Health Benefits of Oranges

This summer citrus fruit is a nutritional all-star.

When you think of the health benefits of oranges, the first thing that springs to mind is probably vitamin C. Citrus fruits are a terrific source, but oranges also provide a number of other protective nutrients.

The Nutrition of Oranges

One navel orange (140 grams) has the following nutritional values per the US Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • Calories: 72.8 calories
  • Fat: <1 gram
  • Sodium: 12.60 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 16.50 grams
  • Fiber: 2.80 grams
  • Protein: 1.27 grams

There are also several different varieties of oranges, such as common oranges, mandarin oranges, blood oranges, acidless oranges, and cara cara oranges. The types of oranges vary according to how they taste, what they look like, their fruit texture, and how much juice they can yield, according to an October 2021 article published in the International Journal of Food Science.

Here are more reasons you might decide to eat more oranges, drink more orange juice, or consider grating some orange peels—as well as simple ways to enjoy this delicious fruit.

Water-Rich

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that one medium orange provides about three ounces (or a half cup) of water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women need 2.7 liters of total fluid per day (about 11 8-oz cups), and men need 3.7 (about 15 8-oz cups). But that's total fluid, not just beverages.

Foods can provide some of your fluid needs, and water-rich foods like oranges contribute to your daily requirement. Consuming enough daily fluid helps support mental and physical energy, keeps your skin and hair hydrated, helps you digest the food you eat, and flushes out waste.

Fiber

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, a medium orange offers about three grams of fiber, which is about 12% of the daily target. It's well established that dietary fiber supports digestive function, helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and boosts feelings of fullness.

And a 2016 research study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggested that getting enough fiber may also help contribute to healthy sleep.

Fiber has been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol and fend off internal belly fat called visceral fat. A study published in 2022 in the journal Nutrition followed participants' food diaries over a 12-month period of time. The researchers found that participants who increased their intake of dietary fiber during the study's duration experienced a decrease in their overall weight and a decrease in visceral fat.

That's significant: Carrying more visceral fat is linked to increased inflammation and a higher risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

Vitamin C

According to the FDA, a medium size orange packs about 130% of the daily goal for vitamin C. In addition to supporting immune function, this key nutrient helps produce collagen, reduces inflammation, and boosts the body's ability to use fat as a fuel source, both during exercise and at rest.

Vitamin C also helps boost the absorption of iron, which can enhance oxygen availability and reduce fatigue. This is especially important for premenopausal people who lose iron through menstruation and those who follow a plant-based diet, since iron is less readily absorbed from plant sources.

Vitamin C also acts as an aging-fighting antioxidant, and it's needed for DNA repair and serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps promote mood stability and sleep.

Key Nutrients

Potassium and folate are two additional vital nutrients you can get from eating oranges, according to the USDA.

Potassium supports heart function and muscle contractions, and it helps maintain muscle mass. This mineral also acts as a natural diuretic to reduce blood pressure and counter fluid retention.

Folate supports the brain and nervous system, and adequate amounts may help protect against depression and memory problems.

Oranges also supply smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and B vitamins.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants defend against oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body's natural ability to counter their harmful effects.

A 2017 review article from the journal BioFactors said flavonoid antioxidants are found in oranges and explained that these molecules provide anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial benefits.

The antioxidants in oranges may also protect your mental health. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher flavonoid intake may be associated with a lower risk of depression, particularly among older women. And a different study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017 found that higher flavonoid intake is also linked to the prevention of weight gain and reduced body fat.

Benefits of Different Parts of an Orange

Orange Peels

Health-protective nutrients aren't only found in oranges; they're also in the peel. Additionally, in a chapter of Food and Agricultural Byproducts as Important Source of Valuable Nutraceuticals, published in July 2022, the authors noted that the peels of citrus fruits (especially those of oranges) could have the following potential benefits:

  • Bodily defense responses through phenolic compounds
  • Chronic disease prevention through phytochemical agents
  • Promotion of wellbeing through a number of properties (e.g., anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-obesity)

A 2020 review article published in the journal Current Development in Nutrition said that flavonoids in citrus peels might help prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells, as well as support apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to kill off dysfunctional cells.

According to a 2017 research article in the journal Critical Reviews in Food and Science Nutrition, a compound called hesperidin, found in orange rind, has also been shown to protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.

If you consume citrus peel, opt for organic oranges to reduce exposure to pesticide residues. Use a grater to zest the outer skin, avoiding the more bitter white pith.

Orange Juice

Orange juice can count as part of your daily fruit intake. Research on the consumption of citrus juice has linked it to important health benefits.

A study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher intake of citrus juice was linked to improvements in cognitive function in older adults. Another research study published in 2017 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that flavanone-rich citrus juice in quantities commonly consumed can enhance blood flow to the brain in healthy young adults.

The authors of a Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences study published in 2020 indicated that consuming 100% fruit juice, in general, may also offer vitamins and minerals that can help with heart health. So you may want to freshly squeeze your own juice, or look for 100% orange juice or a blend of orange and other whole fruits. Aim for a four-ounce or half-cup portion.

Orange Seeds

Even the seeds of oranges may be able to offer nutritional value. The International Journal of Food Science study investigated the physical forms and nutritional components of seeds from valencia and blood oranges. The researchers noted that orange seeds generally have oil containing unsaturated and essential fatty acids. However, they found that the valencia and blood orange seeds contained calcium, phosphorus (needed to help tissue and cell repair), potassium, and other micronutrients and macronutrients (e.g., protein, carbs).

Creative Ways To Benefit From Oranges

Whole oranges are more filling and provide more fiber than orange zest or orange juice—but there are lots of ways to incorporate the benefits of oranges into your diet.

Oranges are fantastic as is, but you can also add them to overnight oats, garden salads, stir-fry, chilled whole-grain dishes, savory lettuce wraps, and slaw. When you're eating an orange as a snack, you could combine it with nuts or seeds, cheese or yogurt, or herbed olives. And mix it up by incorporating different varieties, including navel, blood, and mandarin.

Add orange zest to homemade salad dressing, or as a garnish for oatmeal, fruit salad, or avocado toast. You can also sprinkle some orange zest on cooked veggies, quinoa, stir-fries, and desserts.

Pure orange juice can be added to a stir-fry sauce, marinade, or soup. Consider using orange juice to make cocktails or mocktails, or freeze in an ice cube tray and add to water along with mint or ginger.

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