Both orange juice and coffee are iconic beverages of the morning ritual of modern man. But which is better: drinking orange juice or coffee in the morning? For some people, nothing compares to the warm bitterness of a cup of strong coffee early in the morning. Others feel they can only start their day with a glass of fresh orange juice and there are those who drink both. Just as interesting, there are benefits and disadvantages to both orange juice and coffee, depending on how much of either your drink, when and how.
Which is it: orange juice or coffee?
There are health benefits to drinking both orange juice and coffee in the morning. Just the same, there are side effects and health risks to consuming them every day in the morning, on an empty stomach or after eating, in normal food amounts or excessively. Provided your intake is reasonable, and both the coffee and orange juice are high quality, there should be more benefits than disadvantages. A good orange juice is an orange juice made exclusively from orange segments, with or without pith, and prepared fresh, preferably right before consuming it so it preserves its vitamin C content intact. A good coffee should be quality coffee made from certified organic coffee beans.
Antioxidants in coffee vs orange juice
Both beverages are quite a rich source of antioxidants, natural compounds that protect cells in our body from harmful free radicals and potentially mutagenic damage. Orange juice contains vitamin C, the most powerful antioxidant vitamin, recently discovered to play a huge part in prevent leukemia and other cancers. Vitamin C degrades rapidly in the presence of oxygen, light and heat, hence the reason it is important to always drink freshly made orange juice.
The antioxidants in coffee are of a different nature and include chlorogenic acids, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, gallic acid and other polyphenols as well as theobromine and caffeine (Antioxidant and Antiradical Activity of Coffee). The antioxidant profile of coffee beans changes depending on the roasting process, but coffee preserves nonetheless an excellent and varied antioxidant content.
Coffee contains carbohydrates and small amounts of several essential nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, vitamins B2, B3, sometimes B5. Nutrients may vary depending on brand and preparation. However, it is important to remember that coffee is a strong diuretic and further limits the absorption of vitamins and minerals, potentially causing nutritional deficiencies over time (read more about why coffee is bad for you).
Raw orange juice on the other hand is rich in essential nutrients, notably vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, as well as small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. Its nutritional profile thus makes it a better choice than coffee from this point of view (read more about the health benefits of oranges).
Sugar is sugar, no matter its origin and form and is bad for you in high amounts. And while it’s true that it’s better to get your sugar from eating a fruit, making it into juice is not necessarily a healthier choice although you get more nutrients for the same amount. Instead, it will make it easier to increase your intake and get several times as many sugars than if you would have just eaten the orange.
This can make a big glass of orange juice provide as much sugar, albeit natural, as your morning cup of coffee because 100 ml of orange juice can have over 8 g of sugar. Indeed, with the orange juice you get vitamins too, but that doesn’t make it any less true that it has plenty of sugar.
Calories in coffee vs orange juice
Coffee alone has virtually no calories, but different coffee preparations can add up to almost a small meal’s worth of calories, which could endanger your silhouette. Coffee with milk and sugar or a bit of cinnamon or cocoa powder on top is nevertheless a better choice than coffee with cream, chocolate toppings or marshmallows. Home made orange juice, raw, unsweetened orange juice naturally have around 8-9 g of sugar and 45-50 kcal/100 g, which is quite enough. For store-bought orange juice, see the label with the nutritional information.
Acidity: pH and stomach acidity
Both orange juice and coffee are acidic, before and after digestion. This means they are irritating for the stomach and bad for acid reflux, heartburn, gastritis or ulcers. To minimize their side effects, avoid drinking orange juice and coffee on an empty stomach first thing in the morning (so eat first) and consume them in moderate amounts, occasionally (not every day).
Hydrating vs dehydrating
Considering the fact that coffee dehydrates, acts as a strong diuretic and restricts nutrient absorption, orange juice remains a better or safer option from this point of view. But if you still prefer coffee, remember to drink a glass of water with it, or afterwards.
Coffee or orange juice first thing in the morning?
Actually, you should drink neither coffee nor orange juice first thing in the morning. The best thing you can drink on an empty stomach in the morning is water, preferably room-temperature. Water is soothing on the stomach lining and hydrating. Food is the next best thing in the morning and you should eat before you drink either coffee or orange juice.
Both coffee and orange juice are acidic and irritate the stomach lining, causing heartburn, acid reflux, stomach upset, bloating and gas, more so when consumed on an empty stomach. And because some people have a more sensitive stomach, it would be ideal for them to drink coffee following one meal and orange juice following another, not both at once. Also find out what is the best time to drink coffee.
Coffee or orange juice first?
Whichever you like best is what you will probably choose to drink first thing in the morning. The golden rule is to avoid excesses: one small cup of strong coffee (black coffee or espresso) or coffee with milk or one medium-sized glass of freshly made orange juice are enough. The food you will enjoy the rest of the day should ensure you meet your daily requirements of essential nutrients. If you do have coffee in the morning every day, remember to drink enough water later on to combat dehydration. If you have more than one cup, which is not ideal, try to compensate by drinking enough fluids throughout the day.
Also, mixing coffee and orange or other fruit juices may not be that good since it can cause diarrhea after breakfast or after eating. If you know you have a more sensitive stomach, it may be best to refrain from infelicitous combinations such as coffee and orange juice. Ideally, have water or a herbal tea of your liking. If you must have both, have one early in the morning with your breakfast and the other either before or during lunch.