Kristen from Food Renegade does some top-notch research on that carton of “100% Orange Juice” that’s “not from concentrate” sitting in your refrigerator. The results are shocking, but not surprising:
When you make orange juice at home, each batch tastes a little different depending on the oranges you made it from.
Haven’t you ever wondered why every glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice tastes the same, no matter where in the world you buy it or what time of year you’re drinking it in? Or maybe your brand of choice is Minute Maid or Simply Orange or Florida’s Natural. Either way, I can ask the same question. Why is the taste and flavor so consistent? Why is it that the Minute Maid never tastes like the Tropicana, but always tastes like its own unique beverage?
The reason your store bought orange juice is so consistently flavorful has more to do with chemistry than nature.
Here’s the skinny:
After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton.
In fact, it’s quite flavorless. So, the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the de-oxygenated orange juice. When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature.
These flavor packs are simply by-products that originate in oranges, so they are considered an “ingredient,” even though they are chemically altered. What’s the point of drinking juice that is only palatable if it needs to be chemically altered? Okay, it’s convenient, it’s consistent, and it tastes good.
I’ve never been a fruit juice drinker, and here’s why: Fruit juice is high in sugar, devoid of healthy fiber, and high-priced relative to fruit. I think of fruit juice as a turbo-charged glucose and fructose injection, albeit with most of the vitamins left intact.
Drinking juice (or other sugar-loaded processed drinks) delivers sugar directly to the blood stream, which causes inflammation in our body’s cells, resulting in what scientists believe accelerates the aging process. Recent evidence links these sugars with several chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension, and many common cancers among them.
How many oranges (and the associated sugar content) are there in one glass of orange juice? Three to four. At 23 grams of sugar per orange (and 92 calories), one glass of juice has 69 more grams of sugar and 276 more calories than merely eating one juicy, satisfying orange.
Is drinking Tropicana or other processed orange juice that bad for you? Maybe not. But I contend that eating the whole fruit can slow down the intake of sugars into the blood stream because of the added fiber. Not only is eating the whole fruit better for you from a health perspective, but more enjoyable as well!
- Food Renegade: The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice
- Christine Cheng: Tropicana Orange Juice, Flavor Packs, and the Food Industry
- Civil Eats: Freshly Squeezed: The Truth About Orange Juice in Boxes
- Alissa Hamilton: Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice
- The New York Times Magazine: Is Sugar Toxic? by Gary Taubes
- Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology: Sugar: The Bitter Truth