What It Means When You're Craving Orange Juice

Orange juice is a breakfast staple in many households, and with good reason. According to Healthline, every 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains a good assortment of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C (which can help with everything from upping your immunity to wound healing), folate (which is good for DNA synthesis and red blood cell breakdown), potassium (an essential electrolyte used by the body tissues to regulate blood pressure and keep fluids in homeostasis, per Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), and even a little protein. Orange juice is also known to be high in antioxidants, keep kidney stones at bay by balancing PH, and improve heart health, per Health.

Given all of its benefits, it's unsurprising that you sometimes crave it when you're stressed, sick, or have a change in your gut health. Find out more about food cravings, as well as the possible explanations why you might specifically want a glass of orange juice.

Stress can lead to orange juice cravings

There are a lot of different reasons why a food craving could strike, like boredom or deprivation. Erin Morse, chief clinical dietitian at UCLA Health, told WebMD, "Hunger is the need for food for fuel, for nutrition, for all the good things that our bodies and our brains need. [Cravings are] our bodies are telling us that we want something to eat." As it turns out, wanting a tall glass of OJ could be your body telling you it's dealing with stress. 

Orange juice might be rich in vitamins and minerals, but it's also full of sugar, which plunges into the blood quickly. When you're feeling stressed or dealing with chronic stress, that sugar rush makes your body happy, which is why high-sugar foods are sometimes called comfort foods. The need for comfort foods like OJ during times of stress can be attributed to high cortisol and insulin levels, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Furthermore, 2018 research in Obesity found that stress pushes you to have more cravings and reward-driven eating and drinking due to the increase in ghrelin, the hunger hormone. 

Moreover, 2023 research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences showed that drinking sugary drinks helped reduce stress in mice, but also made them binge eat food. In other words, stress likely plays a role when it comes to sudden urges for OJ during deadlines (but be careful not to drink too much, as it can lead to weight gain). 

Sick bed cravings for orange juice

You woke up this morning with a stuffy nose and tiredness. A strange craving for OJ overtakes you, and before you know it, you're gulping down a big swig. 

According to WebMD, the antioxidants in vitamin C are what your immune system craves when it comes to the common cold. And it works for many: About 8% of adults and 14% of children said bye-bye to their colds faster when they took vitamin C daily. Researchers also observed a 50% reduction in the risk of cold infection for individuals in peak physical condition (e.g., marathon runners) taking vitamin C daily. As Dr. Silvia Robalino, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, explained to Health, "Vitamin C has a role in sustaining the integrity of the immune system and supporting the function of many immune cells."

Your sick bed cravings can also be due to the added stress on your body and wanting comfort food. While orange juice has vitamin C, it might just be the sugary sweetness or the way the cool drink soothes your dry tongue that's making you crave it, per Why PBS.

Orange juice cravings could be due to gut bacteria

You can't quite put your finger on it, but something is different, and you need a bit of sweet, sugary orange juice. But you're neither sick nor stressed. In this case, your craving might have something to do with your gut health. 

Your body becomes accustomed to certain gut bacteria to help promote digestion. Research published in BioEssays in 2014 states that the gut microbiota of each individual is unique and a cause for cravings and eating patterns. For example, high-carb diets can mean lots of Prevotella in the gut, while certain fats can make Bacteroidetes flourish. Those microbes within the gut can initiate food cravings and dissatisfaction to increase their fitness, even when it's bad for you. Therefore, your gut microorganisms make you crave OJ by the gallon, while your sister's gut microbiota could be why she craves chocolate by the bag.  

Your guts might make you more predisposed to crave orange juice, but that doesn't mean you need to give in, per The Conversation. Introducing probiotics and prebiotics into your body can help regulate the microbiota in your gut (and thus curb those cravings).