Health Benefits of Oranges
The saffron-colored round citrus fruits named oranges are believed to be native to Eastern Asia, but today are popular all over the world for their tangy yet sweet flavor, juiciness, and amazing health benefits.
Published: June 29, 2021.
Varieties of Oranges
As such, oranges come in so many varieties, including Mandarin, Jaffa, Cara Cara, Valencia, Hamlin, Navel, Blood Oranges, and Seville. Some of these varieties are sweet to taste, while others are bitter. But in all these varieties, there is more than 90% of one’s recommended daily dose of vitamin C which is more than any other citrus fruit.
Moreover, it has no sodium and almost no fat. Most of the orange varieties are available year-round, except some like Blood Oranges which are available for only a short season.
Oranges Health Benefits
Free radical damage to cellular structures can cause painful inflammation because the body tries to remove the damaged parts. Inflammation in the body can be the root cause of a number of diseases like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin C in oranges scavenges free radicals and thus fights inflammation.
Benefits from High Vitamin C Content
As everyone knows, oranges are great sources of vitamin C and this vitamin is a great antioxidant. Obviously, eating oranges can offer all the benefits of vitamin C. These include:
Prevents Cancer: High intake of vitamin C reduces the risk of colon cancer as this vitamin scavenges free radicals that damage cell DNA.
Neutralizes Free Radicals: Free radicals also cause another type of damage i.e. they oxidize cholesterol. Cholesterol can only stick to artery walls if it is oxidized. Then it goes on accumulating there impeding or fully blocking blood flow or rupturing the artery to cause a heart attack or stroke. Vitamin C prevents this process right from the beginning by neutralizing free radicals and thereby preventing the oxidation of cholesterol.
Boosts Healthy Immune System: Vitamin C is effective in boosting the immune system. It’s known to prevent colds and ear infections.
Boosts Healthy Skin: Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant to prevent skin damage too. Vitamin C also helps the production of collagen. Along with performing other jobs, collagen makes one’s skin supple and elastic and prevents skin’s roughness and wrinkles, and is therefore very essential for skin health.
DNA and Cell Repair and Serotonin Production: Vitamin C works as an anti-aging antioxidant and is also necessary for DNA repair and serotonin production. Serotonin is known to promote happiness and bring sound sleep. As per the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin C helps heal wounds and makes bones and teeth healthy. Another 2-week study found that when participants took 400 mg of vitamin C daily (a mid-sized orange contains around 70mg of vitamin C), they experienced that their muscle function was improved and muscle soreness was reduced after exercise.
Promotes Vascular Health: A study conducted by the University of Colorado, Boulder, has found that consuming vitamin C supplements daily could prevent vascular disease. The researchers observed the activity of ET-1 in obese participants. ET-1 is a protein that constricts vessels. Its activity level is elevated in obese and overweight adults. This increases the risk of vessel constriction and thus vascular disease. Workout has long been supposed to be a way to lower ET-1 activity.
However, the study found that participants who consumed 500mg vitamin C supplement daily reduced their vessels constriction as much as participants who started walking exercise. Thus consuming oranges daily can reduce the risk of vascular disease.
Too low amount of vitamin C in blood is associated with increased body fat and waist measurement.
However, studies show that eating oranges or drinking orange juice is far more beneficial than taking vitamin C supplements or vitamin C-fortified bottled drinks because vitamin C is not the only beneficial nutrient that offers antioxidant protection, but it’s a part of a matrix in oranges that involves many other beneficial phytochemicals like carotenoids, flavanones, and cyanidin-3-glucoside.
TIP: Since vitamin C tends to get destroyed fast upon exposure to air, one should always eat oranges once they’re opened or drink orange juice as soon as it’s squeezed.
Benefits of High Water Content
Oranges are so full of water that a medium-sized orange provides around 4 oz. (half a cup) of water. The human body contains around 60 to 70% of water which is needed in every process in the body. Water-loaded fruits like oranges provide water more than any other foods for the daily requirement. Due to this, oranges contribute to support mental and physical energy, optimize organ functioning and metabolism, flush out wastes and improve circulation.
Makes Heart Healthy
Flavonoids, particularly hesperidin, in oranges are effective in preventing heart disease.
Studies have shown that consuming orange juice daily for 4 weeks thins the blood and reduces blood pressure considerably.
Also, consuming isolated fiber from citrus fruits has been proven to reduce blood cholesterol.
Potassium in oranges supports heart functioning as well as muscle contraction. It also helps maintain muscle mass. Potassium also acts as a natural diuretic and thus reduces blood pressure and fights fluid retention.
These findings indicate that regular intake of oranges may lower the risk of heart disease.
Reduce the Risk of Stroke
Flavanones are a kind of flavonoids in oranges. They have been found to significantly lower the risk of ischemic stroke in which a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. Ischemic stroke accounts for 87% of all strokes.
Vitamin C in oranges may also protect against hemorrhagic stroke, a less common yet more deadly type of stroke.
Loaded with Fiber
Since each medium-sized orange contains 3 grams of fiber, eating oranges regularly keep one’s bowels healthy, reducing cholesterol and thus the risk of heart disease, and also ulcers. Fiber is also beneficial for diabetics because it slows down the absorption of sugar.
Since fiber brings about the feeling of fullness, it can also bring about weight loss.
The fiber in oranges is soluble fiber which has been proven to reduce cholesterol and fight visceral fat (belly fat). According to a study done for 5 years on adults, for each 10 g increase in consumption of soluble fiber, the rate of accumulation of visceral fat was reduced by 3.7%. (Visceral fat is related to increased inflammation and increased risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers.)
Great for Skeletal System
Being high in calcium, oranges can keep one’s bones, muscles, and organs strong.
Great for Moms and Babies
Oranges also contain folate in a significant amount. This natural dosage of folate is used in the body to divide cells and form DNA, and also prevent birth defects. Thus it’s very beneficial for pregnant women and their babies.
Can Help Prevent Anemia
Anemia is a condition in which red blood cells or hemoglobin in the body are reduced. This lowers the body’s ability to carry oxygen. Iron deficiency is often responsible for this condition.
While oranges don’t provide enough amount of iron, they provide adequate amounts of organic acids such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and citric acid. Both these acids can increase the body’s ability to absorb iron from the digestive tract.
Hence when consumed with iron-rich foods, oranges may help prevent anemia.
Good Kind of Sugar
The 12 grams of sugar in a mid-sized orange is natural and different from the sugar added to candy bars. Moreover, other nutrients in oranges like vitamins, antioxidants and fiber make it even more beneficial. One should prefer fresh, raw oranges that contain less sugar to dried ones.
Great for Diabetes
Although oranges contain sugar, their glycemic index (GI) is low i.e. 31 to 51. Glycemic index refers to the rate at which sugar enters into one’s bloodstream after a meal. The low GI of oranges is due to their fiber and polyphenol content, which restrain the rise in blood sugar.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Since oranges are high in potassium, they can keep one’s blood pressure low.
Prevents Kidney Stone Formation
Being a citrus fruit that contains citric acid and citrates, oranges can prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Rich in Phytonutrients
Oranges are packed with various bioactive plant compounds which are supposedly responsible for their several health benefits.
There are two main types of antioxidant phytonutrients in oranges, viz. phenolics and carotenoids.
Phenolics (Phenolic Compounds)
Oranges are rich in phenolics, especially flavonoids, which are responsible for most of their antioxidant benefits. Flavonoids offer anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral benefits and also help fight oxidative stress. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a study that states that higher flavonoid intake may help reduce the risk of depression, especially among older women. It’s also associated with reduced body fat and the prevention of weight gain.
Anthocyanins: These offer the red color to the flesh of blood oranges.
Hesperidin: This is a citrus flavonoid and is one of the main antioxidants in oranges. It offers a number of health benefits.
All citrus fruits are packed with carotenoids that offer them their rich color.
Lycopene: Lycopene occurs in high quantities in red-colored navel oranges. It also occurs in tomatoes and grapefruit.
Beta-carotenoid: Beta-carotenoid is one of the most plentiful carotenoids in oranges. It’s converted into vitamin A in the human body.
Zeaxanthin: Zeaxanthin is another antioxidant carotenoid in oranges that helps reduce inflammation, and thereby can benefit the heart, eyes, skin, and liver, according to a 2019 observation.
Benefits of Choline Content
Choline is another important compound present in oranges that is helpful for sound sleep, muscle movement, memory, and learning. It also helps in the transmission of nerve impulses, reduces chronic inflammation, and helps in the absorption of fat.
Make Eyes Healthy
Being rich in carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the human body, oranges promote good eye health. Vitamin A keeps the mucus membrane in the eyes healthy, prevents age-related macular degeneration (which can cause vision loss in the long run), and increases the ability of the eyes to absorb light.
Benefits from Limonoid Content
Compounds called limonoid in citrus fruits including oranges have been found to help fight cancers of the skin, mouth, breast, lung, stomach, and colon.
Studies show that the human body can readily absorb and use limonin, a very long-acting limonoid, present in citrus fruits in approximately the same quantity as that of vitamin C. As compared to other anti-carcinogens like phenols in chocolate and green tea which remain active in the body only for 4-6 hours, limonin has much higher bioavailability and persistence with which it can continuously prevent the proliferation of cancerous cells.
Beneficial for Respiratory Health
Beta-cryptoxanthin is an orange-red carotenoid found in abundance in foods like oranges, papaya, tangerines, red bell peppers, peaches, corn, and pumpkin. It may considerably reduce the risk of lung cancer. According to a study, people eating high amounts of cryptoxanthin-rich foods reduced the lung cancer risk by 27%. This was also seen to be true for smokers.
May Reduce the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that a daily glass of freshly squeezed orange juice can remarkably reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Health Benefits of Orange Peel
Health benefits are not only found in orange flesh but in their peels too.
Research has found that orange peels too have flavonoids that may prevent reproduction, development, and spread of cancer cells and even support apoptosis (the self-destruction sequence in the body to destroy dysfunctional cells.)
An older study by the University of Arizona has concluded that consuming 1 tablespoon of citrus zest per week can reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer by 30%.
The orange rind also contains hesperidin which also protects against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also has been found to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol in animal studies. It also has been proven to have strong anti-inflammatory effects.
One medium-sized orange contains:
- Vitamin A: 14.74 mcg (DRI/DV 2%)
- Vitamin B1: 0.11 mg (DRI/DV 9%)
- Vitamin B2: 0.05 mg (DRI/DV 4%)
- Vitamin B3: 0.37 mg (DRI/DV 2%)
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): 0.33 mg (DRI/DV 7%)
- Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg (DRI/DV 93%)
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): 1.31 mcg (DRI/DV 4%)
- Vitamin B9 (Folate): 39.30 mcg (DRI/DV 10%)
- Vitamin C: 69.69 mg (DRI/DV 93%)
- Vitamin E: 0.24 mg (DRI/DV 2%)
- Potassium: 237.11 mg (DRI/DV 5%)
- Calcium: 52.40 mg (DRI/DV 5%)
- Copper: 0.06 mg (DRI/DV 7%)
- Chromium: 0.39 mcg (DRI/DV 1%)
- Iron: 0.13 mg (DRI/DV 1%)
- Magnesium: 13.10 mg (DRI/DV 3%)
- Manganese: 0.03 mg (DRI/DV 1%)
- Phosphorus: 18.43 mg (DRI/DV 3%)
- Selenium: 0.65 mcg (DRI/DV 1%)
- Zinc: 0.09 mg (DRI/DV 1%)
- Choline: 11.00 mg (DRI/DV 3%)
- Carbohydrates: 15.39 g (DRI/DV 7%)
- Fat: 0.16 g (DRI/DV 0%)
- Protein: 1.23 g (DRI/DV 2%)
- Fiber: 3.14 g (DRI/DV 11%)
- Sugar: 12.25 g
- Water: 113.64 g
- Calories: 61.57 (DRI/DV 3%)
Note: DRI means Daily Reference Intake and DV means Daily Value.
Oranges Risk Factors
Eating oranges in a moderate amount offers a lot of health benefits. However, overdoing anything is bad and this is true in the case of oranges too.
Since oranges are high in acid, eating too much of them can worsen symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Also, eating too many oranges is bad if one is taking beta-blockers because oranges can increase their potassium intake and can cause kidney damage.
High doses of vitamin C can add more iron to the body which causes a condition named hemochromatosis in which one’s body stores more iron than needed and the excess iron can damage their tissues.
Some people may develop an orange allergy but in very rare cases.
When it comes to orange juice, it can offer the body some excess sugar and destroy some fiber in the trade-off. Too much juice of any fruit can cause weight gain which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, particularly if the person is middle-aged. However, overall whole oranges and their juice are good for one’s health.
So, eat oranges and other berries in moderation and enjoy all the health benefits they can offer You.