I know what you are thinking, I have gone off the deep end, right? Orange juice has to be one of the healthiest drinks on the planet earth, right? After all, it is "all natural"...just made from fresh squeezed oranges, no preservatives or anything like that, right?
Well, that is exactly what I used to think. If you have read any of my articles or blog posts, you know my feeling on sugar's role in diet and weight loss. The very first thing I help my clients understand is how sugar changes their biochemistry and will make it virtually impossible to maintain weight loss for any period of time.
If this is new information to you, I would stop reading this right now and read my post on "The Skinny on Weight Loss", this sums it up nicely. Don't worry, me and all my millions of readers (give or take millions of readers), will wait for you right here. I will stop typing and just wait for you to get done. Go ahead, really, we will wait!
OK great, see, I told you I would wait for you. Now that we are all on the same page on sugar, let's summarize the recommended amount of sugar by the American Heart Association (this was from another post called, "Is Sugar Making Us Sick"):
A statement by the AHA on Aug 24, 2009 was to reduce “added sugar” in our diet to NO MORE than 100 calories (or 6 teaspoons) for women and 150 calories (or about 9 teaspoons) for men. That is NO MORE than 25 grams for women and 37.5 grams for men.
Hey, I don't make the rules up, I just follow them. So, what does this mean and what does that have to do with orange juice making us fat? The reason I bring up the AHA 'not to exceed' numbers is that it gives us a benchmark to measure our sugar intake against. The AHA real concern is the sugar load on the liver (more specifically the fructose load - FYI sugar is basically half glucose and half fructose) and the effects it has on our health (mainly heart related diseases, but weight gain is also effected). So, this is a good number to use when looking at our sugar intake.
One more thing you should keep in mind. The fructose load is what we are looking at here. Our liver does not really care if it comes from table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave or even fruits. It is all the same to the liver. The key is the fructose load. So let's look at some numbers. Here is a nice chart from the Harvard School of Public health called, "How Sweet Is It" that shows graphically how much sugar is in certain drinks.
You will notice that Orange Juice has 10 teaspoons of sugar and a good old Coke or Pepsi also has 10 teaspoons of sugar. Orange juice has the same amount of sugar as a soda does! Now having said that, there are other things in orange juice that are good for us that are NOT in the soda. So, do not get me wrong here, this is not a bash against orange juice or any juice for that matter. There are plenty of good things in orange juice. What we are talking about here is strictly related to weight loss and management.
If we stop and look at the numbers here, at 10 teaspoons of sugar (regardless if you are a man or woman), you have already exceeded the AHA limit on sugar for the day and you have not even left the house yet. And, my guess is, you are going to be consuming more sugar in your day than just that glass of orange juice.
The problem I have with orange juice when it comes to weight loss is the total sugar load on the body. When you juice an orange, you remove things in the orange that slow the absorption of the sugar into the body, namely the fiber. Plus, you are increasing the total amount of sugar you are consuming by concentrating a large quantity of oranges into a smaller package.
From the sugar perspective, your liver just knows it is getting hit with a quick load of sugar (i.e. fructose) and it reacts in the same way, regardless of whether it came from a coke or orange juice. Either one is a problem when looking for permanent weight loss.
So, bottom line, if you are looking to drop a few pounds, drop the OJ and just eat the whole orange.