Yeah, we get it, pasteurized orange juice isn’t 100% the same as freshly squeezed orange juice, but did you really expect it to be?
More importantly, is pasteurized orange juice that much lower in quality and nutrition than freshly squeezed orange juice that we might as well completely avoid it? Is there any point in drinking bottled orange juice?
So let’s dig right in.
How Nutritious is Pasteurized, 100% Orange Juice?
In an effort to provide practical recommendations, I will refer to pasteurized, 100% orange juice as the kind you get pre-bottled in stores (for example Tropicana).
This doesn’t include the ‘diet’ versions or the Vitamin D and/or Calcium fortified kinds though.
Anyways, to answer the above question, we must look at the nutritional value of fresh oranges, because that’s where bottled orange juice comes from and then we’ll look at the effects of the processing techniques used to make the bottled juice.
Fresh Orange Calories and Nutritional Information
In addition to what’s shown above, 1 orange also contains the following % Daily Values (DV):
- 6% DV of Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- 4% DV of Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- 3% DV of Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- 12% DV of Vitamin B9 (Folate)
- 7% DV of Potassium
- 2% Manganese
Needless to say, there’s a lot of important vitamins and minerals packed into this lovely citrus fruit and it’s a great source of sugar.
Ok, so the important question (especially for those who drink bottled orange juice instead of freshly squeezed) is: does the processing reduce the nutritional value of bottled 100% orange juice?
Well let’s look at the processing methods utilized by one of the largest bottled 100% orange juice makers, Tropicana.
1. According to Tropicana, the fresh oranges are washed, then the orange oil is extracted from the peel to capture the orange taste, and then the oranges are squeezed.
2. Following that, the orange juice is flash pasteurized (30-60 second heat treatment) to kill off pathogens and harmful bacteria.
Did you know that Odwalla (the juice company) switched over to pasteurized juices after a mini E. Coli breakout was linked to their non-pasteurized fruit juice back in 1996?
3. Finally, to meet year round demand, some (it’s unknown how much of it, so let’s assume all of it) of the pasteurized juice is deaerated (process by which oxygen is completely removed) and stored for future packaging in light free and temperature controlled tanks to preserve the quality of orange juice.
What Does the Available Science and Research Have to Say About Pasteurization and Deaeration?
In one research paper, which compared the rate of vitamin C loss of deaerated orange juice and non-deaerated orange juice (both batches were flash pasteurized for 15 seconds), the researchers concluded that the rate of vitamin loss is the same and was largely dependent on how much oxygen the liquids were exposed to (the more oxygen exposure, the more vitamin c was lost).
In addition, the researchers observed that the rate of ascorbic acid loss was greater in non-de-aerated juice.
Another interesting observation in the study is that the vitamin c levels of deaerated orange juice were about 20-22% lower than in non-deaerated orange juice.
Here’s what the vitamin c levels look like starting from Day 0 until Day 60 in the deaerated orange juice (A, first graph) and non-deaerated orange juice (B, second graph).
In case you’re wondering, the different lines correspond to different levels of oxygen permeability (Source)
Another study that looked at the effect of pasteurization (60 seconds) on orange juice nutritional quality, found that Vitamin A content decreased by about 13% after pasteurization at 70 degrees C for 1 min.
Moreover, a slight decrease in vitamin C content was observed after pasteurization (source).
A third study observed a ~15% reduction in Vitamin A content in orange juice that has been pasteurized compared to fresh orange juice (source).
In a fourth study, the reduction of Vitamin A and Flavanone content of pasteurized (30 seconds) orange juice was in the range of 2-10% compared to unpasteuried freshly squeezed orange juice (source).
I think the pattern is pretty clear. Pasteurization and deaeration does have an effect on the nutritional content of orange juice, but this appears to be a non-issue for several reasons:
- The decreased levels of the vitamin content is anywhere between 5 to 20%, which in the case of Vitamin C isn’t a big deal since Vitamin C levels in orange juice are already pretty high.
- There is a clear benefit for pasteurization in that it prevents the outbreak of pathogens such as E. Coli.
- Practically speaking, drinking orange juice from bottled juices is much easier and even cheaper than freshly squeezed orange juice.
So yes, pasteurized orange juice isn’t 100% the same as freshly squeezed orange juice, but then again, nothing in life is as cut and dry as we would have wanted it to be.
A cost-benefit analysis is necessary to live life to the fullest and this isn’t any different, especially when considering the nutritional value you get from orange juice.
Bottomline: If you can afford to drink freshly squeezed orange juice all the time, then by all means, that’s your best bet. But when such luxuries aren’t available (whether its affordability or convenience), then bottled orange juice is a very good and practical alternative for a healthy source of vitamins and sugar.