Oranges: Why You Should Eat Them

Oranges are an important source of daily vitamin C, in addition to dietary fiber, B vitamins, carotenes, and flavonoids that make them helpful in the fight against cancers, cardiovascular disease, and immune system dysfunction. Oranges make a delicious compliment to many desserts and baked goods.
Food & Drink

Who hasn't enjoyed the juicy tastiness of a lovely, ripe orange!  The orange is one of the most popular fruits in the known world.

Oldest references to the orange are from Ancient China, and it's believed oranges originated in Southeast Asia.  By the 19th century, they were cultivated in the Middle East, probably being brought by traders from the east.  Sweet varieties were later introduced to Europe.

By the 18th century, Spanish missionaries brought oranges to California.  Today, oranges are the leading fruit crop in the United States.  Other producers are Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Israel, and China. 

There are two main categories of oranges: "sweet", which are the most commonly consumed varieties--Valencia, Naval, Jaffa, and blood oranges; and "bitter", varieties from which jams and marmalades are made, and their zest, which is used in making liqueurs.

Nutritionally, everyone knows oranges are an important source of vitamin C, but additionally, they provide us with flavonoids, dietary fiber, B1, B2, B6, folic acid, pantothenic acid, carotenes, pectin, and potassium.  One orange has nearly 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is vitally important to the proper functioning of our immune system whose role is to help keep us healthy.  It is also essential to proper functioning of the adrenal glands, vision, reproductive organs, connective tissue such as joints and gums, and overall good health.

An important flavonoid found in oranges is hesperidin, found in highest concentrations in the inner peel and white pulp, and it is helpful in lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol.  The flavonoids are known antioxidants, and they are effective in cancer prevention and cardiovascular health. Quercetin, another flavonoid found in oranges, has anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory benefits, which is why oranges and orange juice are helpful in battling respiratory ailments such as colds and allergies.  Lastly, flavonoids also are useful in the treatment of bruising, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.  Yet another reason to drink your OJ!

When selecting oranges, choose ones that are firm and heavy, avoiding bruising, softness, and moldy or puffy fruit.  Interestingly, while oranges are "orange", their color has little to do with their flavor--color can vary from green to brown and they can still be delicious.

Most varieties will last for up to 2 weeks stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.  It's best not to store them wrapped as this can promote mold growth.  Wash fruit thoroughly before eating.  Oranges can be peeled or cut.  To juice, use a juicer, reamer, or squeeze by hand.

It's important to use organically grown oranges for recipes that call for zest.  Remember to only use the orange part of the peel for zest as the white pith underneath can be bitter and should not be used.

Citrus peels contain some beneficial oils, but some can be injurious to some body functions.  For example, citral in the peels contains a compound that antagonizes some of the effects of vitamin A.  Orange peels are also used by gardeners as a repellant for slugs. 

Orange blossom essence is used in the manufacture of perfumes.  Orange blossom water is a common part of both French and Middle Eastern cuisines being used in many desserts and baked goods.

Of course, oranges are great just enjoyed right out of the peel, but there are some other common and tasty uses for this beneficial fruit.  They make a most refreshing and wonderful juice, with or without pulp as you prefer.  Cold and frothy in a glass of crushed ice, OJ will definitely pick you up any time of the day!  The famous company Orange Julius has made a fortune serving up the delicious goodness of orange juice in a plethora of different ways, as has the popular Jamba Juice outlets.

Oranges always make a great addition to fruit salads of all kinds, and can be cut up into green salads for a nice citrus punch.  Here are some other suggestions:

--Orange juice makes a great marinade or sauce--just saute onions, then deglaze the pan with OJ as a liquid.

--Blend gently cooked carrots with orange juice, season with rosemary and serve as a cold soup.

--Mix together orange segments, fennel, and shaved Parmesan cheese for a refreshing salad.

--Simmer sweet potatoes, winter squash, and orange segments in orange juice--sprinkle with walnuts before serving.

--Freeze orange juice in ice cube trays.  Eat as snacks, or thaw slightly and blend in blender for a tasty frozen snack or dessert.

--Boiled orange leaves can make an aromatic tea.

Oranges combine with many foods and baked goods to give a sweet deliciousness to any recipe.  They also make a great addition to any juice or fruit smoothies.  Chocolate and oranges make delectable desserts and candies.  From Chinese food, orange spiced chicken, to seafood, orange glazed shrimp, to fabulous desserts--orange cookies, orange spice cakes, parfaits, ice creams, fudge, tarts, and lovely orange breads and muffins, the fabulous orange is always a great choice.  It's benefits are simply the icing on that orange cake!

Leslie Pryor is a published author, teacher, and freelance writer.  My published book is titled: "In Search Of . . . Wisdom The Principle Thing."  View these websites for more information:  www.lspryor.com and www.wisdomtheprinciplething.com.

Sources:  

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael Murray, N.D., 2005

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/oranges

Pictures: Mogue files

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