Orange is a citrus fruit that belongs to the family of Rutaceae, a flowering plant family which also includes lime, lemon, pomelo, grapefruit, and tangerine. It is believed to be native to the tropical regions of Asia, especially the China, India, and Southeast Asia. Today, oranges are grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
The orange is a round or oval fruit, which has an orange-colored skin and flesh. The edible portion of the fruit is known as the endocarp. It consists of a central fibrous core and a number of segments (carpels) filled with juice sacs, or juice vesicles, and covered with a waxy layer.
In general, oranges are divided into two broad categories: sweet orange (citrus sinensis) and bitter orange (citrus aurantium).
The sweet varieties have a sweet and juicy flesh, and are mostly commonly used for eating fresh and for juice. They can also be used as toppings on salads, mixed in marinades, sauces, and syrups. Popular varieties of sweet oranges include Valencia, Jaffa, and Navel oranges.
Bitter oranges, on other hand, have a bitter and dry flesh, but the peel of bitter orange is aromatic and flavorful, and can be used to make marmalades, candies and orange-flavored liqueurs.
Nutritional Value of Orange
Oranges are more than just delicious; they are low in calories, high in fiber, and contain many important nutrients that can support and promote your overall health.
Orange is well known for its vitamin C content which is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body cells from free radicals. In fact, one orange provides more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Oranges are also a good source of vitamin A, folate, thiamin, copper, and potassium.
Here are the nutrition facts for an orange fruit (131 g) :
- Calories: 62
- Carbohydrate: 15.4 g
- Protein: 1.2 g
- Dietary fiber: 3.1 g
- Vitamin A: 295 IU
- Vitamin C: 69.7 mg
- Folate: 39.3 mcg
- Thiamin: 0.1 mg
- Potassium: 237 mg
- Calcium: 52.4 mg
- Copper: 0.1 mg
In addition, they contain health-promoting compounds known as flavanones. Research suggests that these citrus phytochemicals may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial benefits.
Health Benefits of Oranges
1. Prevent cancer
Oranges contain D-limonene which has been shown to be effective in the prevention of cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and skin cancer. Vitamin C in oranges also acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals.
Several studies have shown the importance of antioxidants in preventing and inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumors .
Similarly, the fiber content of oranges can help prevent colorectal cancer by keeping the digestive system healthy.
2. Lower cholesterol
Oranges contain pectin, a soluble fiber that binds cholesterol in the gut, thereby preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Moreover, they contain a flavanone called hesperidin that has been found to lower cholesterol levels .
3. Lower blood pressure
Being rich in potassium, oranges are also helpful in lowering blood pressure. It helps lower blood pressure by reducing the effects of sodium. Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.
4. Protect against rheumatoid arthritis
Orange juice is a great source of vitamin C which has been shown to relieve arthritis pain and inflammation of the joints. Also, its phytonutrients zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin protect against oxidative damage that can result in inflammation.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice per day can assist in reducing the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis .
5. Strengthen immune system
The strong content of vitamin C in orange stimulates the production of white cells in our body, thus enhancing the immune system.
Moreover, oranges contain vitamin A, folate and copper, nutrients that assist vitamin C in keeping your immune system in tip-top shape.
The thiamin in orange is also effective in strengthening the immune system and enabling the body to protect itself from foreign invaders.
6. Prevent kidney stones
The high vitamin C present in oranges is excellent for kidney health too. It helps reduce the risk of developing calcium oxalate kidney stones by escalating the level of citrate in the urine. It also helps inhibit kidney stone formation by reducing the crystallization of uric acid.
In fact, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suggest that orange juice consumption may be more effective than other citrus juice in the prevention of kidney stones .
7. Decrease diabetes risk
Oranges have a low glycemic index which is beneficial for people with high blood sugar levels. Oranges are also high in soluble fiber that helps slow the absorption of sugar in the blood.
It’s important to eat the whole fruit rather than drink the juice. Studies have shown that eating fruits may lower diabetes risk but drinking fruit juice may raise it .
8. Prevent peptic ulcers
Being an excellent source of vitamin C, orange may help lower the risk of developing peptic ulcers. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, higher blood levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) could reduce incidence of Helicobacter pylori infection. H. pylori is a common bacteria that causes peptic ulcers .
9. Maintain eye health
Oranges are a good source of vitamin A which is essential for eyesight. It helps protect your eyes against age-related eye issues and supports the functioning of the cornea.
Furthermore, the vitamin C and all other antioxidants in orange juice can lessen the risks of developing cataracts and slow down the development of age-related macular degeneration.
10. Improve brain function
The folate contained in oranges promotes proper development of the brain’s neurotransmitter. Low levels of neurotransmitters are associated with anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
Oranges also contain polyphenols that play a significant role in the development of learning and memory functions.
11. Improve male fertility
Enriched with vitamin C, orange is beneficial for your sexual health by keeping your sperm healthy.
Antioxidant found in orange also helps in protecting the sperm from genetic damage which is the main cause of birth defects.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research says vitamin C supplementation helps boost testosterone levels and improves fertility in male rats exposed to stress .
Likewise, a 2010 study in Fertility and Sterility says vitamin C boosts nitric oxide production, which improves vasodilation and erections in men .
12. Maintain a healthy hair
Vitamin C found in orange helps to stimulate collagen production. Collagen is an essential component for the maintenance of healthy hair and skin.
If you suffer from hair loss, make sure to eat an orange every day to promote hair growth.
13. Maintain a healthy skin
The high vitamin C content in oranges makes them excellent for the skin. This antioxidant vitamin fights skin damage caused by sun exposure. Plus, through the formation of collagen, it improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles.
A study has found that higher vitamin C levels had an inverse relation with skin wrinkling, dryness, and aging .
14. Promote weight loss
Oranges are a fat-free, nutrient-dense food, making it an ideal food to include in your weight loss diet plan. They also have a high fiber content, which can keep you full longer, so you eat less.
15. Improve digestion
Digestive problems are often linked to insufficient stomach acidity and drinking orange juice can help increase the acidity within your stomach and promote better digestion. The high fiber content in oranges also aids in digestion and helps prevent constipation.
How to Select and Store Oranges
When buying oranges, look for ones that are firm, smooth and heavy for their size. Don’t use skin color as an indicator of flavor or ripeness because some oranges are artificially dyed to look more vibrant, so those with greenish hues can be just as tasty as bright orange ones, and avoid oranges that are soft or moldy.
You can store oranges at cool room temperature. Uncut oranges will keep for a week or so at room temperature and will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. To extend the shelf life of orange fruit, refrigerate it in a plastic bag.