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5 Reasons Why Pregnant Women Should Drink Orange Juice

Reasons Pregnant Women Should Drink Orange Juice

Orange juice is not just safe for pregnant women, it's a must in their diet. Your morning glass of orange juice can deliver a lot of vitamin C to boost your immunity, protect you from free radicals, and enhance iron absorption, along with a host of other antioxidants. It also has folate which helps prevent neural tube defects and potassium which maintains optimal blood pressure. Choose fresh juice over packaged ones, and avoid OJ if you have diabetes.

Pregnancy comes with a lot of rules for your diet – eat this, not that! Besides foods that are strictly prohibited for would-be mothers, some healthy foods may also need to be avoided as they can aggravate common pregnancy problems like heartburn and acid reflux. Since orange is a citrus fruit and may cause heartburn, a lot of pregnant women ask whether it’s safe to drink orange juice during pregnancy. The answer is a definite “yes.” Taken in moderation, orange juice is not just safe for pregnant women, it has many health benefits and is needed in the diet. Here’s why.

1. Orange Juice Offers A Lot Of Vitamin C

While vitamin C is essential during pregnancy, supplementing with high doses to the tune of over 2000 mg can be harmful. But whole foods do not pose such risk. So get the major part of your C from whole foods.

If orange juice is known for anything, it’s the vitamin C! An 8 oz serving of orange juice has 124 mg vitamin C, which is 1.45 times more than the 85 mg you require during pregnancy.1 Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant your body needs to keep your immune system up and running. It provides protection against external pathogens as well as free radicals within the body. During pregnancy, your body generates more free radicals and hence needs more antioxidants to counter damage to your cells as well as to your fetus. This is why you are advised to load up on green veggies and fresh fruits.

2. Orange Juice Enhances Iron Absorption

Pregnancy comes with an increased demand for iron thanks to the increase in the number of blood vessels. The daily requirement of iron jumps from 18 mg to 27 mg, and you need to be especially careful to meet your iron needs and stave off deficiency in the later stages of pregnancy. A lack of iron in the diet can have consequences like anemia, preterm delivery, and poor development of the baby. While prenatal supplements contain iron, it’s best to get the nutrient from food sources. But while heme iron found in animal meat is easily absorbed by your body, for pregnant women, eating meat sources of iron every day is not advisable.2

This is where oranges and other vitamin C-rich foods could help. Vitamin C has been found to help enhance iron absorption from vegetarian sources of iron.3 So when you have your spinach or asparagus, have a glass of orange juice too.4

3. Orange Juice Offers Folate

Orange juice can also contribute to your folate or vitamin B9 intake. An 8 oz serving has 72 mcg, while a single fresh orange has 26 mcg.5 Considering that during pregnancy, your daily requirement of folate increases from 400 mcg to 600 mcg, 8 oz orange juice can give you 12% of your daily requirement. Of course, this has to be supplemented with other folate-rich foods and folic acid (synthetic form of folate) supplements.

Folate or vitamin B9 is essential in the early stages of pregnancy for proper development of the fetus. A folate deficiency leads to neural tube defects that cause birth defects in the brain and spinal cord, like spina bifida. Adequate folate intake decreases the risk of neural tube defects by 70 percent.6 Low folate intake can cause preterm delivery, low birth weight, and delayed growth as well as miscarriage and preeclampsia.7 It has been seen to affect the child’s emotional development too.8 Since folate is required at a stage in the pregnancy when the woman herself may not be aware of her pregnancy, all food grains in the US are fortified with folic acid.

4. Orange Juice Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

Orange juice is also a good source of potassium, with an 8 oz serving offering 496 mg potassium, which is about 10% of your daily requirement. Potassium is essential for healthy heart function, fluid balance, and digestion. It also regulates your blood pressure and prevents hypertension, which is essential to prevent preeclampsia, low birth weight, and preterm delivery.9 10 On top of this, a glass of orange juice has negligible amounts of sodium, giving it a reputation for maintaining heart health. That apart, oranges contain an antioxidant known as hesperidin, which has been found to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.11

5. Orange Juice Offers Antioxidants

Beside vitamin C, oranges have several carotenoids like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin, among which the latter is present in the largest amount – 416 mcg in an 8 oz serving. Beta-carotene has been established as a potent antioxidant that offers protection against oxidative stress and inflammation. Lutein and xeazanthin found in it also help protect vision. Studies suggest that beta-cryptoxanthin is absorbed by the body even better than the other carotenoids. Like beta-carotene, it is converted into retinol or vitamin A inside the body. In addition, it is known to improve bone health and delay the onset of osteoporosis.12

Orange also has two other antioxidants called hesperidin and naringenin, both of which contribute to reducing inflammation and the risk of metabolic syndrome.13

Safety Notes

Orange juice is good for you if you don’t have a complicated pregnancy. If you buy packaged juice, choose a sugar-free, calcium-fortified variety. But it’s best to choose freshly squeezed orange juice over store-bought packaged ones, and a whole orange over a glass of juice. A whole orange offers quite a bit of fiber, which is typically strained out from the juice. Also try to include the zest of the orange since most of the antioxidants are found in the peel.

If you suffer from heartburn, lower the quantity or have the juice at a different time of day. But if you have gestational diabetes, it’s best to consult your doctor on whether you should have orange juice. An 8 oz serving has about 21 g of sugar, which is quite high, considering the recommended daily sugar consumption for women is capped at 25 g.14 This can worsen the condition and cause pregnancy complications.15

There’s no universal standard for the amount of orange juice that is good for pregnant women. Observe your body’s reaction to it and drink in moderation since despite its benefits, it has a substantial amount of sugar.

References   [ + ]

1. Vitamin C. Oregon State University.
2, 4. Iron. Oregon State University.
3. Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health.
5. Basic Report: 09206, Orange juice, raw. USDA.
6. Folic Acid: the Vitamin That Helps Prevent Birth Defects. New York State Department of Health.
7. Scholl, Theresa O., and William G. Johnson. “Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71, no. 5 (2000): 1295s-1303s.
8. Steenweg–de Graaff, Jolien, Sabine J. Roza, Eric AP Steegers, Albert Hofman, Frank C. Verhulst, Vincent WV Jaddoe, and Henning Tiemeier. “Maternal folate status in early pregnancy and child emotional and behavioral problems: the Generation R Study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 95, no. 6 (2012): 1413-1421.
9. Potassium. University of Maryland Medical Center.
10. High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
11. Testai, Lara, and Vincenzo Calderone. “Nutraceutical value of citrus flavanones and their implications in cardiovascular disease.” Nutrients 9, no. 5 (2017): 502.
12. Burri, Betty J., Michael R. La Frano, and Chenghao Zhu. “Absorption, metabolism, and functions of β-cryptoxanthin.” Nutrition reviews 74, no. 2 (2016): 69-82.
13. Alam, M. Ashraful, Nusrat Subhan, M. Mahbubur Rahman, Shaikh J. Uddin, Hasan M. Reza, and Satyajit D. Sarker. “Effect of citrus flavonoids, naringin and naringenin, on metabolic syndrome and their mechanisms of action.” Advances in Nutrition 5, no. 4 (2014): 404-417.
14. Full Report (All Nutrients): 45138760, FLORIDA’S NATURAL, 100% ORANGE JUICE WITH CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D, ORANGE, UPC: 016300165660. United States Department of Agriculture.
15. Dietary Recommendations for Gestational Diabetes. UCSF Medical Center.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.