When I walk into most juice shops, I see a wall of green juices. But my eyes light up when I locate that golden nugget—a fresh squeezed organic orange juice. I spent years avoiding orange juice and downing expensive green juices. Did my health get better? Probably not—I would actually say that I noticed some negative things happening, from changes in skin quality to lower energy levels and a lower body temperature (which is indicative of an inefficient metabolism and general hormonal imbalances). As I began to incorporate orange juice back into my program, many of these issues went away. When I mentioned to a few clients that they should drink a little bit of orange juice, they looked at me like I asked them to drink poison. So what is the common conception about orange juice? Here is what I commonly hear: it has too much sugar so it will cause weight gain, it causes heartburn, it will cause a blood sugar spike which will lead to insulin sensitivity and we should consume only complex carbohydrates (orange juice is a simple carbohydrate). I have found many of these things to be false. I will touch on some of this below and also some of the benefits of incorporating orange juice into your program.
Orange juice can have a balancing impact on your blood sugar levels. The level of sugar (glucose) in our blood is most frequently altered by things we eat (or don’t eat). However, stress can also impact blood-sugar levels. The level at which a particular food impacts our blood sugar can be measured.
According to the American Diabetic Society, “The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health.”
So from this we can gather that we should limit foods that are high on the glycemic index and emphasize low and medium glycemic index foods. What many fail to realize is that orange juice and most fruit is low on this scale and that many commonly-consumed foods such as breads, cereals, muffins and pastas are very high on the scale. Another reason that the gluten-free diet may benefit people who don’t have a problem with gluten is that by excluding many high-GI foods, they experience more stable blood sugar levels. This can ultimately lead to an increase in overall health and weight loss.
Orange juice is loaded with nutrients. We all know that orange juice is loaded with vitamin C, but many forget the importance of this nutrient in boosting the immune system and serving as an antioxidant. In addition, many disregard the ability of food to provide us with nutrients. Many choose to pop vitamin C pills/powders when they could have a nice glass of orange juice. Orange juice also contains several B vitamins along with minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Last, and possibly most importantly, certain kinds of orange juice will contain the flavonoids—naringenin and hesperedin. These compounds serve as powerful antioxidants in the body and have been shown to play a role in slowing the aging process and reducing inflammation in the body.
Orange juice is an excellent way to balance our hormones. Often, low-carbohydrate diets, particularly diets that are low in fruit, can lead to a broken hormonal system. The addition of a few ounces of orange juice upon waking can replenish your glycogen (stored glucose in your liver) and kickstart the production of the all-important active thyroid hormone (T3). Without adequate glycogen this process can’t happen (this is one of the reasons why you might have an extra chill in the morning). Instead of your morning lemon water, consider adding a few ounces of orange juice. Take it up a notch by adding a pinch of sea salt. This same drink can also be very beneficial as an electrolyte beverage. I often tell people to “eat for heat” and orange juice is a great way to build heat in the body.
Orange juice is an easily-digestible carbohydrate source. Many people with digestive issues struggle to digest starches. This would include “bad” starches such as breads, cereals and pasta and even “good” starches such as rice, potatoes and squash. For such people, a small glass of orange juice with a balanced meal can be a great way to flood the body with an easily-accessible energy source that will give your digestive system time to heal. Many “gut”-healing protocols incorporate this idea.
- If orange juice gives you heartburn, consider the source. A fresh squeezed juice from a local juice shop as opposed to a store-bought juice can make a big difference in terms of your ability to digest. Many times the heartburn is a result of the processing process that take place in large manufacturing facilities.
- Watermelon juice also has many benefits.
- If you have been following a low sugar diet, consider starting very slow—a few ounces a day and work your way up to a glass or two.
- Consume your orange juice with a protein source. It will help you utilize your protein more efficiently (i.e. eggs and orange juice).
- For those with anemia, a glass of orange juice can increase iron absorption when consumed at the same time as a food high in iron (i.e. grass-fed beef and a glass of orange juice).
Orange Juice can increase your body temperature, which often means a more efficient metabolism. Green Juice on the other hand can decrease your body temperature. In some clinical settings a remedy for HYPER-thyroidism (where your body temp might be higher than normal) is a good old green juice, especially one that includes cabbage.This can decrease your body temperature rather rapidly. A green juice every once and a while is fine, but I don’t think it should be a daily component for most people.
*This article originally appeared in HARPERSBAZAAR