It’s round, has a nutritional content that reads like a veritable who’s who of nutrition and is also the name of a distinctive color. Yes, the fruit came first, the color second…. Its origins are also somewhat of a mystery but it’s been around for centuries although paintings of the Last Supper depicting a bowl of them on the supper table are incorrect. They weren’t cultivated in the Middle East until around 9 centuries after Christ died.
We’re talking about the not so humble Citrus sinensis, or orange as it’s more commonly known in the non-scientific community. And when it comes to the orange nutrition is its middle name! Oranges contain many essential minerals, vitamins and nutrients. The fact that they’re also delicious is an added bonus.
High In Carbs And Water
Oranges are very high in carbohydrates and water. Conversely, they contain very little protein or fat and virtually no calories. The carbohydrates in oranges are predominantly glucose, sucrose and fructose. These are also the reason for the oranges’ sweetness.
Surprisingly, in view of the amount of sugar they contain, oranges have a low glycemic index because they’re also high in fibre and polyphenols. These help regulate the absorption of the sugars into the bloodstream and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. (The glycemic index measures how quickly sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream after consumption.) Oranges are listed as a ‘super food’ for diabetics (both Types 1 and 2) by the American Diabetes Association due to the way the fibre and polyphenols in them help to control blood sugar levels.
High In Dietary Fibre
Oranges are very high in dietary fibre. A large orange will provide almost a fifth of the recommended daily intake of fibre for an adult. The predominant fibres in oranges are pectin, hemicellulose, lignin and cellulose. Pectin is a particularly valuable type of dietary fibre. It’s a bulk laxative so helps reduce the amount of time the mucous membrane lining of the colon is exposed to toxic chemicals. Pectin also binds to chemicals in the colon known to cause cancer and assists in their removal, and reduces reabsorption of cholesterol into the blood by binding to bile acids.
Valuable Source Of Vitamin C And Other Vitamins And Minerals
Probably one of the best-known orange nutrition facts is that they are a very high source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps to remove harmful free radicals from the body. Vitamin C is also proven to help the body develop resistance to infections. It’s also required for collagen production, which helps keep skin supple and healthy. A large orange provides the full daily allowance of vitamin C.
However, oranges are also high in other vitamins and minerals. Notably vitamin A – essential for good sight and healthy skin and mucous membranes, and B complex vitamins B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid or folate). The body cannot manufacture B group vitamins so must obtain them from external sources. An orange a day is therefore an excellent way to provide them!
Whilst oranges do not contain much iron, their high vitamin C and citric acid content help increase iron absorption, which assists in preventing anaemia. Anaemia is a condition caused by insufficient iron in the diet. The citric acid in oranges is also thought to help prevent kidney stones.
Choline is normally thought of in relation to eggs but oranges also make the top 50 list of fruits that contain this important macronutrient. Choline is associated with the B group vitamins and is vital for normal liver, nerve and muscle function, brain development, energy and metabolism.
Antioxidant Plant Compounds In Oranges
Oranges are rich in carotenoids and phenolics, two types of antioxidant plant compounds. Carotenoids are the red, orange and yellow pigments found in fruit and vegetables like carrots, oranges, tomatoes, watermelon, rock melons, mangos and in some green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Carotenoids are further broken down into two groups – carotenes and xanthophylls. Carotenes do not have oxygen and are classed as hydrocarbons whilst xanthophylls have oxygen. For nutritional purposes however carotenoids are more typically classed as either provitamin A or non-provitamin A depending on whether or not the body can convert them to vitamin A.
Oranges are a good source of the provitamin A carotenoids alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. They are a good source of beta-cryptoxanthin in particular. Beta-cryptoxanthin is a xanthophyll carotenoid that has shown promise for helping to prevent lung cancer and reduce inflammatory polyarthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The non-provitamin A carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene are also present in oranges, particularly the pink fleshed varieties. Lutein helps prevent cholesterol build up in arteries so reducing the chances of heart attacks and, along with zeaxanthin, is thought to help prevent or reduce macular degeneration. Lycopene is a powerful anti-oxidant and extremely effective at removing the free-radical singlet oxygen. Lycopene has been associated with reduced prostate cancer occurrences in men with high levels of lycopene in their system.
Orange Nutrition For The Heart
Oranges also contain calcium and potassium. Calcium of course is essential for healthy bones. Potassium is an electrolyte and allows electricity, vital for keeping the heart beating, to flow through the body – potassium deficiency is associated with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Potassium also helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
The high folate content in oranges is also significant for heart health as it reduces blood homocysteine levels – high levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) is linked to atherosclerosis.
The Peel Of An Orange – Its Nutrition Value
Unfortunately, most of us discard this part of the orange without a second’s thought but we should actually be paying a lot more attention to the peel of the orange, nutrition wise at least. So don’t throw those orange peels out! Several studies have found that orange peels are actually higher in many nutrients than the fruit itself and that they contain many anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. The inner pith, the white bit between the fruit and the outer skin, is also high in fibre.
Citrus peels are a higher source of flavonoids, phytochemicals and phenolic acids than the fruity part. Essential phenolics found in citrus peels, including orange peels, are ferulic, sinapic, p-coumaric and caffeic acids. These all have good antioxidant properties. Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in particularly high quantities in citrus peel, lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory properties. The polymethoxylated flavones or PMFs in orange peel have been shown to be more effective than prescription drugs for lowering cholesterol, and don’t have any of the side effects associated with the drugs. Other flavonoids in the peel can potentially inhibit proteins that are linked to obesity and cancer.
The peels also have good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamins B5 and B6 as well as calcium, copper, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, niacin and thiamine. Again, in many cases these are higher amounts than what is found in the fleshy part.
The easiest way to include orange peel in a diet is to add it as zest to other dishes. However, it can also be dried and used in dried fruit mixes or in cooking. It can be soaked in hot water to make a healthy and refreshing tea or ground up and blended into a smoothie.
A Healthy Snack – Have An Orange For Nutrition
When looking for a snack, have an orange. Nutrition wise your body will thank you!
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