Health Benefits of Oranges
With a very attractive color and round shape, amazing fragrance and tangy sweet-n-sour taste, orange is one of the most popular fruits in the world, not only for its flavor but also for its wonderful therapeutic properties.
It works as a great snack in itself and also is great when combined with other foods.
This round citrus fruit is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter and has a finely textured skin. Inside the skin, there is extremely juicy flesh. The skin ranges from very thick to very thin. Oranges are mostly available from winter throughout summer with a little variation in the seasons from variety to variety.
Oranges are of two types, sweet and bitter. Sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis) have varieties like Navel, Jaffa and Valencia, and a hybrid named blood orange, which is smaller in size, has red traces running across its flesh and is more aromatic in flavor. Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are usually used to make jams and marmalades, and also for flavoring liqueurs.
Oranges Health Benefits
Recent studies have shown that the healing properties of oranges are due to a wide range of phytonutrients they contain. These include citrus flavanones (which are flavonoids that contain molecules of naringenin and hesperetin), hydroxycinnamic acids, anthocyanins and various polyphenols.
Plus, oranges contain one more flavanone, the herperidin molecule, which is arguably considered as the most important flavanone and has been found to reduce cholesterol as well as high blood pressure in animal studies and to have potent anti-inflammatory properties. The most remarkable thing to remember is that the largest part of this phytonutrient is present in the peel and inner white pulp of the fruit, rather than its juicy pulp. Thus, this very beneficial nutrient is usually eliminated when oranges are processed into juice.
Immune Protection and Antioxidant Support
Almost everyone knows that oranges are full of vitamin C. But everyone should understand how important vitamin C is for health. This is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body, that deactivates free radicals and prevents damage in the aqueous environment outside as well as inside cells. Free radicals can cause damage to DNA inside cells that can lead to cancer. Particularly in body parts and systems where cellular turnover is quite fast, like digestive system, stopping DNA mutation means stopping cancer. Therefore a significant intake of vitamin C means reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Free radicals can also cause painful inflammation in other cellular structures since the body tries to remove the debris of damaged parts. This free radical damage is prevented by vitamin C and the severity of inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma is reduced.
Free radicals even bring about oxidation of cholesterol. And cholesterol sticks to the inside of the artery walls only after oxidation, thereby creating plaque that ultimately becomes so large that it can obstruct or even fully block blood flow causing a heart attack or stroke.
Because vitamin C can deactivate free radicals, it can stop the oxidation of cholesterol.
Vitamin C is also essential for proper functioning of immune system, it can prevent cold and help in preventing frequent ear infections.
Since oranges contain a healthy dose of vitamin C, they offer all these benefits of the vitamin.
Orange Juice is More Beneficial than Vitamin C Alone
Research by Italian scientists at the Division of Human Nutrition in the University of Milan, Italy, shows that taking vitamin C supplements is unable to offer the same protective benefits as that provided by orange juice.
The study was conducted on 7 healthy people who were given each of three drinks, with a gap of two weeks. The drinks were: orange juice consisting of 150mg of vitamin C, fortified water consisting of 150mg of vitamin C and a sugar-water solution consisting of no vitamin C. When blood samples of these subjects were studied it was found that the protective effect was seen only after they consumed orange juice, while it was not seen with the other two drinks.
The lead scientist of the study said that it seems that vitamin C is not the only compound responsible for antioxidant protection. Oranges contain vitamin C as a part of a matrix that contains several beneficial phytochemicals the function of which has not yet been understood.
All in all, to get the best DNA protection, people should avoid vitamin C-fortified bottled beverages and instead should drink a glassful of real, freshly extracted orange juice, or even better, eat an orange.
Protection Against Cardiovascular Disease
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO), an Australian research group, published a 248-page report named “The Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits” in December 2009 that reviews 48 studies showing that a diet containing a large number of citrus fruits offers a statistically remarkable protective effect against certain types of cancer, such as oro-pharyngeal/laryngeal (mouth, pharynx and larynx), esophageal and abdominal cancers. Studies showed that the risk of these cancers was reduced by 40%-50%.
As reported recently by the World Health Organization in “Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases”, a diet rich in citrus fruits protects the person against cardiovascular disease because of the ingredients in citrus fruits such as folate which is essential for reducing the amounts of homocysteine, a cardiovascular risk factor, potassium which helps reduce blood pressure, thus protecting against cardiac arrhythmias and stroke, and flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C in these fruits. All these have been found to have beneficial cardiovascular effects.
Reviews of the CSIRO report showed that an additional serving of vegetables and fruits per day lowered the risk of stroke by 4% and it increased by 5-6 times for citrus fruits thereby reaching a 19% decrease in the risk for stroke from having an additional serving of citrus fruit per day. Citrus fruit consumption has shown positive effects in numerous diseases including diabetes, asthma, gingivitis, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, cholera, cataracts, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive impairment, ulcerative colitis and optimal lung function.
The CSIRO Report finally states that citrus fruits being nutrient-rich, low-fat foods with a low glycemic index, offer protection against overweightness and obesity, that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers and stroke and increase symptoms of other conditions such as arthritis.
An orange contains more than 170 different phytonutrients and over 60 flavonoids, several of which have been found to provide anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and blood clot preventing properties along with potent antioxidant effects.
The abundance of polyphenols in oranges has been found to have anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects.
Promoting Optimal Health
Certain compounds in citrus fruits known as limonoids have been found to fight cancers of skin, mouth, stomach, colon, breast and lung. Researchers from the US Agricultural Research Service have proved that our body can easily absorb and use a very long-acting limonoid named limonin which exists in citrus fruits at approximately the same level as that of vitamin C. Limonin in citrus fruits is present in the form of limonin glucoside wherein limonin is bonded with a sugar (glucose) molecule. This compound is easily digested by our bodies, breaking apart the sugar and releasing limonin.
The bioavailability as well as persistence of limonin may explain why limonoids in citrus fruits are strong anti-carcinogens that may constantly inhibit cancerous cells from proliferating. As compared to limonin, other natural anti-carcinogens act for much less time.
Possible Cholesterol-reducing Benefits
The possible cholesterol-reducing effects of limonin are being studied more by the ARS team. Laboratory tests have shown that liver cells of humans produce less apo B in presence of limonin. Apo B is a structural protein which is a component of the LDL cholesterol and is required for the production, binding and transport of LDL. Thus higher amount of apo B indicates higher levels of LDL cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Orange Peel
Citrus fruit peels contain a type of compounds known as polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs). These have the power to reduce cholesterol more effectively than certain prescription medications and without side effects as per a study conducted by researchers from the US and Canada. The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. PMFs didn’t show any effect on the amount of the good HDL cholesterol.
While many citrus fruits consist of PMFs, the most common PMFs, nobiletin and tangeretin are found in the peels of oranges and tangerines. PMFs are present in the juices of these fruits too but in much smaller amounts. The amount is so low that one should drink around 20 glasses of juice every day to get a dose of PMFs comparable in humans to that given to the animals. Nevertheless, grating around a tablespoon of the peel of an orange or tangerine and adding it to tea, yogurt, salads and salad dressings, soups, or hot rice, buckwheat or oatmeal may help achieve some cholesterol-reducing advantages.
Great Source of Fiber
Health benefits of oranges are highlighted by their fiber content that has been found to lower high cholesterol levels thereby helping in the prevention of atherosclerosis. Fiber also keeps blood sugar levels under control; thus oranges are a great snack for diabetic people. Plus the natural blood sugar, fructose, in oranges can prevent rising of blood sugar levels after eating. Fiber in oranges can attack carcinogenic chemicals and drive them away from colon cells thereby providing protection from colon cancer in yet another way. Moreover, fiber in oranges may help in lowering the diarrhea or constipation in those with irritable bowel syndrome.
Potential Prevention of Kidney Stones
Orange juice is an excellent way to reduce the risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones. According to a study released in the British Journal of Nutrition, when women consumed ½ to 1 liter of orange, apple or grapefruit juice every day, their citric acid excretion and urinary pH level increased, thus remarkably reducing their risk of producing calcium oxalate stones.
Prevention of Ulcers and Reduction in the Risk of Stomach Cancer
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a study wherein scientists analyzed data from more than 6,000 people. Those with the highest levels of vitamin C in their blood had a 25% lower incidence of Helicobacter pylori infection. H. pylori is a bacterium that causes peptic ulcers and increases the risk of stomach cancer. Though it’s not sure whether H. pylori reduces levels of vitamin C in blood or whether high blood levels of vitamin C protect against infection, eating an orange or having a glassful of orange juice every day may prevent gastric ulcers.
Promoting Respiratory Health
Eating foods packed with beta-cryptoxanthin, which is a red-orange carotenoid present in high amounts in oranges, papaya, pumpkin, corn, peaches, red bell peppers and tangerines, may remarkably reduce one’s risk of lung cancer. In a study published in the “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention” in September 2003 there is a review of the data gathered from more than 60,000 people in Shanghai, China and it states that individuals consuming most cryptoxanthin-rich foods reduced lung cancer risk by 27%.
Protection Against Rheumatoid Arthritis
As per a new research released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking a glass of freshly extracted orange juice every day can remarkably reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Data was also collected from the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer Incidence (EPIC)-Norfolk study that included more than 25,000 subjects and it was seen that subjects taking the highest intake every day of the carotenoids, beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin had significantly reduced the risk of rheumatoid arthritis as compared to those having the least amounts of these phytonutrients. Those taking the highest intake of zeaxanthin reduced the risk of the disease by 52% whereas those taking the highest intake of cryptoxanthin reduced the risk by 49%. This intake can be taken simply by taking a glass of fresh orange juice every day!
Oranges contain a high amount of vitamin A. This vitamin consists of carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin which can prevent development of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that is incurable and blurs central vision. The American Optometric Association states that vitamin C can reduce the risk of cataracts and decelerate the development of macular degeneration.
Vitamin C in orange helps reduce gum inflammation. Oranges strengthen the tissues and blood vessels that hold teeth and gums. Vitamin C deficiency can reduce production of collagen resulting into bleeding gums as well as poor healing of wounds. By consuming oranges, one can overcome vitamin C deficiency.
Oranges Nutritional Profile
1 fresh medium-sized orange (131 grams) contains:
|- Vitamin A: 294.75 IU (International Units)
- Vitamin B1: 0.11 mg: 9% DRI (Dietary Reference Intake)/DV (Daily Value)
- Vitamin B2: 0.05 mg: 4% DRI/DV
- Vitamin B3: 0.37 mg: 2% DRI/DV
- Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg: 5% DRI/DV
- Biotin: 1.31 mcg
- Choline: 11.00 mg: 4% DRI/DV
- Folate: 39.30 mcg: 10% DRI/DV
- Vitamin C: 69.69 mg: 93% DRI/DV
- Vitamin E: 0.35 IU
- Fiber: 3.14 gm: 11% DRI/DV
- Folate: 39.30 mcg: 10% DRI/DV
- Copper: 0.06 mg: 7% DRI/DV
- Calcium: 52.40 mg: 5% DRI/DV
- Pantothenic Acid: 0.33 mg: 7% DRI/DV
- Potassium: 237.11mg: 5% DRI/DV
|- Chloride: 3.93 mg
- Chromium: 0.39 mcg
- Iron: 0.13 mg: 1% DRI/DV
- Manganese: 0.03 mg: 1% DRI/DV
- Magnesium: 13.10 mg: 3% DRI/DV
- Phosphorus: 18.34 mg: 3% DRI/DV
- Selenium: 0.65 mcg: 1% DRI/DV
- Zinc: 0.09 mg: 1% DRI/DV
- Carbohydrates: 15.30 gm: 7% DRI/DV
- Protein: 1.23 gm: 2% DRI/DV
- Fat (Total): 0.16 gm: 0% (Monounsaturated Fat: 0.03 gm, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.03 gm, Saturated Fat: 0.02 gm)
- Dietary Fiber: 3.14 gm: 11% (Insoluble Fiber: 1.08 gm, Soluble Fiber: 2.07 gm)
- Calories: 61.57: 3% DRI/DV
- Total Sugars: 12.25 gm
- Water: 113.64 gm
Oranges are overall great for anyone’s health. But as anything in excess is dangerous, oranges in excess can be harmful too. For example, eating too many oranges can excessively increase your fiber intake which can cause abdominal cramps and even diarrhea. Though oranges are very low in calories, eating many of them in a day can cause weight gain. Too much intake of vitamin C (more than 2,000 mg/day) may cause nausea, diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, insomnia, headaches, vomiting, kidney stones or cramps.
People on beta-blockers should not eat too many oranges because beta-blockers increase potassium levels and potassium-rich foods like oranges can cause increased levels of potassium in the body. This can be a problem for those whose kidneys are not fully functional since the additional potassium won’t be removed totally from the body.
Long Story Short: Oranges are great fruit for juicing and having an orange or two from time to time can help you feel better and healthier.
Freshly juiced oranges cannot be compared with commercial orange juices, regardless if you are juicing them with citrus, centrifugal or masticating juicer - just drink them as fresh as possible.