In this article, you’ll meet four orange varieties loaded with juice and health-giving nutrients. You’ll love their bright flavors!
Do you chase off morning grogginess with coffee? If so, consider swapping your brew for fresh orange juice. Since it lacks caffeine, OJ is gentler on your nerves. Plus, research shows that OJ outperforms coffee in helping you stay alert.
Health Benefits of Orange Juice
Knowing what you’ll gain from fresh OJ will inspire you to make it at home. Firstly, oranges are a goldmine of Vitamin C and potassium. They’re chock full of antioxidants, plant compounds that lower your risk of certain diseases. Among them are Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer.
Moreover, oranges supply goodly amounts of calcium, Vitamin A, and fiber. Drink orange juice regularly, and here’s what it can do for you.
1. Sharpen your mental focus
A glass of morning OJ can help your brain function better. This is the finding of a 2015 university study involving 24 men, ages 30 to 65. The researchers compared drinking OJ with a sugary beverage that looked and tasted like it. The study spanned two days.
On the first morning, the men drank pure orange juice. Two hours later, cognitive testing showed they were alert, and responding quickly to exam questions. Even six hours after drinking the juice, testing proved they were still attentive.
The next morning, the men had the sugary drink. When tested two hours later, their mental acuity was less than the day before. At the six-hour mark, their cognitive performance had declined even more.
Scientists credited the flavonoids in OJ for the brain-boosting effect. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant that increases blood flow through the brain. In turn, enhanced circulation helps brain cells communicate faster and more effectively.
2. Upgrade your immunity
One 6-ounce serving of orange juice meets your daily need for Vitamin C. This nutrient arms you against colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. Furthermore, the Vitamin A in oranges heightens your resistance to germs.
3. Promote healthy skin
Orange juice nourishes skin cells. Your skin needs Vitamin C to make collagen. This protein endows your skin with strength and flexibility. If your diet is rich in Vitamin C, you’ll be less prone to wrinkles as you age. Vitamin C also speeds up wound healing.
4. Cut your risk of kidney stones
When urine stays too concentrated, it can form calcified crystals inside the kidneys. Over time, the crystals bind together into a stone. If your body is trying to expel a stone, it can trigger cramping pain in your abdomen, groin, or back.
Thankfully, the citrate in orange juice prevents kidney stones. One way is by lowering urine acidity, making it less likely to crystallize. Secondly, citrate binds to urinary calcium, thwarting stone formation.
5. Help moderate your blood pressure
Here’s a news flash! In a 2020 study conducted in Spain, adults who drank orange juice daily for three months had a significant drop in blood pressure. The researchers linked this finding to hesperidin, an antioxidant present in orange peels.
Additionally, citrus flavonoids keep cholesterol in check, preventing it from narrowing your arteries. By this, your blood can circulate freely, helping to stabilize your blood pressure.
Meanwhile, potassium and Vitamin C expand your arteries, further easing blood force. This effect lessens the chances of a stroke and heart disease.
6. Lower your cancer risk
Three nutrients in OJ prevent tumor growth — Vitamin C, hesperidin, and limonin.
Limonin is yet another antioxidant, a citrus compound that inhibits cancer. Depending on the orange variety, limonin can reside in its flesh, seeds, or inner peel.
Limonin has only one drawback. It can make OJ taste acidic. Later in this post, I share ways to mellow juice acidity.
Best Oranges for Juicing
Four varieties ideal for juicing are the Valencia, Navel, Blood Orange, and Tangelo.
1. Valencia Orange
Claim to Fame
This variety gets its name from the city of Valencia, Spain. It’s the juiciest orange you can buy! Most brands of OJ come from Valencia oranges.
A Valencia has a yellow-orange hue, with a thin rind and up to nine seeds per fruit. Its yellow flesh brims with juice, having a balanced tart-sweet taste. The only downside to this variety is the leathery rind, challenging to peel.
Orchards harvest Valencias from April through December. With their long season, you can buy Valencias nine months out of the year.
In Valencia oranges, only the seeds have limonin. Avoid them, and your juice will taste like nectar! For this purpose, a manual juicer is perfect since the seeds collected in the pulp reservoir.
Peeling and seeding Valencias is messy. So, if you own an electric juicer, consider another type of juice orange. However, if you like tart citrus, limonin works in your favor. In that case, an electric juicer is fine for Valencias.
You can opt to refrigerate or freeze fresh Valencia juice, using it within three weeks.
When in season, you’ll find Valencias at most supermarkets and produce stands. Generally, grocers sell the oranges pre-bagged versus loose.
Although Valencias tinged with green may appear unripe, they’re actually mature. During the summer months, Valencias must endure strong sunlight. So, Mother Nature kindly gives them a way to protect themselves from burning. The oranges reabsorb the chlorophyll in their peels. This green pigment acts like sunscreen!
Orange growers call this phenomenon “regreening.” Still, it doesn’t change Valencia flavor or juiciness.
2. Navel Orange
Typically, orchards grow an orange tree by the “grafting method.” This technique involves fusing a mature orange stem into a seedling.
However, Mother Nature herself bred the first Navel. In the 1800s, a Brazilian monk discovered the fruit in his orchard. To his amazement, it was growing inside the peel of another orange! On the outside, he saw a fleshy dent, resembling a human navel. This is how the Navel Orange received its name.
A “traditional Navel” is bright orange with a firm, pebbled rind. The fruit is large, measuring 3 to 4 inches across. Along with its trademark “bellybutton,” a Navel is seedless. Its thick rind is a pleasure to peel, tickling your nose with its floral scent. Navel flesh is sweeter than a Valencia, although less juicy.
A popular Navel hybrid is the “Cara Cara,” also called the “Red Navel.” Hailing from Venezuela, it’s a cross between two Navel cultivars — the Washington and Bahia.
From the outside, a Cara Cara looks the same as a regular Navel. However, remove the rind, and you’ll be surprised! Its flesh is tender and pink, dripping with juice. Yet, compared to her parents, Cara Cara is sweeter, tasting mildly of cranberry.
In the US, both traditional and Cara Cara Navels are sold from November to April. Peak season runs from January through March. This is why the Navel is called a “winter orange.”
Navel oranges have limonin in their flesh. If you don’t drink the juice within 30 minutes, it starts to sour. Plus, the tartness intensifies by the hour. So, unlike with Valencias, juice from Navels won’t keep well in your fridge or freezer.
When in season, you’ll find gorgeous Navels at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and produce stands.
3. Blood Orange
Among all orange varieties, Blood Orange has the most antioxidants.
The Blood Orange is named for its flesh — a dazzling crimson! Its breathtaking hue comes from anthocyanin, the pigment that gives red fruits and veggies their rosy colors. Anthocyanin has antioxidant properties, including fighting cancer.
From the outside, most Blood Oranges resemble Navels, except for being smaller. Some varieties, such as the Moro, have a maroon or pink cast to their orange rind. Upon peeling a Blood Orange, you’ll get a heavenly waft of raspberry scent.
The blood Orange flavor is tart and mildly spicy. Depending on the variety, it can have notes of cranberry, raspberry, pomegranate, or plum. The thick rind peels easily, and the flesh has few seeds.
Blood Oranges need warm days and cold nights to ripen. Thus, they come to markets from mid-January through April. Nippy evening temperatures intensify their ruby hues, reflecting high levels of anthocyanins.
Since Blood Oranges leave a stain when sliced, protect your cutting board. The flesh is steeped in natural sugar, causing its juice to sour rapidly. So, rather than refrigerating or freezing it, drink the juice soon after pressing.
As Blood Oranges require unique growing conditions, they’re not as common as Valencias and Navels. For this reason, they’re usually sold individually rather than pre-bagged.
Still, with Blood Oranges gaining popularity, more supermarkets are carrying them. For instance, they’re often sold by Walmart, ShopRite, and Whole Foods Market. When Blood Oranges are in-season, check with your local grocer.
This fruit is a “natural hybrid,” a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Scientists estimate the first Tangelo evolved over 3,500 years ago in Southeast Asia. Around that time, insects transferred the pollen from a grapefruit flower to a tangerine bloom. This cross-pollination birthed a Tangelo!
A Tangelo resembles a pear or bell in shape, crowned with a knob. The average Tangelo measures 3½ inches across its bell. The skin is reddish-orange, pebbled, and shiny. The rind is a breeze to peel, and the flesh oozes with juice. Tangelo flavor is bold — sweet with a mildly tart aftertaste.
The most popular varieties are the Minneola Tangelo and the Honeybell. Of the two, the Minneola is slightly easier to peel. A Tangelo can either be seedless or have very few seeds, depending on the variety.
Tangelo season is brief, from November through February. The peak season for Honeybells is the shortest, only January to February.
For one cup of juice, you’ll need to press two to four Tangelos. Note that the juice doesn’t freeze well. Either drink it fresh or refrigerate it for up to three days.
During winter, most supermarkets and indoor produce stands carry Tangelos. When bagging Tangelos in the grocery store, handle them gently. Compared with other citrus fruits, Tangelos bruise easily.
Alternative: How to Buy Beet Juice at the Store
Finding Choice Oranges
While you can order oranges on the Internet, you can bank on them being expensive. Additionally, fruit quality varies markedly among suppliers. Even if you find a reputable seller, fruit integrity can fluctuate throughout the harvest season.
Therefore, I recommend shopping for oranges in grocery stores. To pick prime fruits, keep in mind four factors — seasonality, color, rind condition, and weight. If possible, choose oranges individually. They’re easier to examine than fruit sold by the bag. Here’s how to tell if oranges merit buying.
1. Consider if the variety is in-season. Freshly picked fruit has the best chance of being juicy and flavorful. Plus, you’ll save money on in-season oranges, due to their availability.
2. Avoid pale oranges and those lacking uniform color.
3. Give an orange a gentle squeeze. It should feel firm and smooth. Avoid fruit that’s spongy, soft, or dented. Light scratches are okay. Such marks, termed “wind scarring,” form when strong winds knock the fruits against their tree branches.
4. Lastly, lift the orange. Does it feel heavy? If so, it’s laden with juice!
When Pressed for Time
On days when you’re super busy, store-bought OJ is a healthy option. Still, only buy 100 percent orange juice. Read the label on a product to ensure it has no sugar, preservatives, or dyes. Also, avoid beverages labeled “orange drink” or “orangeade.”
Aiding Fruit Longevity
Once picked, oranges need cold temperatures to stay fresh. Otherwise, they start to dehydrate, quickly losing their juice. Ideally, refrigerate your oranges, using them within two weeks. Or, store them in a cool spot in your home. There, the fruit should keep for roughly one week.
Remember we talked about limonin above? It’s the antioxidant that gives OJ a tart edge. Interestingly, this compound has no flavor until it touches air. But once you peel or juice an orange, air makes limonin bitter.
The longer freshly-squeezed OJ contacts air, the more tart it becomes. One way to avoid this is by drinking your juice upon pressing it.
Storing Fresh-Squeezed Oranje Juice
To review, only refrigerate the juice of Valencias and Tangelos. Navel and Blood Orange juices sour too fast for even brief storage. When refrigerated, Valencia juice should keep for up to three weeks. Refrigerate Tangelo juice for up to three days.
If you’d like to freeze Valencia juice, transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Be sure to leave 1 inch of space at the top. Also, mark the date on the jug. Then, use the juice within the year.
Whether you refrigerate or freeze fresh OJ, it will separate, needing mixing. To do this, rather than shaking a heavy jug, store your juice in a plunger-type pitcher. This type of container mixes juice with a built-in rod.
Consider this 2-quart Rubbermaid model, sold on Amazon. The large handle facilitates lifting, and the narrow spout minimizes spills.
Limit yourself to 8 ounces of OJ daily, whether freshly-squeezed or purchased. Exceeding this volume can upset your stomach.
Note that orange juice is high in natural sugar. To keep your blood sugar stable, drink OJ with breakfast. Ideally, your meal should include protein, fiber, and a bit of healthy fat. Avoid sugary fare. Otherwise, the OJ won’t benefit your brain, and your focus can suffer.
If you take a statin drug to lower cholesterol, avoid Tangelos. Grapefruits can interfere with statins, and the Tangelo is a grapefruit hybrid.
A person with diabetes should consult their doctor before adding orange juice to their diet.
Launch each day with pure OJ, and your health will profit in six ways. You’ll be better able to concentrate, with stronger immune defenses. Your skin will get the Vitamin C it needs for cellular growth and repair. Additionally, you’ll have a lower risk of kidney stones, hypertension, and cancer.
When shopping for juice oranges, buy them in-season, as follows:
- Blood Orange – mid-January through April
- Tangelo – November to February
- Navel – November through April
- Valencia – April through December
To avoid tart flavor, be sure to drink Navel and Blood Orange juices soon after pressing them. If you’d like, store Valencia juice in your fridge for up to three weeks. Refrigerate Tangelo juice for up to three days.
When you lack time for juicing, buy 100 percent orange juice from the grocery store. Still, as inspiration, I leave you with this video, showing how easy it is to juice oranges.
Either way, start your days with pure OJ!
NOTE: This post is solely for informational purposes, not meant to replace professional medical advice. When under the care of a doctor or nutritionist, consult with them before making any dietary changes.
Fresh orange juice in the morning is a great way to start your day as it is packed with vitamins and nutrients that can boost your immune system, increase energy levels, and aid digestion.