by Bree West
Oranges are round citrus fruits that range in size and are one of the most popular fruits in the world. There are two main categories of oranges, the sweet and the bitter, with the sweet being the most common. The most popular varieties of oranges include Valencia, navel, and Jaffa oranges—as well as blood oranges, which is a hybrid species that is smaller and more purple-red in color than the typical orange color. The sweet oranges are naturally the ones we eat plain while bitter oranges are typically used to make jam and their zest is used in flavoring for liqueurs.
The first known reference to oranges is found in the second book of The Five Classics, around 500 B.C. They were introduced to Europe by explorers. Spanish explorers then brought oranges to Florida in the sixteenth century, and later to California, however, oranges didn't begin being cultivated until around the the nineteenth century. Today in the United States, oranges are the leading fruit crop, but Mexico, Brazil, Spain, China, and Israel are also large producers.
Oranges are an excellent source of carotenes, pectin, potassium, folic acid, flavonoids, and vitamins B and C. Supposedly, one orange supplies the body with the full recommended daily amount of vitamin C! And it is the combination of the vitamin C and the flavonoids that make oranges so great for our health. This is because flavonoids increase the effectiveness of vitamin C in places in the body where vitamin C is especially important, such as the immune system, eye lens, adrenal glands, and connective tissues. Vitamin C is essential not only for a strong immune system, but also for its antioxidant capacity and for its ability to absorb iron from food, which is especially important for women, who lose iron each month with menstruation.
One of the most important flavonoids in oranges is called hesperidin, which has been scientifically shown to lower high blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation. Levels of hesperidin are quite a bit higher in the inner peel and inner white “pulp” of the orange, rather than in the actual “orange” portion of the fruit. Coincidentally, oranges are also a great source of fiber.
Oranges are a good food for the heart because the vitamins and other compounds in oranges are strong antioxidants. These antioxidants help to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. This is significant because free radical damage leads to nearly any and every disease that we can get. Specific to heart health, free radicals cause cholesterol to oxidize, making it clump and stick to the artery walls. Antioxidants help prevent the oxidation from happening, which prevents and helps treat high cholesterol levels and thus heart disease and stroke. The hesperidin, which helps to fight inflammation, is also an important part of helping with cholesterol levels and overall heart health. Oranges, like apples, contain pectin, which is an important fiber for lowering cholesterol levels. Pectin also helps to keep bowel function normal and regular and helps to keep blood sugar levels steady.
While vitamin C is a great and strong antioxidant, research has found that vitamin C only accounts for a fraction of orange's antioxidant capacity. There are other compounds in oranges, not all of which have been discovered yet, that are anywhere from three to six times as strong as vitamin C. Consuming oranges and fresh orange juice has been shown to help protect against cancer and fight viral infections.
When buying oranges, choose ones that are firm and heavy for their size, an indicator that they are full of juice. Lighter fruit has more skin and drier pulp. For the juiciest, sweetest fruit, find oranges that have a sweet and clean smell. Avoid oranges that are bruised, soft, moldy, or puffy. Color shouldn't be used as a good indicator, because not only can green or brown looking oranges be as ripe and good as solid orange colored, but some companies dye their oranges to make them looking more appealing. It is important to know that non-organic oranges may be injected with artificial dye, specifically with the Citrus Red No. 2.
Raw Orange Chocolate “Cheesecake”
- 3 Oranges (make sure you have very good oranges)
- 2/3 C Agave
- 2 1/2 C Cashews (soaked at least 3 hours)
- 3/4 C Coconut Butter
- 1/2 t. Sweet Orange Essential Oil (optional as it is not raw but still very healthy)