Does Eating Oranges and Taking Vitamin C Have the Same Health Benefits?

Vitamin C Supplements VS. Orange Juice

Vitamin C supplements do not provide the same health benefits as drinking orange juice, according to science. Vitamin C is widely recognized as one of the most important essential nutrients for human health. This has led to a booming supplement industry that packages the isolated nutrient into fizzy powders, pills, tablets, and chewable gummies. But many have wondered if these supplements are just as good for you as getting vitamin C from natural whole food sources.

Vitamin C health benefits
Oranges vs. isolated vitamin C: Are they the same for your health? At least one study found that whole oranges, but not vitamin C supplements, protect your cells from damage.

In 2007 Italian scientists with the Division of Human Nutrition at the University of Milan, Italy put this question to the test. Their study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that getting your vitamin C from whole foods is more beneficial to your health than simply taking a supplement.

A Glass of Orange Juice Is Better Than Chewing a Vitamin C Tablet

The test involved seven healthy subjects who were each given three drinks: water fortified with 150 mg of vitamin C, blood orange juice containing 150 mg of vitamin C, and a sugar water solution with no vitamin C. The drinks were tested two week apart. Researchers collected blood samples from the subjects immediately before they drank the juice or solution and then again every hour for eight hours, and lastly 24 hours after consuming their test drink.

The health benefits of vitamin C are found in whole plant foods.
Homemade Blood Orange Juice (on vintage wooden background)

The scientists evaluated free radical damage to DNA after introducing hydrogen peroxide to the blood samples. Only the orange juice provided an important health benefit associated with vitamin C — protection agains DNA damage.

Vitamin C from whole foods beats vitamin C supplements in this study.
Blood tests revealed orange juice protected against cell damage, whereas isolated vitamin C did not.

“…the intake of a single portion of BOJ (blood orange juice) provided an early protection of MNBC against oxidative DNA damage; however, the protective effect of BOJ was not explained by vitamin C alone, thus other phytochemicals could be involved.”

This study suggests that it’s not just the isolated vitamin C that provides the protection to the body, but there is likely other micronutrients working together to defend our cells.

The take-home from the study is: skip the vitamin C powders, chewable, and sports drinks and sip on some orange juice instead. Or, eat your oranges. Whole plant foods contain the perfect cocktail of nutrients that work together in symphony to help you heal and keep you well.

Vitamin C in whole plant foods
SOURCE:
British Journal of Nutrition, "Orange juice vs vitamin C: effect on hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage in mononuclear blood cells."

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