When it comes to choosing between whole oranges and orange juice, studies say go for the first if you have diabetes. Extended research shows eating moderate amounts of whole fruits has minimal effects on blood sugar levels and is protective against type 2 diabetes to a certain extent. Instead, drinking fruit juice regularly, whether orange, apple or other, can increase the risks for type 2 diabetes. For the most part, this is because fruit juices pack more sugar than the whole fruit for the same amount and lack dietary fiber altogether, dietary fiber being the element that helps control the rise in blood sugar levels.
As a result of the nutritional differences between whole oranges and orange juice, the juice also ends up having a higher glycemic index which means a definitely higher rise in blood sugar levels, even with moderate intake. It should be noted that, although there isn’t an extreme difference in the nutritional profile of the whole fruit compared to the juice, except for the utter lack of fiber, there is a clear preference for the whole orange over orange juice with diabetes. Actually, no juices are really good for diabetics as they are more likely to affect blood sugar metabolism and cause complications over time.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can never have any orange juice. You can drink very small amounts of orange juice if you have diabetes, as long as you can successfully manage your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise and, when needed, medication. Intake should remain limited and the juice enjoyed only occasionally, as a treat, definitely not everyday. Also, make sure you enjoy it after a light protein, low carbohydrate meal (never before a meal). And remember that the juice substitutes a fruit serving so you have to choose one or the other, not both at the same time.
What does orange juice do for diabetics? The effects of orange juice on diabetes blood sugar levels are minimal if intake is limited to very small amounts occasionally. Like all fruit juices and whole fruit, orange too will still raise blood sugar levels (it’s something plant foods do), but not to excessive levels, provided intake is limited. However, if you drink the juice every day, even in small amounts, you may notice your blood sugar levels rising more than usual. If you drink large amounts of the fruit juice in one sitting, you will likely experience spikes in blood sugar levels and possibly feelings of unwell. If the habit is continued, complications will occur as a result of tissue and organ damage caused by sustained hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).
Orange juice glycemic index: 50 (low).
By comparison, the glycemic index of oranges is 40 (also low).
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that measures how the carbohydrates in a fruit or other plant food raise blood sugar levels. Below 55 is a low GI. Between 55-69 is a moderate GI. Between 70-100 is a high GI. Diabetics are advised to choose fruits and plant foods with as low a GI as possible. These foods have the less impact on blood sugar levels which is good for the metabolic condition.
While the GI of orange juice is still low, notice the 10-point difference compared to the whole fruit. What this should tell you is that the whole fruit is a far better choice than the juice because it will affect blood sugar levels to a lesser extent. Also, the juice has virtually no dietary fiber. What it has is the sugar from the fruit (8.4 g/100 g) and an additional 2 g of digestible carbohydrates that are broken down into sugar too, making the total carbohydrate value of 100 g of unsweetened orange juice 10.4 g of carbs.
Dietary fiber is what slows down the rate of sugar absorption into the bloodstream. This helps maintain steady blood sugar levels and benefits diabetes. Without fiber, the sugars from the juice will be absorbed almost immediately and this will show in blood sugar levels which will rise quickly, something you don’t want with the condition. This is also why it’s advised to eat before having any fruit or fruit juice if you have diabetes, so that the fiber, protein and fat in other foods will slow down the absorption of sugar.
100 g of unsweetened orange juice: 10.4 g of carbs of which 8.4 g are sugars
1 oz (31 g): 3.22 g of carbs of which 2.6 g are sugars
4 oz glass: 12.88 g of carbs of which 10.4 g are sugars
6 oz glass: 19.32 g of carbs of which 15.6 g are sugars
Another side effect of orange juice for diabetes is that it’s likely consumed in too high amounts, whether by diabetics or non-diabetics. Without the fiber in the fruit to promote satiety and the pulp to fill you up, you simply end up having more than enough. This also means too much carbs and too much sugar and, as a result, blood sugar levels rise too fast too much. Not to mention that they cause weight gain when consumed too frequently, in addition to all other side effects.
Conclusion:fruit juices and diabetes are not a good pair. Even though both whole fruit and all-natural fruit juices are healthy food choices, healthy means something different for diabetes. The metabolic condition restricts the intake of carbohydrates (including sugar) per day and per meal which means that fruit juices are not good for you if you have diabetes. They simply pack too much sugar that is absorbed too fast and don’t nourish or fill you up, meaning they don’t compensate for a meal or snack. Instead, what they do is add to your intake of daily carbs unnecessarily. Avoid them altogether especially if you have poor management of your condition, need to lose weight or feel sick after having a small amount, a sign of too high blood sugar levels.
But can diabetics ever drink orange juice? They can, but only as an occasional treat, definitely not every day and not even every other day and always in very small amounts. For example, a 4 oz (124 ml) glass of unsweetened orange juice provides 12.88 g of carbohydrates of which 10.4 g are simple sugars, which is about the same as 100 g of cherries or 100 g of banana. But, and this is a big but, there’s no fiber so all that sugar will be absorbed right away and your blood sugar levels will rise fast. To counteract this, make sure you eat a light protein, low-carb meal first and go for a walk afterwards to help burn any excess. Also, plan ahead for when you want to have some juice so you don’y exceed you maximum recommended intakes of carbs per day and per meal. And remember it’s supposed to be an occasional treat.