The health benefits of oranges are often linked to the high amount of vitamin C present in this fruit and with good reasons. But there's much more to oranges than that!
Oranges are pretty much a nearly perfect fruit. Not only they're high in vitamin C and fiber, they're also rich in natural sugars for quick energy.
And because they come ready-wrapped in their own protective skin, you can eat them anywhere, anytime.
Vitamin C, of course, is one of the most important antioxidant on the planet, maintaining the health of the cells and helping to protect them against damage from destructive molecules known as free radicals, produced when oxygen is used by the body, and which are linked to cancer, DNA damage and ageing.
Although the orange is famous for its vitamin C content (60 to 80 mg per medium fruit), it actually has more than 170 cancer-fighting phytochemicals and 60 flavonoids, making it a complete package of health-promoting goodness.
Vitamin C has long been recognized as a powerful antioxidant. Yet the other compounds present in orange are even more powerful, proving that the health benefits of oranges don't come only from its vitamin C content.
"We measured the total antioxidant capacity of oranges and found that vitamin C only accounted for maybe 15 to 20% of the total activity" says Ronald L. Prior, a senior investigator for the USDA. "The other compounds in oranges turned out to be very strong antioxidants - anywhere from 3 to 6 times as potent as vitamin C."
Numerous studies trying to investigate where the health benefits of oranges come from have shown that citrus fruits lower the risk of many cancers. It's not a coincidence that oranges show up as foods most often eaten by those with low cancer rates.
In one study, those who ate the most oranges compared with those who ate the least had about half the risk of cancer in general, and in particular of the esophagus.
In a recent Swedish study, citrus fruits, including oranges, ranked tops (along with carrots) as foods most favored by people with the lowest rates of pancreatic cancer.
Oranges contain limonoids, flavonoids abundant in citrus fruit that account for the scent of fresh lemon and orange peels.
In laboratory tests with animals and human cells, these flavonoids have been shown to fight cancer of mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon.
A metabolic by-product of these limonoids called limonin remains in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours, helping to explain some of its ability to fight cancer cells.
Another flavonoid compound called limonene, has been found effective in blocking lung and breast cancer.
way that limonene acts on tumor cells or lesions is really interesting
and unique", says Michael Gould, PhD, professor of oncology and medical
physics at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison.
Essentially the compound gets cancer cells to self-destruct. It assists them in their own suicide.
Cancer drugs usually have very nasty side-effects. The powerful compounds present in oranges and other citrus fruits have shown all sorts of positive side-effects.
For example, scientists from the Agricultural Research Service are now investigating limonin's cholesterol-lowering ability.
Read more about Hesperidin and Citrus Flavonoids in one of my Newsletter articles.
Hesperidin is the predominant flavonoid in oranges and citrus fruits. It has the ability to strengthen the capillaries and has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, vasoprotective as well as anti-carcinogenic actions, and many of the benefits of oranges are attributed to this powerful flavonoid.
Hesperidin works together with vitamin C to combat cancer but it also protects the heart and fights infections.
Together these two powerful antioxidants also reduce the risk of stroke, lower high blood pressure, reduce inflammation, lower the dangerous LDL cholesterol and increase the levels of the healthful HDL cholesterol.
Read my Newsletter on Hesperidin to find out more on the health benefits of oranges.
Oranges also contain additional heart-health promoters, including blood pressure-lowering potassium, cholesterol-lowering pectin fibers and homocysteine-lowering folate.
Beta-cryptoxanthin is a carotenoid in oranges and mandarins that protects the heart and is also involved in the prevention of colon cancer.
Citrus fruits also contain calcium to promote strong bones and teeth.
One medium orange contains 3.4 g of fiber, which is another benefit of eating the whole fruit instead of just drinking the juice.
Oranges contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber, which include pectin, breaks down in the intestine to form a gel-like barrier in the small intestine. Studies show that it can help lower cholesterol as well as help control changes in blood sugar, critical for those with diabetes.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and it can relieve a host of intestinal problems, from constipation and hemorrhoids to diverticulosis.
Oranges are low in calories - one medium orange contains about
56kcal. They're low GI food, not causing any sudden rises in blood
glucose levels, which makes them ideal for people with diabetes and
great for everyone wanting longer-lasting energy.
The thing to remember is that a lot of these healthy compounds like the limonoids are found in the white stuff that surrounds the orange, or even in the peel.
The membranes between the segments of the fruit provide a good amount of pectin, a soluble dietary fiber that may help to control cholesterol levels.
Do you painstakingly take off the white part of the orange before eating it? Well, don't. Half of the orange's pectin is contained in the albedo, the inner white
spongy layer that lies right under the colorful part of the skin. So if you want to enjoy the health benefits of oranges to the full, don't be too neat when you eat it.
And if you want to make orange juice and your juicer is one of those powerhouses that can handle it, throw the whole fruit in, peel and all.
We must make a distinction between commercial, mass-produced orange juice and the real, freshly squeezed orange juice you can get at home or in some bars.
If you look at a carton or bottle of orange juice, you may find that the sugar content is huge and it doesn't hold a candle to the health benefits of the whole orange.
But freshly prepared orange juice has some advantages. Granted, it doesn't have the same amount of fiber as the whole fruit, but if it's done properly it can still retain most of the health properties of oranges.
In one study, University of Florida investigators tested the therapeutic value of orange juice in humans exposed to the rubella (German measles) virus. Half of the test subjects eliminated all citrus fruits from their diet as well as all vitamin supplements. The other half drank a daily liter of orange juice.
The conclusion: Drinking orange juice did combat the rubella infection by lessening symptoms in the respiratory tract and accelerating the appearance of rubella-fighting antibodies in the blood.
The researchers attributed the juice's therapeutic benefit to the vitamin C content as well as the other powerful compounds in oranges.
But in Canadian tests, orange juice bought at supermarkets did not display antiviral activity in test tubes.
So if you want to enjoy to the full the health benefits of oranges, please make sure your orange juice is as fresh as possible and it contains as much of the pulp as possible. If, as stated above, it contains some of the peel as well, even better.
As incredible as it may sound, there's much more to oranges than what I've mentioned on this page. Please, don't forget to read my newsletter on Hesperidin and you'll learn even more about the health benefits of oranges!
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