We were all taught that a glass of orange juice a day is a great way to get plenty of Vitamin C into your kids and to prevent colds and viruses. With its high sugar content, I recommend you limit quality orange juice as you would any sugary treat. But are you really getting pure orange juice in that glass you poured your child – or something cooked up in a lab?
Most brands of orange juice today put chemical “flavor packets” and enzymes into your juice and subject it to chemical processes. What are these additives and are they harmful?
NOT JUST JUICE
Why Orange Juice Needs Flavor
According to “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice” by Alissa Hamilton, the fresh squeezed taste that popular OJ brands advertise is anything but fresh. This tell-all book reveals that processes are used to remove oxygen from the juice in order to keep it from spoiling while stored. That juice can sit in that storage facility for up to a full year — so much for “freshly” squeezed! As it sits on the shelf, the remaining juice flavor and scent is lost, so companies need flavor packets to “restore” the taste of juice. These packets are cooked up by a manufacturer and sold to juice companies to match a distinctive flavor the brand wants to create and then infused back into the juice. Want your juice to taste like orange candy or soda? You’ve got it! This explains why popular orange juice brands tend to taste the same every time, regardless if oranges are in or out of season.
The problem with orange juice flavor packets is that they are generally derived from orange peel oil that has been exposed to pesticides and therefore not fit for your child’s juice glass. In fact, some companies won’t even divulge the ingredients of these flavor packets — nor are they required to do so since they are derived from the oranges — leaving you to guess the mystery chemicals flavoring your juice. Many of these packets also contain ethyl butyrate, a common artificial flavoring. Even juices labeled “natural”, “pure squeezed”, “not made from concentrate” or “100% juice” contain flavor packet infusions. For a more in depth look at misleading juice labels, check out Food Babe’s comprehensive article on how to read these labels, what goes into your juice and how to select a nutritious brand.
How Nutritious is That Juice?
The storage process itself removes much of the nutrient orange juice is most famous for: Vitamin C. Some brands also add enzymes that reduce pulp in order to keep the texture consistent, stripping out the benefits of pulp. Orange juice contains pectin, which is a component that binds cell walls together. It makes juice thicker and helps to leave the pulp intact. Pectinase is an enzyme that scientists add to orange juice to break down pectin, thinning the juice out and breaking down those cellular walls. Since pulp is essentially just a series of cells that store juice, the pectinase helps to remove pulp. A 2007 study quoted in “Nutrition” demonstrates that pulp is a good antioxidant for the body. So this process removes even more nutrients from the juice. More importantly, according to GMO-Compass, pectinases, which are created in a lab, often “are obtained with the aid of genetically modified moulds” or genetically modified bacteria. That so-called “healthy” juice could be GMO-laden.
The final insult is the pasteurization process that is meant to kill bacteria and other harmful organisms but also removes nutrients such as enzymes, minerals, and vitamins, leaving you with a drink that has little nourishment. What passes for brand name “pure” orange juice today is basically stale liquid with no nutritional value, lots of sugar, toxic flavoring and GMOs. And because it takes several oranges to make one glass of brand name juice, you are getting far more calories and sugar with far less nutrition than you would if you simply juiced an organic orange.
IS THERE A HEALTHY ORANGE JUICE?
It’s big business to promote orange juice as a healthy “must have” drink. After suffering a stroke, and again before pregnancy, I was told over and over by doctors that drinking orange juice daily was my best bet for keeping and maintaining a healthy body. Now that I know better, I feed my family fresh-squeezed juice when I do serve it, which is rare. Because of its high sugar content, we should think of orange juice as a treat for our children rather than a healthy beverage. Even so, we can make smart choices when we do buy juice.
Selecting Smarter Juice Choices
To find a cleaner juice option, make sure you see the following on the label when you buy juice:
- USDA Organic: This will allow you to avoid the thorny issue of pesticides in your juice. Remember that “pure juice”, “100% juice” or “natural” doesn’t mean that you are getting a chemical-free juice option. Only the USDA Organic label will ensure that your juice is pesticide free.
- Cold-pressed: This process keeps most of the nutrients intact and has a longer shelf life than juicing for yourself. Max Goldberg of Living Maxwell has created a state-by-state Pressed Juice Directory on where to buy organic juice, which includes 6 major cities.
- HPP or High-Pressure Processing: This process is a better way to lengthen shelf-life, rather than the removal of oxygen typically used, because it retains more of the nutritional value of the juice.
To learn more about the history of orange juice and the industry that makes it, check out the book “Squeezed” by Alissa Hamilton. Meanwhile, avoid the flavored liquid that name brands sell and buy your family the real thing.
Disclosure: Uncle Matts is a client of Bookieboo LLC. Original orange juice image created by Leah Segedie. Image may not represent opinions of the author.