—a type of iron found in plants that tends to be more challenging to absorb than the heme-iron found in animal products. That's why Kane suggests adding a splash of orange juice to your smoothie, as it can help your body to better absorb the iron in foods like spinach, nuts, and seeds.

Just so you know, though, there is a cap to how much vitamin C your body can actually use, because it's a water-soluble vitamin.

"Any excess amount of water-soluble vitamins consumed, including vitamin C, is actually excreted from the body to avoid toxicity," explains Kane. "In other words, drinking a few extra glasses of orange juice does not offer any added benefit—once you hit your daily requirement, anything beyond that, lands in the toilet."

2

You'll give your immune system a boost.

orange juice when sick
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You know how your mom was always urging you to drink orange juice to ward off a cold? Well, apparently there's some truth to this age-old remedy.

Regular, consistent intake of vitamin C is needed for good immune support," says Miller. "Orange juice can be a part of the vitamin C intake."

Ayesta adds that vitamin C not only serves to enhance immune function but is also a powerful antioxidant.

"I wouldn't say drinking orange juice will be responsible for preventing colds or illnesses, but it will increase antioxidant status which will support a strong immune system," Ayesta explains.

3

Your skin may look more youthful.

Woman pouring orange juice into a blender
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Speaking of vitamin C, did you know that this essential antioxidant is also a major player in supporting skin health? According to Kane, it plays a significant formation of collagen—the protein that can reduce visible wrinkles and improve skin elasticity. Who needs those expensive anti-aging serums when you can simply drink a glass of orange juice to benefit your complexion?

4

You won't feel as full as you do when you eat an orange.

Orange juice with fresh oranges
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Here's the thing. A one-cup serving of orange contains about 4.3 grams of fiber—whereas 1 cup of orange juice only has about .2 grams, meaning it digests more quickly. Miller explains that this is why you won't likely feel very full after you drink orange juice. Not only that, but Kane notes that fiber is important for gut health, and helps to slow the absorption of sugar, thus keeping your blood sugar and energy levels balanced.

Also, since orange juice is less satiating (due to a lack of fiber), Ayesta says you're also more likely to consume more than you actually need. That can be an issue, according to Miller, because orange juice tends to have more calories, carbohydrates, and sugar per serving than the fruit itself.

Pro tip from Kane: buy orange juice with at least some pulp to bring some of that fiber back into play.

5

Your blood sugar may elevate.

orange juice in a glass
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This may come as a surprise, but a small orange only contains 9 grams of sugar. The average cup of orange juice, on the other hand, contains a whopping 21 grams of sugar. One reason for this discrepancy is that orange juice is a concentrated form of the fruit. But Ayesta points out that some brands also add refined sugar to their juice, which not only ups the calorie content but also increases the likelihood that your blood sugar surges (depending on how much you consume in one sitting).

"When orange juice is not consumed in moderation, you will have spikes in blood sugar which may lead to energy fluctuations and also more hunger often," says Ayesta.

Ultimately, experts agree that the health benefits of drinking orange juice far outweigh any potential drawbacks. However, Miller advises choosing 100% orange juice and limiting your consumption to just 4 ounces per day. If you want to maximize how many vitamins and minerals you're getting, Kane recommends looking for cold-pressed orange juice—because it goes through a gentler process, the juice retains more of the heat-sensitive nutrients that tend to be lost during pasteurization at high temperatures. And Ayesta suggests checking the nutrition label to make sure there aren't any added sugars. Better yet, if you can, he proposes making your own orange juice at home rather than buying it at the store—that way you know the only ingredient is freshly-squeezed juice.

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Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a health and food writer. Read more
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