Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits You Don’t Want To Miss Out On
Not only are citrus fruits zesty and juicy, they also contain a bunch of different antioxidants that offer protection against illnesses, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. The health benefits of citrus fruits are well established, all thanks to them being a rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
A diet rich in citrus fruits is essential for a well-functioning body and overall health. We know citrus fruits boost skin and eye health, but a growing body of evidence now shows that biologically active phytochemicals in citrus fruits can help lower the risk of many chronic diseases.
Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits
Citrus is a species of flowering trees and plants that produce citrus fruits such as limes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines, and many others. These fruits have a sharp, tart flavour, and are the best natural source of vitamin C.
Different types of citrus fruits contains similar nutrients but in varying amounts. In addition to vitamin C, citric acid, and fibre, citrus fruits are also packed with calcium, potassium, and folate.
An assortment of different nutrients is what makes citrus fruits so good for health.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is the key nutrient in citrus fruits that is responsible for most of its health benefits. It’s a potent antioxidant that counters the damage caused to the body by cancer-causing free radicals, and offers many other health benefits. Men should aim to get 90 mg of vitamin C in their daily diet, and women 75 mg. You can get 53 mg of vitamin C from one small orange, so citrus fruits are more than capable of satisfying your daily vitamin C requirement.
Research shows the eyes’ retinas need vitamin C for optimal functioning of the nerve cells, which is why a diet rich in vitamin C helps maintain better eyesight.
A study also showed people with a high intake of vitamin C had a 20 percent lower risk of developing cataracts.
Vitamin C is vital for skin health, and boosts the production of collagen, a protein that provides structure and elasticity to your skin and tendons. Some studies also show vitamin C can help prevent and treat damage caused to the skin by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The human body does not produce or store vitamin C — so citrus fruits are a great source of it. Vitamin C gives the body’s immune system a quick boost, protecting us from colds and coughs. Taking vitamin C at the beginning of an infection can help reduce the duration of a cold. Vitamin C also promotes the absorption of iron, which improves the body’s resistance to infection. Vitamin C also protects against viruses.
There a significant amount of evidence linking vitamin C intake and cardiovascular health.
Research shows high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol are responsible for the development of heart disease, and a high vitamin C intake of 500 mg per day obtained from citrus fruits can prevent an increase in the levels of oxidized LDL, even if you consume a diet rich in saturated fats.
Research shows a diet low in vitamin C increases the risk for asthma. Studies show children with asthma who ate a diet rich in citrus fruits experienced considerably less wheezing than kids who didn’t consume citrus fruits. Studies also suggest that taking vitamin C may help keep airways open.
Flavonoids are pigments that impart colour and flavour to fruits and vegetables. The highest amount of flavonoids is found in the membranes, rind, and white pith of citrus fruits – a whole fruit contains up to five times more flavonoids than a glass of fruit juice.
These compounds contain antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and offer protection against cancer by thwarting the damage caused by free radicals, and destroying cancer cells.
Flavonoids, rutin and quercetin in citrus fruits have very powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Some research also shows that nobiletin, a flavonoid found in tangerines, helps prevent obesity as well as type 2 diabetes.
Lower stroke risk
According to a 2012 study published in the journal Stroke, women who consumed the highest amount of flavanone — a type of flavonoid present in oranges and grapefruit — had a 19 percent lower risk of suffering from stroke than those who consumed the least.
Of all citrus fruits, lemons and limes are packed with the highest level of citric acid – roughly 4 grams per 100 grams of fruit.
Studies show citric acid slows the formation of kidney stones and prevents the smaller crystals from linking together to form bigger ones. More citric acid content in urine means greater protection against calcium-containing kidney stones.
Evidence also points out that citric acid in fruits helps regulate a health body pH, which is often disturbed due to a diet rich in sugar, red meat and dairy.
Citrus fruits rank the highest in folate content, and oranges in particular are rich in folic acid. One orange contains about 50 mcg of folic acid.
Folate is a nutrient that is more than necessary for the production of new cells and growth. Folate promotes the production of DNA, RNA (ribonucleic acid), and mature red blood cells. This helps prevent anaemia – a common condition, especially in women, caused due to a deficiency of red blood cells or of haemoglobin in the blood.
Folic acid is particularly beneficial to pregnant women because it is known to prevent neural tube and other birth defects in babies.
Including More Citrus Fruits in Your Diet
Because they’re so delicious, citrus fruits are easy to incorporate into any diet.
The best way to eat citrus fruits is whole. Whole fruit offers a lot more in terms of fibre and antioxidants than fruit juice. Juicing destroys beneficial nutrients, leaving you with all the sugar and none of the fibre.
Citrus fruits are healthy, but some like oranges and clementines, contain a lot of sugar. Grapefruits, limes, and lemons are sour have lower sugar content. Remember, moderation is key. Vegetables and protein should take up most of the real estate on your plate, and ideally, fruits should be eaten as a separate meal.
You should aim to eat at least three servings of citrus fruits per week. Add lime or lemon slices to your sparkling or still water every day. Or try making a salad with greens as well as citrus fruits. There’s no wrong way to eat citrus fruits, so make the most of all these juicy and delicious fruits have to offer.
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