If you’re living with diabetes, caution around what you eat and drink is natural. Certain foods like sugary sodas are clearly off the cards. But when fresh produce and fiber are recommended, or your sugar levels are dipping, is it okay to reach for a glass of orange juice?
1 Glass Of Unsweetened Orange Juice Has 20.83 g Sugar
A glass of fresh squeezed orange juice contains 112 kcal, 20.83 g of sugars, and 25.79 g of carbohydrates. This 248 g serving also delivers lots of vitamin C as well as considerable amounts of nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, and folate. These minerals and vitamins are important for a range of normal body functions and also have antioxidant properties that make them good for health.1 Yet, there is concern around whether or not diabetics should even be considering having the juice due to the sugar and carb content in a glass of OJ (orange juice).
While there’s no ideal established upper limit of daily carb intake for a diabetic, the average is 130 g or 45%–65% of the total calorie intake. Considering you need to eat just 130 g carbs a day, just one glass of juice would meet 19% of your quota, without filling you up considerably and leaving scope for frequent snacks. A small orange would offer just 11 g carbs and would be more filling because of the fiber content.2
Diabetics Should Have Drinks With Low Glycemic Load (GL)
The American Diabetes Association recommends drinking low calorie (or even zero calorie drinks) like plain water or unsweetened tea and coffee. When you need a cool drink, have water with a squeeze of lime. Flavored water with orange slices could work just as well. But what about orange juice?3 The Association advises against consuming sugary drinks of any kind, and that could well mean your favorite packaged orange juice doesn’t pass muster. In fact, some fruit juices can be as high in natural sugars as sodas, even if they don’t have any added sugar in them.4
If you’re watching your diet and taking care not to have high glycemic index (GI) foods which increase blood glucose levels quickly (causing a potentially dangerous spike in sugar levels), then aim for foods with a glycemic load as well. Glycemic load measures the portion of carbs in a food and how quickly those break down into glucose. Foods with a glycemic load below 10 are low GI foods. Once the GI goes over 20, they’re considered high GI and are not a good idea for someone with diabetes.
Orange Juice And Orange-Flavored Drinks Have Mid-To-High Glycemic Load
An orange on its own, eaten as a fruit, clocks a glycemic index of just 45 for a 120 gm portion, against a glycemic load of 5. The average glass of fresh squeezed unsweetened orange juice has a glycemic index of around 50, and a glycemic load of 12. So far so good.
Orange-flavored drinks, on the other hand, have much higher glycemic index levels, like aerated sweetened orange flavored sodas which have a GI of 68 and glycemic load of 23.5 Even packaged unsweetened orange juice could contain more sugar or carbs and may have a higher GI and glycemic load, so be sure of what you’re drinking.
Orange Juice Has Other Carbohydrates Too
If you decide to have orange juice, you must take care that it has no added sugar and is 100% juice. Check the packaging to be sure. As the American Diabetes Association explains, this can help ensure you don’t have too much sugar, but it is also important to keep an eye on the carbohydrate content. A 248 g serving of orange juice has 25.79 g carbs, of which just 0.5 g is fiber. Too much carb intake can be just as bad if you’re diabetic. That’s because these carbs after digestion turn into glucose or blood sugars.6 So be sure to count the juice as the carb intake for a particular snack or meal and keep portion sizes small.
Diabetics Should Have A Whole Orange Rather Than Orange Juice
No two juices are truly alike. While juice made from the same manufacturer can be consistent, you can’t expect that orange juice made by one manufacturer is the same as one made by another. What’s more, if you’re drinking your OJ fresh squeezed at home or made at a juice bar, it is likely to be quite different from the packaged kind. You just need to glance at the packaging to tell.
As you’ve already seen, the GI can vary greatly depending simply on the form you’re having your oranges in. So make conscious choices about which juice you drink and what nutrition you’re deriving from it to make the calories and carbs worth it.
If you have a choice, stick to eating the fruit rather than drinking the juice so you get the benefits of fiber intake from the whole fruit (otherwise lost during juicing). It is this fiber that can keep your blood glucose levels from rising. This is why the whole fruit has a lower glycemic index and load than the juice. If you must have it as orange juice, have a small glass and top it up with ice, to cut the quantity you consume. Also adjust carb and sugar intake from other meals that day to compensate.
|↑1||Orange juice, raw. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑2||Basic Report: 09200, Oranges, raw, all commercial varieties. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑3||What Can I Drink?. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑4, ↑6||Carbohydrates and Diabetes. University of California San Francisco Medical Center.|
|↑5||Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods. Harvard Health Publications.|