Orange Juice: Not the “Healthy” Drink We Think it Is

Written by Katherine Martinko

Why does drinking juice seem to go hand-in-hand with childhood? Ever since I became a parent, I’ve noticed that orange juice is everywhere that children are play groups, nursery schools, birthday parties and post-extracurricular activities. For some reason, it’s assumed that children should always drink orange juice because “it is healthy and contains vitamin C.” Unfortunately, that is a serious misconception. Juice of any kind is not particularly healthy, and contains as much sugar as a can of soda, which is the last thing children struggling with obesity or diabetes need in their diets.

I read avery interesting article inThe Atlantic about the history of orange juice and its rise in popularity over the past century, and learned that it is even nastier than I thought. Orange juice does not deserve the reputation it enjoys as a healthy drink, nor should it be part of the ‘balanced breakfast’ that we’ve been taught to recognize. Far from being fresh, the so-called “freshly squeezed, not-from-concentrate, homestyle” orange juice that consumers buy in cartons or Tetra-Paks is often more than a year old.

“Almost everybody drinks orange juice and is misinformed about what it is they are drinking,” writes Alissa Hamilton, author ofSqueezed: What You Dont Know about Orange Juice. The only way orange juice can taste the way it does is thanks to “flavor packs,” the citrus industry’s latest technological development:

“Oils and essences are extracted from the oranges and then sold to a flavor manufacturer who concocts a carefully composed flavor pack customized to the company’s flavor specifications. The juice, which has been patiently sitting in storage sometimes for more than a year, is then pumped with these packs to restore its aroma and taste, which by this point have been thoroughly annihilated.”

Yuck. This is yet another example of how the food industry has convinced consumers that a processed product is somehow better than its original source. There’s no reason why people can’t stick with water for hydration and enjoy a freshly peeled orange for flavor and a dose of real vitamin C. But that combination doesn’t have the same glitzy, empty health claims that a carton of orange juice does, nor does it have that sugary sweetness that our taste buds love so much.

It seems the rest of the world is catching on. Orange juice sales are at their lowest point in fifteen years, according to the Florida Department of Citrus, and even the British government is calling on a national fruit juice tax. I ditched orange juice a while ago when I realized that waxed paper cartons are not recyclable in my town, but now I’m happier than ever not to be feeding one-year-old, lab-created ‘flavor packs’ to my kids at breakfast. They deserve healthier food than that.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

Photo Credit: Geoff Peters


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Tais Amaral
Tais Amaral3 years ago

Well, orange juice IS healthy. NATURAL juice is, but nothing you buy is natural enough. I don't feel this article was clear enough. Just as it happens with most types of food and drinks, homemade is better and healthier than bought.

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg K3 years ago

Thank you

Michelle Spradley

Apparently nothing is healthy anymore, not even air and water, so leave me alone and let me have what I like and live my life for me!

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B3 years ago

Leigh E - yes I am aware of this but what I'm saying is I'd rather my son drink juice than cola, coffee, red bull, alcopops etc. As a mum, I know what kids are drinking and there are plenty who ARE drinking all of the above. BTW I also have a BSc in Nutrition (!!)

Jaime A.
Jaime Alves3 years ago

I juice my own oranges, very healthy like that, don't buy the rubbish in the stores.!!

Jared White
Jared White3 years ago

Ha, fresh juice from oranges definitely isn't as bad as soda, but it's still got tons of fructose without the protective fiber. In my article Orange Juice vs Whole Oranges, I show just how big the difference is between the juice and the whole fruit. The difference is pulpable, urr palpable.

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B3 years ago

Thank you.

Roberta M.
Roberta M.3 years ago


Leigh EVERETT3 years ago

"It seems the rest of the world is catching on"

What do you mean by that? I see that the American food industry as being the worst in the world. The rest of the world has known this information for decades.

Ruhee B.

You would be surprised how bad fruit juices actually are. True they contain a good dose of vitamins but as the fibre content of the fruit has been stripped, they create such an insulin spike that crashes suddenly and gives you cravings for other sugar products.

I'm certainly NOT advocating drinking Coca Cola because they're are other health issues involved but:

1 litre bottle of apple juice contains around 35 teaspoons of sugar
1 litre bottle of grape juice contains around 40 teaspoons of sugar
1 litre bottle of Coca Cola contains around 32 teaspoons of sugar