Orange is a tangy round citrus fruit that makes a good snack by itself or as a juice. Sweet orange is the common name for Citrus sinensis of the family Rutaceae. Bitter orange is obtained from Citrus aurantium and is used to make jam, but is otherwise less commonly used as compared to the sweet variety. Health benefits of oranges are found in both varieties. Oranges have a fine skin and a pulpy flesh and generally have a diameter of about three inches. Although they originated in Asia, they later spread to other parts of the world; now they are widely cultivated in Israel, Mexico, United States and Spain and used by people all over the world.
Why Oranges are Beneficial?
Oranges contain high concentrations of vitamin C as well as the B-complex group of vitamins, vitamin A and folic acid. Besides, they are also rich in dietary fiber and minerals such as potassium and calcium. Oranges contain several phytoconstituents such as polyphenols and flavonoids and it is all these ingredients that are responsible for the health benefits of oranges.
Ayurveda on Oranges
Called naranga in Sanskrit, this fruit is prescribed in Ayurveda for treating digestive disorders such as constipation and loss of appetite. Oranges are believed to have an alkaline effect and therefore, are recommended to overcome gastrointestinal acidity. Health benefits of oranges in this system also include the ability to remove body pain, general weakness and fatigue.
Oranges Health Benefits
Researchers working on oranges are now finding that besides vitamin C (eating 180 gms / 1 cup of oranges gives 160% of daily Vitamin C required by body) o, the phytoconstituents they contain such as flavonoids, polyphenols, hydroxycinnamic acid and anthocyanins are the reason for a majority of the health benefits of oranges. These along with vitamin C give oranges their amazing anti-oxidant properties.
Anti-inflammatory Benefits : Oranges have a strong anti-inflammatory action because of the presence of vitamin C. This vitamin acts as a strong antioxidant and quenches the free radicals generated within the body tissues during metabolic reactions.
Researchers have also found that orange juice has the ability to undo the inflammatory and oxidative stress caused by eating unhealthy food and thus prevents damage to the blood vessels. On combining a high-carbohydrate and high-fat diet with orange juice, they found that the juice prevented the expected increase in free radical species and therefore helped control the inflammatory response.
Studies on rats and mice have found that the bioflavonoid called hesperidin which is found in orange peel has an anti-inflammatory action that is equivalent to that of the prescription anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin.
The anti-inflammatory health benefits of oranges also include the ability to lower risks of suffering from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Benefits against Cholesterol : Oranges show an ability to reduce the levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. One of the most important health benefits of oranges, this is thought to be a result of the action by the compound limonin that is present in this fruit. Orange peels also contain compounds called polymethoxylated flavones that show cholesterol-reducing action; their action is better than that produced by prescription drugs, but with the advantage that there are no side effects.
Cardiovascular Benefits : Several studies have shown that oranges have a protective role in preventing cardiovascular complications; increasing the dietary intake of citrus fruits by one serving reduces the risk of heart stroke by almost 19 percent. This is believed to be a result of their unique combination of constituents such as folic acid, vitamin C, potassium, homocysteine and flavonoids and carotenoids.
Immune-boosting Benefits : One of the most important of health benefits of oranges is the protection they afford to the body’s defense systems. Their high content of vitamin C ensures that they play a major role in preventing cough, cold and ear infections that occur when immunity is compromised.
Benefits in Diabetes : Oranges are useful foods for people with diabetes because they are rich in nutrients but not in calories. Besides, they have a low glycemic index which means there are no sudden spikes in blood glucose levels, making it easier for insulin to act.
Animal studies have shown that hesperidin, a flavonoid found in oranges, helps to slow down the progress of hyperglycemia or high blood glucose. This is because of its ability to increase the rate of formation of glycogen from glucose in the liver as well as reduce the conversion of other chemicals into glucose. Some studies have also found that hesperidin prevents embryo death in pregnant rats with diabetes.
Kidney Stones Prevention : Oranges have shown promise in preventing kidney stone formation, presumably due to their ability to increase the excretion of citrate through the urine. Studies have found that consuming orange juice causes a rise in the pH of urine that promotes excretion of citric acid and also reduces the formation of calcium oxalate and uric acid crystals which are the common components found in kidney stones.
Benefits against Cancer : Researchers have observed health benefits of oranges in preventing and fighting cancers of the breast, skin, stomach, mouth and colon. A compound called limonin that is abundantly present in orange and other citrus fruits is responsible for this action. Another amazing compound found in orange – beta-cryptoxanthin (a carotenoid) is found to significantly lower the risk of lung cancer.
Preventing Rheumatoid Arthritis : Studies have pointed out that using eating oranges on a regular basis reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This benefit of oranges is also attributed to beta-cryptoxanthin, which also helps in reducing risk of lung cancer.
Miscellaneous Health Benefits of Oranges
Oranges are rich in dietary fiber and this makes it useful for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The vitamin C content of this fruit also helps to contain infection of the stomach by the peptic ulcer-causing Heliobacter pylori and also reduces the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Medical researchers are also studying the health benefits of oranges in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
How to Select and Store
Making Fresh 'n' Refreshing Orange Juice
When selecting oranges, make sure you pick the ones that are firm, fresh, fully ripe and heavy irrespective of their color. Not all oranges are orange in color; many are green or slightly brown but this does not affect their taste in any way. Choose fruits that are small and thin-skinned because these tend to be juicier; avoid fruits that show softening or mold on their surface. You may store the oranges in the refrigerator or at room temperature for the same duration of about a fortnight.
As researchers work to discover more of the health benefits of oranges, it is becoming obvious that this is a multi-faceted fruit with much more to it than just its content of vitamin C and this makes it an essential item on everyone’s diet.