To the Contrary

Orange juice has real health benefits

On behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, I am writing in response to James Werrell’s recent column entitled, “Searching for breakfast of champions,” in which he advocates for orange juice consumption despite criticisms surrounding the beverage’s sugar content.

As a health professional, I appreciate the effort to promote a dialogue around healthy eating practices and, most notably, appreciate Werrell’s support of orange juice. Therefore, I wanted to share some additional information on the nutritional benefits of 100 percent Florida orange juice that you may find helpful.

In Werrell’s column, he specifically mentioned and wonders about the health benefits of orange juice. Here are some facts:

▪ Few Americans consume the recommended amount of fruit each day. That’s why it’s important to highlight nutrient-rich beverages, such as 100 percent orange juice, that can contribute to fruit intake and be part of a healthful diet for children and adults. Orange juice is an easy way to complement whole fruit intake and fill nutrient gaps.

▪ One hundred percent Florida orange juice has no added sugar; it contains only natural sugars present in the juice when squeezed from the orange. Thus, claims equating nutrient-dense 100 percent orange juice with sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda (which contain added sugars but few if any beneficial nutrients), can create confusion among consumers trying to make more healthful choices.

▪ Orange juice is a nutrient-dense beverage that provides a substantial number of nutrients per calorie. One 8-ounce serving is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium, folate, and thiamin. Orange juice is also a source of hesperidin, a phytonutrient that emerging research suggests may have health benefits.

▪ Studies report that children and adults who consume 100 percent orange juice tend to have better overall diet quality and nutrient adequacy as compared to those who don’t consume orange juice. Similar research does not exist for sugar-sweetened beverages.

▪ Clinical research studies suggest that 100 percent orange juice may support heart health by having favorable effects on serum cholesterol, blood pressure and blood vessel function.

Gail C. Rampersaud is an associate in Nutrition Research and Education at the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department.

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