9 Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits deliver more than just a healthy dose of vitamin C.

When it comes to the health benefits of citrus fruits, you probably already know some of them. For instance, oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, and grapefruit are excellent vitamin C sources that support your immune system. You'll likely see many people reach for those fruits during cold and flu season.

But citrus fruits offer many other impressive health benefits, as well. The juicy, colorful fruits pack good-for-you nutrients, not to mention flavor, making them a great addition to a healthy diet. Some examples of citrus fruits include:

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Grapefruit (white, yellow, red)
  • Yuzu
  • Oranges, including conventional, mandarin, and moro (blood) oranges
  • Pomelo
  • Ugli fruit, aka Jamaican tangelo
  • Kumquats
  • Sumo oranges
  • Tangelos

Citrus Fruit Benefits

Citrus fruits offer various benefits, including nutritional and even cosmetic benefits. Here's what you should know about a few benefits of adding citrus fruits to your diet.

A Good Source of Fiber

You should aim to consume about 28 grams of fiber daily. Citrus fruits can help you meet that goal. Fiber-packed foods, like citrus fruits, also help you feel full longer than less-fibrous foods, making them excellent snacks for weight loss. 

One orange serves up 2.4 grams of fiber, while a large tangerine has 2.1 grams. What’s more, about 65% to 70% of the fiber in citrus fruits is pectin, a soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.

The remaining fiber in citrus fruits is insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your digestive system and keeps your bowel movements regular.

Good for Your Heart

Citrus contains flavonoids, plant compounds that may promote heart health. In a review published in 2019 in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, researchers found that flavonoids protect against heart disease by reducing inflammation and providing other health benefits.

Research has been mixed on the role of vitamin C in human heart health. Still, vitamin C is an antioxidant that can potentially reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, according to a study published in 2020 in Heart. Atherosclerosis is plaque buildup in the artery walls.

In addition to vitamin C, citrus fruits are good sources of other vitamins and heart-healthy nutrients, such as folate and potassium. Also, the researchers found that certain metabolites, substances created when your body breaks down citrus, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Low Glycemic Index

Citrus fruits have relatively low glycemic index scores on the 100-point scale. In other words, citrus fruits won’t spike your blood sugar as much as other foods.

One orange, for example, has a glycemic index score of 43. For comparison, watermelon has a score of 76. So, the sugar from citrus fruit slowly releases into your bloodstream, offering you a steady feeling of energy without a crash later on.

Pack a Lot of Potassium

When you hear "potassium," you probably think of bananas. But citrus fruits are also great sources of the mineral. 

Potassium is important for fluid regulation, mineral balance, and muscle contraction. So, eating plenty of potassium-rich foods can help lower your risk of stroke and heart disease and strengthen your bones.

Potassium also counter-regulates the amount of salt in your diet by helping your body flush it out. While that isn't an excuse to douse your food in salt, it's another good reason to add citrus fruits to your diet.

May Help Shorten Colds

It's no secret that citrus delivers a healthy dose of vitamin C. In fact, six ounces of orange juice has 103% of your recommended daily intake. Also, one whole orange has 78%, and one-half of a medium grapefruit has 43%.

While vitamin C can't prevent colds, some evidence suggests that it might reduce their duration and severity. So, add vitamin C, including citrus fruits, to your diet before you get sick.

May Help You Absorb Other Nutrients

Adding citrus fruits to your plate may help you get more out of other foods you consume.

For example, citrus fruits can help your body absorb iron from plant-based sources. Iron is a mineral that supports your immune system and helps produce red blood cells. So, try pairing citrus with iron-rich foods, like leafy greens, to maximize their nutritional benefits.

Help You Stay Hydrated

Like cucumbers, watermelon, and tomatoes, citrus fruits have high water content. For example, oranges are about 81% water, and grapefruit juice is almost 90% water.

Eating plenty of water-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, can keep you hydrated. Staying hydrated not only quenches your thirst but also helps your body's systems work properly. Also, water-rich foods are filling, low-calorie options.

According to a 2022 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, men should get 3.7 liters of water (about 125 ounces) daily from all food and drink sources, and women should get 2.7 liters (about 91 ounces).

Might Keep Skin Looking Young

Vitamin C may also be beneficial for your skin. Vitamin C plays a role in collagen production, which leads some researchers to believe it can help keep skin looking supple and smooth.

For example, a review published in 2017 in Nutrients found that high fruit and vegetable intake helped keep skin looking young. The researchers also found that vitamin C played a role in protecting the skin against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

A Weight Loss Staple

Citrus fruits deliver tons of juicy flavor with little to no fat, sodium, or calories, making them a good choice if losing weight is a goal. In fact, one small orange has 45 calories.

To start incorporating more citrus fruits into your diet, try drinking juice with no added sugar or grating the zest on chicken, fish, or a salad to instantly boost the flavor. Or try adding the juice as a base for dressings or sauces.

If all else fails, you can always place a few lemon slices in your water to give it some subtle flavor.

Special Considerations

Citrus fruits come with many health benefits. Still, there are some caveats. If you're going to try eating more citrus fruits, keep the following in mind:

  • Grapefruit can interact with several medications. Examples include statins (which treat high blood pressure) and anti-anxiety medications. So, check with a healthcare provider to rule out interactions.
  • Citrus juice, such as orange or grapefruit, can contain many calories and added sugar in just a few ounces. Check the nutritional label when deciding how much to drink.
  • Whole fruit is often better than juice. Whole fruits are more filling for fewer calories, and you get much more fiber, than juice.
  • Citrus fruits have low to moderate glycemic index scores. Still, citrus fruits contain sugar and calories, two things to watch out for if you have diabetes or are concerned about weight gain.

A Quick Review

Citrus fruit contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep you healthy. Also, citrus fruits are mostly water, which is essential for staying hydrated. 

Enjoy citrus fruits, especially their whole forms, but check with a healthcare provider before adding grapefruit to your diet. Grapefruit can adversely interact with a long list of medications.

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16 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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