Should You Drink Orange Juice? It Depends On Your Goals

PHOTO: Freshly squeezed orange juice is seen in this stock image.

This past Sunday marked National Orange Juice Day. Of course, for millions of Americans, EVERY day is orange juice day. I used to be one of them. I had this giant pitcher in my fridge and regularly poured myself giant glasses of OJ.

Then I saw a nutritionist. I won't use her name. Let's just call her the "pleasure killer" -- PK for short. PK told me my juice habit was keeping me from losing the last 10 pounds I'd always wanted to shed. PK lectured that juices are high in (natural) sugar, but without the fiber you get when you eat the whole fruit. I stopped drinking juice.

But now I'm reconsidering. You know how nutritional advice seems to come in cycles? Last decade's "bad" food is this year's "good?" Think butter versus margarine and you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. It's time to take another look at orange juice.

Consider this:

Orange juice contains important vitamins

We knew it was high in vitamin C, but it turns out OJ can also be a good source of potassium and folate. Just look at the Nutrition Facts panel on any jug of the stuff. And, after all, PK did tell me it's better to get your vitamins from foods than from pills because they absorb better.

Orange juice is more nutrient-dense than many juices

In a study comparing various fruit juices, researchers gave orange juice -- and other citrus juices -- higher nutrient density scores than other popular juices like apple, grape and pineapple. So if you're going to drink juice, OJ could be the way to go.

Our fruit intake falls short

A study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 80 percent of Americans don't eat as much fruit as the USDA's food pyramid would have them consume. Fruit juice counts toward your fruit goal and it's an easy way to add more servings.

So where does all this leave us? If you're actively dieting, you'll want to cut calories wherever you can, so skip the juice. But if you're just trying to maintain your weight -- and your good health -- and you're one of the many Americans who skimps on fruits and vegetables, drinking orange juice could boost beneficial vitamins in your system.

Just don't overdo it. Everything in moderation. Here's a hot tip about cold juice that I learned while I was backstage at the Dr. Oz show waiting to go on one day -- mix 4 ounces of OJ with 4 ounces of sparkling water. What you get is a delicious drink that tastes like a virgin mimosa. You'll get the vitamins juice provides, but with half of the sugar. Cheers!

Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs including "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website, to share your ideas.

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