Long recognized as a potent source of vitamin C, oranges are considered by most to be tasty, juicy, and all too familiar. The discoveries being made about the power of oranges to support heart health and prevent cancer, stroke, diabetes and other chronic ailments are bringing them and other citrus fruits into the limelight as crucial components of a healthy diet.
Oranges originated in Asia thousands of years ago and have become one of the most popular fruits the world over. Christopher Columbus brought orange seeds to the Caribbean Islands in the 15th century, and Spanish explorers then brought oranges to Florida in the next century. About 200 years later, Spanish missionaries brought oranges to California. Florida and California remain the primary producers of oranges in the United States.
Portable fruits, they are easy to eat and crucial to good health. They are easy to put in children’s lunch boxes and bags, and they are the perfect mid-day snack when you are craving something sweet. Oranges are also great flavor boosters when cooked with chicken or lean turkey breast.
Oranges are classified into two general categories: sweet and bitter. The sweet varieties are the most commonly consumed and popular varieties include valencia, jaffa, navel, and blood oranges. The blood orange is a hybrid species that is smaller in size and marked by red hues running throughout its flesh.
Bitter oranges are often used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest is used as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
Reasons To Eat Oranges
1. Oranges protect against cancer
Oranges contain a phytonutrient called limonene. Limonene stimulates our antioxidant detoxification enzyme system, helping to stop cancer before it begins. Oranges contain significant amounts of limonene in the peel and smaller quantities in the pulp. Limonene has been proven to help fight a number of varieties of cancer including that of the lung, skin, breast, stomach, and colon.
Vitamin C, abundantly available in oranges, also plays a role in fighting cancer. One study of Swiss men found that those who died of any type of cancer had vitamin C concentrations about 10 percent lower than those who died from other causes.
2. Oranges lower cholesterol
One cup of orange segments contain four grams of fiber, most of which is soluble fiber. Since they are full of soluble fiber, oranges help lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol in your gut and preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream. This reduces risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
3. Oranges strengthen immunity
Scientific studies show the abundance of polyphenols in oranges protects against viral infections. The vitamin C in oranges also protects cells in your body by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals cause chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease.
4. Oranges lower stroke risk
Oranges are rich in vitamin C, and several scientific studies found a high blood concentration of vitamin C is associated with a lower stroke risk. In one large study published in 2008, University of Cambridge researchers measured vitamin C levels in roughly 20,000 people and followed them for over a decade. The participants were divided into four groups based on vitamin C levels. The researchers found that those with the highest concentrations of the vitamin in their blood had a 42 percent lower stroke risk than those with the lowest concentrations.
5. Oranges regulate blood sugar levels
The orange has a glycemic index of 40. Anything under 55 is considered low. Therefore oranges will not spike your blood sugar and cause problems with insulin and weight gain as long as you do not eat too many at one time.
6. Oranges support heart health
Oranges are full of potassium, an electrolyte mineral responsible for helping the heart function well. When potassium levels get too low, you may develop an abnormal heart rhythm known as an arrhythmia.
7. Oranges regulate high blood pressure
The flavonoid hesperidin found in oranges helps regulate high blood pressure. Oranges also contain potassium and magnesium which help maintain blood pressure.
8. Oranges protect your vision
Oranges are rich in carotenoid compounds which are converted to vitamin A and help prevent macular degeneration as we age.
Putting It Into Practice
- Warm your day: Oranges added to oatmeal is a great way to start your day.
- Spice up your fruit salad: Be sure to include oranges in your next fruit salad. Mix orange slices, mango chunks, and strawberries to your fruits salad with a sprinkle of chili powder.
- Vibrant salad: Add orange slices, strawberries, and walnuts onto a bed of your favorite field greens for a salad that is sure to please.
- 100 percent juice: Just squeeze fresh oranges and enjoy. Keep in mind that the whole fruit is more nutritious than the juice, because it contains more fiber.
- Slice it or just peel and eat: Whatever your favorite way to eat an orange is, just take a bite into this delicious citrus fruit.
- Use the peel: Orange peel is both flavorful and healthy. If your recipe calls for orange zest, be sure to use organically grown oranges since conventionally grown fruits have pesticide residue on their skin and may also be artificially colored.