Can orange juice be sugar free?

Orange juice is a popular breakfast drink that many people enjoy for its refreshing taste and dose of vitamin C. However, regular orange juice contains a significant amount of natural sugar, with a 250ml glass providing around 20g of sugar. For people watching their sugar intake or with diabetes, this can be concerning. So an obvious question arises: can you make orange juice sugar free?

What gives orange juice its natural sugar content?

The sugar in orange juice comes from two main sources:


This is the sugar naturally present in oranges. An orange contains around 2-3 grams of fructose per ounce of juice. Fructose is a simple sugar with the same chemical formula as the sugar we use as table sugar (sucrose). However, it has a slightly different chemical structure.


Some of the sugar in orange juice comes from sucrose. This is the typical table sugar, composed of glucose and fructose bonded together. A fresh orange contains very little sucrose. However, some sucrose is added during the processing and pasteurization of commercially sold orange juice for flavor enhancement.

So in summary, the sugars naturally present in oranges, mainly fructose, account for most of the sugar content in orange juice. Additional sucrose may be added during processing.

Why can’t you simply remove the sugar from orange juice?

You might think it would be easy to remove the sugar from orange juice to make a sugar free version. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

There are two main reasons why the sugar cannot be easily removed:

Sugar is naturally present

Since fructose sugar occurs naturally in oranges, it would be impossible to extract the juice without also extracting the fructose intrinsic to the orange flesh. Short of genetically modifying oranges to not contain fructose, there is no way to remove the sugar already present in the fruit.

Sugar affects taste

The sugar content significantly impacts the taste of orange juice. It provides characteristic sweetness and flavors that we associate with orange juice. Attempting to remove sugar would dramatically affect the expected flavor profile. The resulting sugar free juice would likely taste unpalatable and artificial.

So for both technical and flavor reasons, simply removing existing sugar from orange juice is not a viable option.

What about using sugar substitutes?

If you can’t remove the natural sugars, what about adding non-caloric sugar substitutes instead to make a zero or low calorie orange juice?

This is possible, but also has some challenges:


Non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose don’t taste exactly like sugar. They often leave an artificial aftertaste. When used at the high concentrations needed to match the sweetness of orange juice, the flavor is noticeably different and inferior.


Sugar affects the viscosity and mouthfeel of orange juice. Removing sugar makes the juice thinner. Sugar substitutes don’t have the same physical properties in beverages.


In the United States, the FDA has rules about what can be called “orange juice”. Juice containing non-nutritive sweeteners cannot be labeled as such, and must be called “orange drink” or a “juice drink”. This may make the product less appealing to consumers.

So sugar substitute-sweetened orange juice is an option, but it comes with some limitations. The different taste and mouthfeel, plus labeling restrictions, present challenges.

What about fresh-squeezed juice with no added sugars?

If concentrations of fructose are a concern, what about drinking freshly squeezed orange juice with no added sugars? Will this be lower in sugar content?

Unfortunately fresh-squeezed juice is still relatively high in sugar, for two reasons:

Oranges are still high in fructose

Even if you squeeze juice right from fresh oranges, each orange still contains around 2-3 grams of fructose per ounce of juice. So the juice is still high in fructose sugar, even without any added sugars.

Serving sizes

To get a glass of orange juice, it takes around 3-4 oranges. When you use this many oranges, the total fructose per serving still adds up to around 15-20 grams.

So fresh squeezed juice from oranges contains slightly less sugar than commercially processed juice with added sucrose. But it is still too high in sugar to be considered truly “low sugar”.

What about diluting regular orange juice?

If we can’t significantly change the sugar content of orange juice, what about just diluting normal orange juice with water to lower the concentration of sugar per serving?

This approach can work to some degree, however there are still limitations:


Significantly diluting orange juice alters its flavor, making it watery and weak. There is a limit to how much it can be diluted before it no longer tastes satisfying.


Even when diluted, orange juice can still contribute extra calories that people with diabetes or weight concerns may want to avoid.

Portion sizes

Diluting juice means you need to drink larger portions to get the orange flavor. This makes it less practical as a beverage.

So diluting juice somewhat can reduce sugar and calories, but heavily diluted juice is unappealing as a drink.

Low sugar orange juice products

There are some commercial orange juice products on the market that claim to be low in sugar. How are these products made?

Here are some of the methods used:

Juice blends

Some low sugar orange juices mix in other types of juice, like apple, pineapple, or grapefruit. By blending orange juice with lower sugar juices, the total sugar content per serving is reduced.

Water and flavorings

Other products reduce calories by diluting orange juice with water, then enhancing the flavor with orange oils and essences. However, the orange content is lower.

Alternative sweeteners

Some low sugar orange juices use non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia or sucralose to provide sweetness with fewer calories. As mentioned earlier, this affects the taste and labeling.

Nutrition facts

When evaluating these low sugar orange juice products, it’s important to read the nutrition facts label carefully. Some still have 10-15 grams of sugar per serving, so are not necessarily very low in sugar, just lower compared to regular orange juice.

So in summary, there are ways to make orange juice marginally lower in sugar content, but no way to make a true, naturally sweetened “sugar free” orange juice.

Can diabetics drink orange juice?

For people with diabetes watching their sugar intake, is it ok for them to drink orange juice in moderation?

This is a controversial question without a clear consensus, but here are some guidelines:

Read nutrition labels

Like anyone, people with diabetes should read nutrition facts and be aware of total carb and sugar intake from orange juice.

Control portions

Limit portion size to 4-6 oz, not an entire glass. This controls sugar exposure from orange juice.

Avoid on an empty stomach

Drink orange juice with a balanced meal, not first thing in the morning when insulin needs are higher.

Coordinate with medication

Discuss orange juice intake with your doctor to coordinate properly with diabetes medications.

Monitor blood sugar

Carefully monitor your blood sugar levels when drinking orange juice to learn your personal tolerance.

So in moderation under the right conditions, some diabetics may be able to occasionally enjoy small amounts of orange juice. But caution is needed.


To summarize, orange juice cannot be made completely sugar-free due to its inherent natural sugar content. The best options for reduced sugar orange juice include:

– Freshly squeezed orange juice with no added sugars
– Diluted orange juice mixed with water
– Low sugar commercial blends using juice combinations or sweeteners

People with diabetes and sugar concerns should be very cautious about drinking orange juice, even when choosing low sugar varieties. Moderation is key, along with careful blood sugar monitoring.

When it comes to sugar content, it’s best to think of orange juice as an occasional treat food rather than a daily drink option. Ultimately, the only truly “sugar free” orange juice is no orange juice at all. But with careful portion control, even those with diabetes should be able to enjoy the great taste of orange juice from time to time without spiking their blood sugar.

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