Orange Power

orangesAn orange a day may keep cancer away (and other diseases too). An orange has hundreds of different phytonutrients, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and blood clot-inhibiting properties, as well as strong antioxidant effects. Loaded with other nutrients as well, oranges add a great flavor punch to foods to brighten up the winter months.

Oranges are low in calories and high in fiber. One medium-sized orange contains about 60 calories and 3 grams of fiber, as well as several B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate (almost 10% of the daily value of folate). They are also rich in vitamin A, calcium, and potassium, and provide some vitamin E, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium as well.

CutiesJust one orange provides 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, which is one of the powerful antioxidant phytonutrients that stabilizes free radicals, thereby helping to prevent damage to our cells. One potential result of free radical damage to cellular DNA is cancer. This is why a good intake of vitamin C in foods is associated with a reduced risk of colon and stomach cancer, as well as gastric ulcers. This may also be why studies showed 40-50% risk reductions of mouth, larynx, pharynx and stomach cancers in those who consumed citrus fruits. Lung cancer risk was also lowered by 27% in non-smokers and by 37% in smokers. Prevention of free radical damage may also reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The World Health Organization concludes that a diet featuring citrus fruits offers protection against cardiovascular disease. Not only does vitamin C neutralize free radicals so that less cholesterol sticks to the artery walls, eventually causing heart attack or stroke, but the folate, potassium, carotenoids, and flavonoids found in citrus fruits have all been identified as having strong cardiovascular-protective effects. In fact, studies report a 19% risk reduction for stroke by consuming just one extra serving of citrus fruit per day.

Orange Green SaladResearch is beginning to show that vitamin C supplements don’t have the healing power that foods high in vitamin C have, because vitamin C works together with the other phytonutrients in foods in ways that we don’t yet understand. So for the best DNA protection, skip the vitamin C supplement and vitamin C fortified bottled drinks, and instead enjoy a glass of real, freshly squeezed orange juice — or better yet, simply eat an orange when you get hungry!

Cirtus Avocado SaladPacked with nutrients, oranges are nature’s perfect candy, but oranges are so ordinary that they often get overlooked. Try snacking on easy-to-peel, seedless mandarin oranges with brand names like Cuties and Sunkist Smiles. Kids love them and the juice stays inside the sections, which are small enough to pop in your mouth, keeping your hands from getting sticky. Cut navel oranges into eight sections and bite the orange meat from the peel.  It’s surprising how quickly orange slices get eaten when sitting out on a counter!

Citrus Ceviche close upAdd fresh oranges to your recipes to for a burst of flavor.  Try making this simple but delicious Green Salad with Oranges using greens, oranges, feta cheese, and an easy and refreshing orange salad dressing. Add oranges to couscous, quinoa, and rice pilaf for a change of pace. Also try this spectacular and versatile Citrus Avocado Salad. Oranges also make this easy Citrus Ceviche from South America very delicious. The fish is “cooked” in lime juice and has a tasty, tender texture. Citrus peels contain more phytonutrients, so be sure to add orange zest (grated peel) to your recipes for extra flavor and added nutrition.

Take February’s (2013) Healthy Challenge and eat oranges as snacks and within meals every day for a flavorful winter month, packed with disease-preventing nutrition. Yum!