Oranges Or Orange Juice?

orange on tree

Oranges_and_orange_juiceWe all know oranges are a good source of vitamin C. But which is healthier to intake: oranges or orange juice?


Most of the oranges we consume in this country are consumed as orange juice. Most of the orange juice we drink is prepared (not fresh) orange juice. Some of the orange juice is orange drink, not real orange juice. A lot of us eat oranges in one form or another because we have been taught that it is naturally a good source of vitamin C, and, while that is true, some of the OJ preparations we consume actually have vitamin C added.

There is a lot of confusion about how much vitamin C we need to be healthy. But there are a lot of good scientific studies to help inform recommendations. One trusted source, the Harvard School of Public Health, recommends the following:

“The current recommended dietary intake for vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women (add an extra 35 mg for smokers). There’s no good evidence that megadoses of vitamin C improve health (my emphasis). As the evidence continues to unfold, 200 to 300 mg of vitamin C a day appears to be a good target. This is easy to hit with a good diet and a standard multivitamin. Excellent food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits or citrus juices, berries, green and red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin C.”

That being the case, let’s see how the different forms of orange consumption stack up.

orange on treeA good old fashioned Florida orange contains 68 mg of vitamin C. It also has 65 mg of calcium (less than 1% of recommended daily intake) and 4 g of fiber (about 10 to 15 % of daily intake). There are 17 g of carbs, but no added sugar (the juice versions almost all have added sugar). It is only 69 calories.

An 8 ounce glass of Odwalla Organic orange juice has 144 mg of vitamin C, 20 mg of calcium and negligible fiber. It has 110 calories.

Tropicana Home Style orange juice (8 ounces) has 74 mg of vitamin C, 20 mg of calcium, and negligible fiber in its 110 calories. You can buy a version called Double Vitamin C and get 144 mg of vitamin C.

Tang orange drink has 90 calories in an 8 ounce serving with 60 mg of Vitamin C, 80 mg of calcium and no fiber.

So how do you make up your mind about how you should consume orange-based foods? From the point of view of a “whole” or “real” food, eating the orange can’t be beat. It is relatively low cal (although the mg of vitamin C per calorie are more or less comparable to orange juice). It also has fiber, so it is more filling, and it has no added sugar.

But sometimes you just can’t beat a healthy (get it??) swig of orange juice to wash down your breakfast. I particularly love it when there is so much pulp in the juice that the glass is coated once I finish. I also love orange juice that is naturally sweet, like the kind made from freshly squeezed Valencia oranges. Yum.

As with all foods, it is best to make an informed choice. If you really have an OJ craving and nothing else will do, find some fresh squeezed and savor it. When you want a high quality, portable snack, choose the orange. Take your time peeling it. Enjoy the tang you experience when some of the juice squirts you in the face. If all you want is vitamin C, take a multivitamin, if you prefer, but stick to the recommended daily intakes.


Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the founder and host of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.