When the dark days of winter set in, the bright faces of citrus fruits are there to cheer us up. Citrus fruits are not only beautiful to look at but are loaded with uplifting aromas and plenty of measurable health benefits.
What are citrus fruits?
Citrus fruits are native to Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, and possibly Southeast Asia. They grow on flowering trees and shrubs and are known by their leathery rind and white pith. These fruits are cultivated in both tropical and subtropical climates all over the world, including Spain, Brazil, China, Mexico, India, and the United States.
Although you can find many kinds of citrus fruits all year, the peak season for oranges and grapefruits in the Northern Hemisphere is between the middle of December and April.
Here are some popular citrus varieties:
- Sweet oranges – navel, blood orange, cara cara, and valencia
- Mandarins – clemintine, tangelo, satsuma
- Limes – persian, key lime, kaffir
- Lemons – eureka, meyer
- Grapefruit – white, ruby red, oroblanco
- Other – citron, sudachi, yuzu, pomelo
Why should I eat citrus fruits?
As already mentioned, citrus fruits are as nutritious as they are delicious. Here are just a few surprising benefits of citrus fruits.
Citrus fruits are a great source of fiber
Fiber has some tremendous health benefits, including improving digestive health and helping with weight loss. Compared to other fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits have a higher ratio of soluble to insoluble fiber. Oranges, in particular, are quite high in soluble fiber, which helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
It is recommended that you consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,00 calories you eat. Only 4% of men and 13% of women in the US get the amount of fiber that they need. Citrus fruits contain quite a bit of fiber. For instance, just one cup of orange segments contains four grams of this critical nutrient.
Citrus fruits may help reduce risk of kidney stones
If you have ever had kidney stones, you know just how painful they can be. These mineral cysts can form when urine becomes very concentrated or when you have elevated levels of stone-forming minerals in your urine. There is also a type of stone that is caused by low levels of citrate in urine.
There are several fruits and vegetables that can elevate the levels of citrate in the urine, which reduces the risk of kidney stones. Drinking citrus juice and eating citrus fruits can offer a natural alternative to potassium citrate supplements.
Data from American eating habits over the last forty years indicate that people who eat fewer citrus fruits are more likely to develop kidney stones.
Flavonoids in citrus help prevent weight gain
In a study by Western University in London, Ontario, it was discovered that a tangerine flavonoid called Nobiletin reduces the risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Researchers looked at two groups of mice and the effects of Nobiletin on their long term health.
One group of mice was given a purified, powdered form of Nobiletin, while the other group was not. The mice who did not receive it became obese, developed fatty liver issues, atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes, while none of those issues were developed by the mice who had been given Nobiletin.
Although the flavonoid in this study was in an isolated form, you can easily get it straight from the natural source by eating or juicing fresh tangerines.
Citrus may reduce stroke risk
In a Nurses’ Health Study, it was revealed that women who ate high quantities of flavanone from oranges, grapefruits, and their juices had a 19 percent decrease in their risk for blood-clot related stroke. Data was compiled from 69,622 individuals every four years for a 14-year-period using food-frequency questionnaires.
During this time, researchers tracked the correlation between the 1,803 victims of stroke and their corresponding dietary intake of citrus compared to participants who did not suffer from stroke.
Oranges are one of the best sources of flavonoids, and they can be obtained from drinking juice as well, but beware of the added sugar in most commercial juices – your best bet is to juice your own instead. However, note that eating the whole fruit offers more benefits (such as fiber) than drinking orange juice.
Citrus fruits may slow the growth of cancer
A Japanese study found that the juice and pulp of the satsuma mandarin were successful at inhibiting cancer tumor growth. The beta-cryptoxanthin and hesperidin from the mandarins were linked to the suppression of tumor growth in the tongue, lung, and colon.
It is thought that the multitude of flavonoids in citrus fruits act as antioxidants and offer protection against cancer. In addition, citrus fruits block the formation of new cancer and make carcinogens inactive.
Citrus may improve eye health
Research from the Oregon Health & Science University established a connection between vitamin C and the proper functioning of nerve cells in the retina of the eye. This finding led researchers to speculate that because the retina is a part of the central nervous system, vitamin C may be important in proper brain function as well.
Not to mention, the powerful antioxidant properties of vitamin C are key players in inhibiting free radical damage to the body. Vitamin C captures free radicals and neutralizes them before they can cause cellular damage.
Eating more citrus may help you stay calm and relaxed
Are you stressed out? Lemons (and mangos, for that matter) contain an aromatic compound called linalool that has been shown to reduce tension by decreasing gene activity and altering blood chemistry. In a Japanese study, lab rats were exposed to stressful conditions with or without the smell of linalool. For the rats who inhaled linalool, their stress levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes were reduced back to near-normal levels.
-The Alternative Daily