How Do You Like Them Oranges?

You know what really makes a breakfast feel complete? A tall, cold glass of orange juice. We started buying orange juice as regularly as milk and eggs a couple years ago, and it has become a staple at the breakfast table. Not only is it packed with immune boosting vitamin C and is shown to improve blood pressure and lower bad cholesterol, it’s a great way to hydrate first thing in the morning when most of us think black coffee as the only fluid that exists before noon.

So, now fully addicted to my morning glass of OJ, I decided to do a little research on how it is produced, which is better – “from concentrate” or “not from concentrate” – and which brands are best. What I found was actually quite shocking – what I thought was a nutritious, unprocessed and natural refreshment, really was far from it! Here is a little summary.

Pasteurization: A Necessary Evil? All store bought orange juices (exception: some fresh squeezed varieties) have been pasteurized, which means they are heated to a high temperature to kill germs. The problem is that heating the juice to these high temperatures destroys many of the healthy nutrients and alters the molecular structure of orange juice. Ugh.

What is “From Concentrate”? Orange juice from concentrate is simply reconstituted concentrate – or exactly the same thing as if you were to buy one of those cans of concentrated orange juice in the freezer aisle and add water at home. Doesn’t seem as appealing as the jug of juice in the refrigerated case? Well, it’s the same thing and more economical! From a nutrition perspective, I’d stay away from both. Concentrate is orange juice that has been steamed with evaporators to take out the water. The sugary leftover is stored for up to a year and then water is added back, along with flavor packs to make it taste fresh. That just plain grosses me out.

“Not from Concentrate” – Not Any Better! “Not from Concentrate” means the processor does not use evaporators to take out the water before storing. But the storing process is just as damaging – the juice is heated and then stored in large vats, stripped of oxygen, for up to a year. And then flavor packs are added to the juices to achieve a certain taste. So the reason you pay a little more for “not from concentrate” juice? It’s not because it is higher quality, but because it costs a lot more to transport and store vs. concentrate.

Always Thinking About the Environmental Impact…Orange juice made from concentrate requires a significant amount of water to reconstitute. Further, the heating and controlled storage process is energy intensive (this goes for the “not from concentrate” varieties too).

Conclusion: Many grocery stores will carry an unpasteurized fresh squeezed orange juice. Look for it in the produce section in a refrigerated case. They usually carry it under the store’s brand name. The price will be about twice as much as a jug of Minute Maid or Tropicana. I justify this by pouring smaller glasses in the morning (that was an adjustment for Brady)! So in the end we pay twice as much for our orange juice, but it lasts twice as long and I figure you are getting more health benefits even in half the amount. Most importantly, it’s the real thing! And you will taste the difference.

Enjoy your morning,

Hannah Barnstable
Hannah Barnstable