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Oranges: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts

oranges

Oranges and clementines — the juicy citrus fruits that are in season during wintertime — are vitamin goldmines. They contain vitamin C and the pigment beta-cryptoxanthin, both of which may act as antioxidants, according to 2005 study.
Researchers from the United Kingdom found that even a modest increase in fruit and vegetables containing beta-cryptoxanthin and vitamin C, such as one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice each day, may protect against inflammatory joint diseases.
Credit: Magdalena Zurawska | shutterstock

Sweet, juicy oranges are a delicious and healthy snack or addition to a meal. Well-known for their vitamin C content, oranges also contain high levels of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin B, folic acid, phytonutrients, flavonoids and antioxidants. Oranges also contain choline, zeaxanthin and carotenoids. A whole orange contains only about 85 calories and has no fat, cholesterol or sodium.

Oranges may boost your immune system, improve your skin, and are good for heart health, cholesterol levels, and other issues. Oranges may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers, respiratory diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, and kidney stones.

Orange juice is also packed with nutrients but does not contain the fiber of a whole orange. Orange pith, the white substance between the peel and the flesh, is high in fiber. Furthermore, it is easy to consume more calories when drinking orange juice rather than eating an orange.

Here are the nutrition facts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:

Nutrition Facts

Serving size:
1 medium orange
(5.5 oz / 154 g)

Calories 80
  Calories from Fat 0

*Percent Daily Values (%DV)
are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Amt per Serving %DV*   Amt per Serving %DV*  
Total Fat 0g 0%   Total Carbohydrate 19g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%     Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sodium 0mg 0%      Sugars 14g  
Potassium 250mg 7%   Protein 1g  
Vitamin A 2%   Calcium 6%
Vitamin C 130%   Iron 0%


Health benefits of oranges

Immune system

Most citrus fruits have a good deal of vitamin C, and oranges have high levels even among their tangy brethren. Vitamin C protects cells by neutralizing free radicals, which can lead to chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Not only may oranges help reduce the risk of chronic conditions, but they also may boost your immunity when dealing with everyday viruses and infections like the common cold.

Skin

Vitamin C aids not only against everything from colds to cancer — it also helps keep your skin looking beautiful. Vitamin C can help fight against skin damage caused by the sun and pollution. It is vital to collagen production and may help reduce wrinkles and improve the skin’s overall texture.

Cholesterol

All the fiber in oranges may help lower cholesterol levels, because it picks up excess cholesterol compounds in your gut and pushes them out in the elimination process.

Heart

Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and choline are all good for your heart, so oranges may give your ticker a big boost. Potassium, an electrolyte mineral, is vital for allowing electricity to flow through your body, which makes your heart beat. Lack of potassium can lead to arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. According to one study, people who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium each day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from heart disease compared with those who consumed about 1,000 mg of potassium per day. Consuming a high amount of potassium has also been associated with a reduced risk of stroke and kidney stones and protection against loss of muscle mass and bone density.

Diabetes

Oranges are high in fiber, which can help lower blood sugar levels in type 1 diabetics and improve blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels in type 2 diabetics.

Digestion and weight loss

Oranges are high in fiber, which aids in digestion by keeping you regular. It is also good for weight loss. Soluble fibers absorb water while sitting in the gut, making you feel fuller.

Vision

Oranges are vitamin A rich. Vitamin A contains carotenoid compounds like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin, which can help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin A also helps your eyes absorb light and improves night vision.

Cancer

Vitamin C fights the free radicals that cause cancer. Oranges and other citrus fruits are associated with reduced risk of stomach, esophageal, mouth, larynx, and pharynx cancers. One 2004 American study shows that consuming bananas, oranges and orange juice in the first two years of life may reduce the risk of childhood leukemia. High fiber diets are associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. The zeaxanthin and carotenoids found in oranges have an inverse relationship with overall cancer rates, particularly prostate cancer.

Health risks

Oranges are great for you but you should enjoy them in moderation. Though relatively low in calories, eating several oranges in a day can add up and may lead to weight gain. It is also possible to have too much vitamin C (more than 2,000 mg a day). Too much vitamin C may lead to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating or cramps, headaches, insomnia or kidney stones.

Oranges and other citrus fruits are acidic, so people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience heartburn or regurgitation if they eat too many oranges.

If you are taking beta-blockers, you should be careful not to consume too many oranges. Beta-blockers increase potassium levels and, if mixed with too many potassium-rich foods like oranges and bananas, can lead to too much potassium in the body. This is a significant concern for people whose kidneys are not fully functional, as the excess potassium will not be effectively removed from the body.

Orange peels — edible or poisonous?

Orange peels are not poisonous and, as many cooks know, orange zest can pack a big flavor punch. While orange peels are edible, they are not nearly as sweet or juicy as the pulp. They can also be difficult to digest and, unless you’re eating an organic orange peel, covered in chemicals.

If you do decide to eat an orange peel, you’ll be getting a good amount of nutrients. Like the pulp, orange peels are full of vitamin C. They also contain vitamins A, B6 and B5, and riboflavin, thiamin, niacin and folate. They also have 10 mg of calcium and plenty of fiber. You can get some of the nutrients by eating the inner part of the peel and leaving the less appetizing tough outer part.

Orange facts

  • Oranges originated around 4000 B.C. in Southeast Asia, from which they spread to India.
  • Oranges are unknown in the wild. They are a hybrid of the pomelo, or “Chinese grapefruit” (which is pale green or yellow), and the tangerine.
  • The orange tree is a small tropical to semi-tropical, evergreen flowering plant. It grows up to 16 to 26 feet (5-8 meters). Oranges are actually modified berries.
  • The fruit came before the color. The word “orange” derives from the Arabic naranj and arrived in English as “narange” in the 14th century, gradually losing the initial “n.”
  • "Orange" was first used as the name for a color in 1542.
  • Oranges are classified into two general categories — sweet and bitter. The sweet varieties are the most commonly consumed. Popular varieties of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) include Valencia, Navel and Jaffa oranges, as well as the blood orange, a hybrid species that is smaller in size, more aromatic in flavor and has red hues running throughout its flesh.
  • Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are often used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest is used as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
  • Navel oranges are named that because of the belly-button formation opposite the stem end. The bigger the navel, the sweeter the orange.
  • Sweet oranges were introduced into Europe around the 15th century by Moorish, Portuguese and Italian traders and explorers who found them on their voyages to Asia and the Middle East.
  • Renaissance paintings that display oranges on the table during "The Last Supper" are wrong. Oranges were not cultivated in the Middle East until sometime around the ninth century.
  • Christopher Columbus planted the first orange trees in the Caribbean islands in the late 15th century after he brought the seeds there on his second voyage to the New World.
  • Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon brought oranges to Florida in the 16th century, and Spanish missionaries brought them to California in the 18th century,
  • Commercial oranges are often bright orange because an artificial dye, Citrus Red Number 2, is injected into their skins at the level of 2 parts per million.
  • Oranges can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will generally last the same amount of time, two weeks with either method, and will retain nearly the same level of their vitamin content.
  • The best way to store oranges is loose rather than wrapped in a plastic bag because they can easily develop mold if exposed to moisture.
  • In 2008, the top five orange-producing countries, by millions of tons produced, were Brazil (18.3), United States (9.1), Mexico (4.3), India (4.2) and China (3.4).
  • In Spanish, anaranjear means, literally, to “orangicate” — to pelt something with oranges.
  • About 85 percent of all oranges produced are used for juice.
  • There are over 600 varieties of oranges worldwide.
  • A typical orange has 10 segments.
  • Orange peel sprinkled over a vegetable garden is an effective slug repellent.
  • The white orange blossom is the state flower of Florida.

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