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Why Your Kid’s Morning OJ Is Basically Just Soda

Raise your hand if your first response when your kid turns into a snot-and-phlegm-producing machine is to pour them a tall glass of orange juice and launch into a parental spiel about the wonders of Vitamin C. Congratulations, that gallon of Tropicana you keep in the fridge for these moments is one of more than 500 million sold annually, presumably plenty of it to guys like you — who are all the latest suckers in a food scam that dates back to the 1920s.

That’s when Dr. Elmer McCollum began a health crusade to educate the public on the dangers of a vitamin-deficient diet. McCollum did important work that earned him the title of “Hero Of Public Health” from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health, but less than scrupulous citrus producers of the day, like Sunkist, latched on to the health scare and began pumping out gallons of OJ and marketing it as a “fresh-frozen” and affordable source of Vitamin C. While technically correct, their production of the stuff — a method that’s largely the same today as it was then — involves stripping the juice of oxygen, which removes the vitamins and leaves tons of natural sugar, and then adding calorie-dense packages to reintroduce flavor and vitamins. The upside is a shelf-stable drink that can last a year without spoiling. The downside is that you homespun cold remedy is basically the same as soda: One cup of commercial orange juice has about 111 calories, 21 grams of sugar, and .5 grams of fiber. One cup of soda averages 97 calories, 23 grams of sugar, and no fiber.

Credit: Once Upon A Time / Flickr

And while oranges are technically an okay source for the Vitamin C that helps your kid’s cold symptoms, the amount in commercial OJ after all that processing is way too little to make much of a difference. For a truly Vitamin C-packed breakfast, try feeding them bell peppers, kale, or broccoli. And, when they throw all of that in your face, spring for the one kind of orange juice you know hasn’t been messed with by Big Food — the kind you squeeze yourself.

[H/T]: The Atlantic