The low-carbohydrate diet has been around for a long time now. But, about four or five years ago, the diet's popularity exploded. Tremendous numbers of individuals found it a great way to quickly take off those extra pounds. Everywhere one looked it was evident that lots of folks had jumped on the bandwagon.

Books galore on the subject began filling bookstores and book shelves everywhere. Many of the diet books contained lists of “carbohydrates” that should be avoided. Orange juice, along with other fruit juices, was frequently included on the “do not consume” list.

Grocery store isles were stocked with one new product after another catering to and energizing the new diet trend.  Restaurants soon began changing their menus to accommodate those on the diet. Products relatively high in carbohydrates began to slip in sales and OJ was among them. Pressured by the diet trend and slipping sales, some OJ processors began marketing “low-carbohydrate” OJ.

 But, the very best reason for drinking OJ, aside from its great taste, was seemingly being lost as too many consumers, dedicated to their low-carb weight loss program, began choosing other beverages.

Though OJ delivers about 24 grams of carbohydrates per eight-ounce serving, that is by no means the whole story.  

OJ is one of the most nutrient dense beverages which for many years has been widely recognized as one of the leading sources of Vitamin C.  But what is not as well know is that Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants that neutralizes free radicals (harmful elements naturally occurring in the body through environmental factors) to help fight tissue damage that can lead to diseases such as heart disease and cancer. One serving provides 72 milligrams of Vitamin C, in excess of the recommended daily allowance.

One eight-ounce serving of OJ also supplies 15 percent of the daily recommended allowance of Folate, 15 percent of Potassium, 10 percent of

Thiamin, 4 percent of Niacin, 6 percent of Vitamin B-6, and 6 percent of

Magnesium as well as more than 60 phytonutrients, many of them know as flavonoids, a class of natural antioxidants many scientists believe may help the body in its fight against aging, allergies, infection, cancer, ulcers and heart disease.

FACT: Drinking OJ is good for you – whether you're dieting or not.

But how many people know that? To communicate that fact to the consumer and combat declining sales, the Florida Citrus Commission and Florida Department of Citrus, lead by Executive Director Dan Gunter, made the decision to change the direction of its advertising campaign. A little over a year ago, the department introduced its new health and wellness message designed to reinforce the healthy attributes of drinking OJ.

There is always a lag time with advertising – the time it takes for the message to resonate sufficiently with the consumer to begin changing his behavior. That lag time has occurred and it would now appear that the health and wellness message is beginning to make a difference. After three years of a downward trend, OJ sales, as reported by ACNeilsen, are beginning to increase. Period over period increases occurred in the last three consecutive reporting periods vs. same time year ago levels.

And, there are others talking about the attributes of drinking OJ. Because, according to the American Heart Association, 13 million American suffer from some form of heart disease, Dr. Michael Roizen, M.D., author of the new book, YOU,  The Owner's Manual, offers advise on how to take care of your heart. He said, “Improving heart health does not need to be a complicated or labor-intensive process. Taking small, simple steps each day can improve or maintain heart health.”

Dr. Roizen has outlined five “HeartRites” to be done every day to improve heart health. (1). Breathe: Deep breathing exercises daily can reduce stress levels and may improve heart health. (2). Move: Taking the stairs, parking at the back of the parking lot and walking the dog can be added to an existing daily routine to improve cardiovascular health. (3). Drink OJ: Low blood pressure is the most important way to prevent heart disease; foods and beverages high in potassium aid in controlling blood pressure. Dr. Roizen suggests including two eight-ounce glasses of 100 percent OJ each day to fulfill the 800 milligrams daily potassium deficit the average American suffers from. (4). Floss: Recent studies show a correlation between gum disease and heart disease. Flossing every day will help prevent gun disease and in turn lower the risk of heart disease. (5). Sleep: Getting the right amount of sleep is important to a healthy heart. Studies show that sleep deprivation or too much sleep can increase your risk of heart disease by more than 35 percent. Getting six and one half to eight hours of sleep each day may make a heart significantly healthier.

So, have a glass of OJ, and drink to your health.

Karen McEver is the editor of the Florida Citrus Reporter, 863-294-3838. E-mail is fcrnan_k@msn.com.