Walk through the produce aisles at almost any time of the year and you’ll find a colorful array of citrus fruits — from refreshing, sweet-tart grapefruit and juicy sweet oranges to tangerines, tangy lemons and limes. Citrus fruits are very versatile: Oranges and grapefruits are great as snacks, in salads, for sauces, in smoothies and in salad dressings. But the benefits of citrus fruits go far beyond their versatility.
A Nutritional Powerhouse
Think the benefits of citrus start and end with vitamin C? While it’s true that they’re an excellent source of vitamin C, citrus also provides many other important nutrients, including:
• Folate, a vitamin that helps prevent certain birth defects and helps body tissues to grow.
• Potassium, a mineral that’s essential for the body’s growth and maintenance. It also helps keep the body’s fluids balanced and helps the body use proteins and carbohydrates from food.
• Vitamin B6, which helps the body fight disease, maintain normal nerve function, form red blood cells and break down protein from food.
• Thiamine, a vitamin that’s essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system and that helps the body convert carbohydrates to energy.
• Niacin, a vitamin that assists in the functioning of the digestive system, skin and nerves and that helps convert food to energy.
• Fiber, an indigestible substance in many plant foods that helps digestion, lowers cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Citrus Lemonoids and Health
Citrus fruits are also the only source of substances called “lemonoids.” Scientists say that citrus lemonoids may work with other phytochemicals (plant-based nutrients) in citrus to help fight certain cancers. Although research is in the early stages, citrus lemonoids appear to work against cancer either by preventing cancers from forming, slowing the growth of existing cancer, or killing cancer cells.
Other Health Benefits
Eating citrus may also help reduce your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of cataracts, and aid your body’s healing process. The vitamin C in citrus also helps your body absorb iron.
Easy Ways to Add More Citrus to Your Diet
Citrus fruits make great snacks, but there are many other ways to use citrus in the kitchen:
• Substitute lemon, orange or grapefruit juice for the vinegar in vinaigrette recipes.
• Squeeze a lemon over cooked vegetables just before serving.
• Make a simple dessert of orange slices drizzled with chocolate syrup; top with toasted sliced almonds, if desired.
• Toss fresh-cut fruit in a little bit of lemon or orange juice to slow the natural browning process.
• Use citrus juice instead of vinegar in marinade recipes.
• Add peeled grapefruit segments to fruit salads.
• Add a twist of lemon or lime to tap water to give it a fresh flavor.
• Use lemon juice or lime juice to add flavor to Latin-style soups and stews. Squeeze a half lemon or lime over the soup just before serving.
• Sprinkle grapefruit halves with brown sugar and broil.
• Make a citrus sauce for pancakes or waffles by microwaving or melting 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade in the microwave and mixing with 1 peeled and chopped orange.
• Chop fresh grapefruit instead of tomatoes for your favorite salsa recipe.
• Add a teaspoon of grated orange peel to chocolate chip or brownie dough
• Enjoy the fresh and delicious flavors of citrus and get some great health-boosting benefits at the same time!
Don't throw away that clementine peel! Did you know that there are plenty of things you can make with the leftover peels from all that citrus you've been eating? Here are a few suggestions...