Food for thought- Oranges!

Oranges are the citrus fruit that belong to the family of Rutaceae, a flowering plant family which also includes pomelo, grapefruit, and tangerine (mandarin orange). They are one of the most popular fruits around the world. While they are delightful as a snack or as a recipe ingredient, it is their juice that is most associated with good health, having a reputation for being an integral part of a healthy breakfast.

Types: Oranges are classified into two general categories—sweet and bitter—with the former being the type 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 oftentimes used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest serves as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

Season: Like most citrus plants, oranges do well under moderate temperatures – between 15.5 and 29 °C (60 and 84 °F) – and require a huge amount of sunshine and water. Depending on the variety of orange, they can be harvested in the spring, fall or winter months.

Storage: Oranges can be stored refrigerated in controlled-atmosphere chambers for up to 12 weeks after harvest. In stores and markets, oranges should be displayed on non-refrigerated shelves.At home, they have a shelf life of about one week at room temperature and one month in the refrigerator. In either case, they are optimally stored loosely in an open or perforated plastic bag.

Health benefits:  Oranges are rich in Vitamins C and A, flavonoids, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber etc. Oranges have more than 60 flavonoids and 170 phytonutrients that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and anti-oxidant properties. Hesperidin is an antioxidant found in very high levels in orange peel. Oranges also protect against cardiac, respiratory, kidney and rheumatoid arthritic disorders.

Nutritional Value: 1 medium sized orange contains 62 calories, 87% water, 70 mg Vitamin C (Recommended daily allowance: 75-90mg), 269 IU Vitamin A, 15 gm carbohydrate, 237 mg potassium and 3 gm fiber.

Fun fact: The word orange is derived from the Sanskrit word “naranga” meaning “orange tree”. It is true that the fruit was named before the color! Prior to the English-speaking world being exposed to the fruit, the color was referred to as “yellow-red” (geoluhread in Old English)

Orange juice vs whole oranges: Hesperidin, the most important phytonutrient in oranges which is found in the peel and inner white pulp of the orange, rather than in its liquid orange center, has been shown to lower high blood pressure & cholesterol and to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. This beneficial compound is too often removed by the processing of oranges into juice. In addition to the phytonutrient composition, a large quantity of dietary fiber (pulp) is removed during the juicing process, so when possible always reach for a whole orange!

-Aparna Ramadurai