No one argues the nutritional value of the raw orange. Like other citrus fruits, it contains necessary nutrients such as vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and small amounts of amino acids. Many, however, debate the merits of fresh-squeezed orange juice versus store-bought orange juice. While fresh-squeezed orange juice contains fewer additives and a fresher taste, store-bought varieties offer savings in time and effort.
As soon as juice is squeezed from fruit, that juice begins to lose its nutrients due to oxygenation. If oranges are squeezed at home and the juice imbibed immediately, the drinker benefits from most of the orange's naturally occurring nutrients. The more time that elapses between squeezing and consumption, the more the juice degrades and nutrient content lowers. Vitamin C is particularly vulnerable to changes in temperature and environment. For store-bought orange juice, fruit is squeezed at a distant manufacturing facility -- nowhere near home or the eventual consumer -- and then pasteurized to kill germs. Unfortunately, pasteurization entails heating and dehydration that destroy not just germs but also any nutrients not already eliminated by oxygen exposure.
Unlike orange juice squeezed fresh at home and free of chemical enhancement, store-bought juice often contains preservatives and additives to enhance color and flavor and increase the juice's shelf life. Many, too, are fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals to replace the natural ones lost in processing.
When a shopper buys oranges from the produce section of a grocery store, the transaction is fairly straightforward. She knows she's buying oranges because they are labeled as such on signs, stickers or bags and she can see the fruit. When she squeezes it at home later, she knows she will be drinking pure orange juice. However, juice containers sold from store shelves, refrigerators or freezers often are displayed right next to containers of fruit "drinks," "cocktails" or "punches" that are not pure orange juice but might be mistaken for such. In reality, these orange drinks, punches and cocktails contain very little real orange juice. They are mixed with other "natural and artificial flavorings and colorings," including other fruit juices, sugars and syrups.
Obviously, it's much easier to buy a bottle of orange juice and simply pour it into a glass, than spend the time and energy to squeeze juice by hand. It requires four oranges to produce a single 8-oz. glass of orange juice, plus time and effort cleaning up any equipment used in the juicing process. Also, a pitcher of fresh-squeezed juice lasts only about three days in the refrigerator. Store-bought juice can last anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on whether it is pasteurized, bottled and refrigerated or stored as tubes of preserved frozen concentrate.
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