The nutritional and medicinal benefits of oranges have been recognized for centuries. Oranges are not only the most popular fruit consumed by Americans, their top fruit crop status has its history in our journey to understanding human nutrition. In this article I’ll share ten amazing health benefits of eating oranges that will have you filling your fruit baskets with these lovely juicy fruits.
#1 — Oranges Hydrate the Body
Oranges are mostly made of water, like us, and so eating oranges or drinking their juice is a nutritious and delicious way to hydrate. One large orange weighing 184 grams contains 160 grams of water. That makes an orange 87% water! Adult humans are between 55-60% water and our bodies are constantly filtering and renewing our internal water supply. Drink to your health and hydrate with citrus.
#2 — Oranges Are a Great Source of Healthy Energy
Eat an orange for a good boost of healthy energy. One large orange contains 87 calories — 79 calories of carbohydrates, 2 calories of fat, and 6 calories of protein. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy and are easy to digest. Eating an orange will give you the energy your brain and body need to make it through the day, without leaving you sluggish. Oranges are a low glycemic index food, meaning eating an orange won’t cause a massive spike in your blood sugar levels like processed sugar foods (cakes, muffins, cookies) would.
#3 — Citrus is Packed with Essential Nutrients
Oranges contain a nutritious cocktail of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and stay well. Just check out some of the nutrients contained in one large orange below.
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1 large orange contains:
Carbohydrates: 21.6 g
Dietary fiber: 4.4 g
Protein: 5.8 g
Fat: 1.8 g
Omega-3 fatty acids: 12.9 g
Omega-6 fatty acids: 33.1 g
Vitamin A: 4141 IU
Vitamin C: 97.9 g
Vitamin E: 0.3 mg
Thiamin: 0.2 mg
Riboflavin: 0.1 mg
Niacin: 0.5 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.1 mg
Folate: 55.2 mcg
Pantothenic Acid: 0.5 mg
Choline: 15.5 mg
Calcium: 73.6 mg
Iron: 0.2 mg
Magnesium: 18.4 mg
Phosphorus: 25.8 mg
Potassium: 333 mg
Zinc: 0.1 mg
Copper: 0.1 mg
Selenium: 0.9 mcg
#4 –Help Your Body Absorb Other Nutrients
The vitamin C in your orange is helping your body absorb and use other essential nutrients. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the absorption of iron and it plays an essential role in the metabolism of vitamin B9, some hormones, and some amino acids.
#5 — Keep Your Skin Looking Youthful
Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, the sticky glue of the body holding our skin to our tissues and tissues to our bones. Healthy collagen production is essential for healthy looking skin.
A 2007 study of 4,025 women evaluated the associations between skin aging and nutrient intake. The results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition where researchers reported that women who showed more signs of wrinkles and dry skin consumed significantly less vitamin C and other essential nutrients than women whose skin showed less signs of aging. Since citrus fruits, are an excellent source of vitamin C, simply eating oranges can help you maintain youthful skin.
#6 — Protect Your Cells from Damage and Cancer
Eating oranges may help protect you against cancer and cellular damage. When cells suffer damage from free radicals, cancer can take hold in the body. Foods like oranges that are high in antioxidants can help protect your body’s cells.
Studies that look at how vitamin C alone affects cancer are conflicting, but some doctors have had success with using high-dose vitamin C to extend the life of cancer patients. One interesting study suggests that the mixed results may be in part due to researchers focusing on the isolated nutrient, vitamin C, rather than whole foods like oranges.
In 2007 Italian scientists with the Division of Human Nutrition conducted a study to see if vitamin C supplements provide the same protective effect as plain old orange juice. Subjects were given three drinks: blood orange juice, isolated vitamin C in water, and a placebo of sugar water. The researchers took blood samples after the drinks and exposed the blood samples to hydrogen peroxide. Then they evaluated free radical damage to DNA of the samples. The researchers found that only the orange juice had a protective effect. They concluded that the difference may be due to phytonutrients in the orange juice that aren’t present in the isolated vitamin C. This study provides evidence for the superiority of whole plant foods over supplements. When you eat the whole orange, the perfect cocktail of nutrients work in symphony to protect your health.
#7 — Oranges Are Low Calorie and Nutrient Dense
Oranges are a low calorie and nutrient dense food which makes them a great aid to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. Processed foods such as orange pound cake, on the other hand, are calorie-dense containing a lot of calories in a small portion. These foods are easy to overeat and can lead to weight gain.
#8 — Guard Your Vision with Protective Phytonutrients
Orange foods protect our eyes. Many people are aware that carrots are beneficial to vision, but the same protective carotenoids present in carrots are present in all orange-hued plant foods. A 1992 study assessed 421 patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and 615 controls on a broad range of risk factors and analyzed blood samples from participants. They found that study subjects with higher levels of carotenoids in the blood were at decreased risk for AMD. They concluded that:
“The association noted between serum carotenoid levels and neovascular AMD supports the hypothesis that higher levels of micronutrients with antioxidant capabilities may decrease the risk of AMD.”
Besides their high concentration of protective carotenoids, the antioxidants in oranges may confer additional protection for your vision. According to the National Institutes of Health, research suggests that antioxidants, like the ones found in citrus, may help reduce oxidative stress with leads to vision loss. Two studies found that vitamin C intake greater than 300 mg a day reduced cataract formation by 70-75%. However, a study that looked at vitamin C supplements found those that took a relatively high dose were at a great risk for cataracts. Other studies have mixed results which might be due to the difference between the effect of consuming vitamin C from whole foods vs. the isolated nutrient. (Remember the 2007 study, I mentioned above, that showed orange juice protected against cell damage where vitamin C did not? Humans can’t manufacture the protection found in nature’s perfect symphony of nutrients.)
#9 — Shorten Colds
Growing up, whenever a cold or flu struck my family, the go-to elixir was orange juice. Oranges, and other citrus fruits, have long been prescribed to prevent and treat the common cold. Oranges and their juice are known to boost the immune system. This is in large part thanks to their high levels of vitamin C which plays an important role in the body’s efforts to defend itself against sickness.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the research on the effectiveness of vitamin C to shorten colds is not entirely consistent, yet the results appear to suggest a protective benefit does exist. They write:
“…in trials involving marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers exposed to extreme physical exercise and/or cold environments, prophylactic use of vitamin C in doses ranging from 250 mg/day to 1 g/day reduced cold incidence by 50%. In the general population, use of prophylactic vitamin C modestly reduced cold duration by 8% in adults and 14% in children.”
#10 — Oranges Are Rich in Fiber
One large orange contains 4.4 grams of dietary fiber. Fiber is an often-forgotten essential nutrient that helps fill up our stomachs, satisfy our hunger, and aids in healthy digestion. If you are ever suffering constipation or digestive troubles, simply eating an orange or two could help get things moving. Eating whole fruits like oranges will make digestion easier on your body and help you stay regular.
Pick Oranges and Your Health Benefits
Besides the dietary fiber, healthy energy, essential macronutrients, hydrating water, and protective phytonutrients that oranges deliver, they are also super tasty! This benefit could go without saying, but it’s hard to ignore how tantalizing citrus is to our frugivore taste buds. Oranges are a delicious and nutritious food that makes us feel good. Now—orange you glad you know more about the amazing health benefits of eating oranges?
Reya Steele is a holistic health writer and researcher who teaches nutrition science and healthy food preparation to students in Southern California. Reya is lucky enough to work where oranges are falling from the trees and she enjoys harvesting oranges to juice with her students and to share with her family and friends. Reya publishes the holistic health website www.HealingWithPlants.us.
SOURCES: 1. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women". 2. Guarnieri, et a. "Orange juice vs. Vitamin C: effect one hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage in mononuclear blood cells." British Journal of Nutrition. 3. JAMA Ophthalmology, "Risk factors for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group." 4. National Institutes of Health, Vitamin C. 5. Self Nutrition Data, "Oranges, raw, all commercial varieties Nutrition Facts and Calories." 6. The George Mateljan Foundation, "The World's Healthiest Foods Oranges."
P.S. If you want to see how I make orange juice more fun for me and my kids, check get my free ebook, Drink to Your Health. In this book you’ll find my simple recipe for Orange Freeze plus 32 more nutritious drinks. Get the free-ebook here.