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Eating an Orange vs. Drinking Orange Juice: Which Is Better?

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Eating an Orange vs. Drinking Orange Juice: Which Is Better?

You may think orange juice is just a squeezed version of an orange, but are they really the same? Is one more beneficial for your health than the other?

Concentrate vs. Not From Concentrate

Orange juice came about during World War II, when the government began processing oranges for an easy way to supply troops with necessary vitamin C. Today, there are dozens of brands and varieties of orange juice, the most common of which are concentrate and not-from-concentrate options, but not all OJs are created equal.

After World War II, Florida orange growers found themselves with a surplus of fruit. They learned how to evaporate the water from juice to make a concentrate that could be frozen and transported. Then, in the 1950s, Anthony Rossi, who started the famous OJ company Tropicana, invented a method of pasteurizing fresh-squeezed juice that could be packaged in cartons, creating the first not-from-concentrate juice for the masses. Make no mistake: Just because a juice is not from concentrate doesn't mean it's any fresher than concentrate. In fact, pasteurized not-from-concentrate juice can be stored for as long as a year, and is then enhanced with "flavor packs," consisting of orange essences and oils to freshen the taste and smell of the juice. Both concentrate and not-from-concentrate orange juices are heavily processed.

In terms of calories, both concentrate and not-from-concentrate orange juices are the same. Per 8-ounce glass, orange juice has about 110 calories, with 0 calories from fat, although not-from-concentrate juices have slightly less sugar than concentrate, but not much: 22 g per glass compared to 24 g.

Orange Juice vs. An Orange

Okay, wondering how do those OJ stats stack up against a whole orange? Well, a medium-size orange has around 60 calories. A typical glass of juice will contain 5 to 6 oranges, which is vitamin, calorie and sugar overload. Vitamin C is water soluble, which means once you hit your 100 percent for the day, you pee the rest out—you simply don't need the extra C.

But even if you drink 60 calories worth of orange juice, there's still one big difference: Foods in their whole state require the body to burn a little hotter due to chewing and digestion. This process is called thermogenesis.

Anytime a food is processed, something gets lost in the, well, process. Neither concentrate nor not-from-concentrate juices supply any dietary fiber because it's stripped away during juicing. The dietary fiber that naturally occurs in oranges, especially the white membranes and pith, helps to lower cholesterol and blood sugar, keep you full and kicks thermogensis into gear. While some believe this can make certain low calorie foods, like fruits and vegetables, negative calorie foods—meaning digesting them will burn more calories than the food actually contains—the difference is negligible. However, it does mean you can enjoy whole fruits and vegetables to your heart's content.

The Verdict

If you have the option, choose the whole orange instead of orange juice, since whole foods have higher nutritional content than processed one do, plain and simple. One large orange supplies 4.4 grams of fiber, 131 mcg of beta-carotene, and 74 mg of calcium, all of which are lost in the juicing process. If whole oranges aren't available, fresh-squeezed orange juice is second in nutritional value. Concentrate and not-from-concentrate orange juices place third in the ranks.

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