There is something about citrus fruits. Their tangy-sweet taste and oh-so-fresh fragrance make them a universal favorite. Believed to have originated in South Asia, citrus fruits are available all over the world today. What makes these fruits so popular? Read on to find out.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Citrus Fruits
- What Nutrients Do Citrus Fruits Contain
- Do They Have Any Benefits For The Skin
- Any Benefits For The Hair
- What Are The Benefits For Health
- How Do I Select And Store Citrus Fruits
- Any Side Effects
- Helpful Tips
What Are Citrus Fruits?
Citrus fruits are fruits produced by trees and shrubs belonging to the Rutaceae genus of plants. They include fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and lime. They have a high citric acid content and are typically round or elongated with a juicy, fleshy pulp surrounding their seeds. The peel of citrus fruits is leathery, the outermost layer of which is called ‘zest’ that is used in the preparation of many desserts for its flavor. The peel is covered underneath with a white, spongy pith. Typically, a citrus fruit can be found separated into segments (called ‘liths’) after peeling. You know those white hair-like things that you pick off of an orange slice before popping it into your mouth? They actually provide nutrition to the fruit as it grows.
Though it was originally believed that they originated from a small part in Southeast Asia that includes areas of Northeast India, Myanmar, and Yunnan (in China), recent studies suggest that citrus fruits could originally have been native to Australia, New Caledonia, and New Guinea.
These juice laden fruits have to be peeled before consumption. They can be eaten raw, or they can be juiced. They are also used to make pickles and marmalades. Acidic citrus fruits, such as lime, are served as garnishes for many dishes and are also a key ingredient in cocktails.
Besides being delicious, citrus fruits are also a treasure trove of nutrients.
What Nutrients Do Citrus Fruits Contain?
|Fiber content (g)||3.1||2.5||1.7|
|Ascorbic acid (mg)||70||79||26|
Citrus fruits are chock-full of nutrients that provide a host of health benefits. Those who are weight conscious and would like to avoid calories will be happy to know that citrus fruits are quite low in calories. A medium-sized orange contains about 60 to 80 kcal while a grapefruit contains about 90 kcal.
The simple carbohydrates found in citrus fruits are glucose, sucrose, and fructose. The dietary fiber found in citrus fruits contains pectin that binds with cholesterol and helps flush it out of the body.
The one nutrient that citrus fruits are most famous for providing is vitamin C (ascorbic acid). In fact, a medium orange manages to give you 130% of the daily requirement of this amazing nutrient. Other important nutrients provided by citrus fruits include folate, lycopene, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, niacin, thiamin, and phytonutrients.
Since they contain such a wide variety of nutrients, it is but obvious that they provide a range of benefits for our health, skin, and hair. Just keep reading to know what they are.
Do They Have Any Benefits For The Skin?
Citrus fruits are known not only for their high vitamin C content but also for their refreshing fragrance. The citric acid present in these fruits kills bacteria and other pathogens present on the skin, making your skin feel fresh and clean. They occupy a special space in aromatherapy because of their fragrance.
The amazing skin benefits of citrus fruits include the following:
1. Keep Your Skin Looking Young
When it comes to skin health, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is right on top of the list of nutrients that you need to keep your skin looking young. Ascorbic acid is essential because it helps regenerate collagen, which maintains the elasticity of your skin. The consumption of citrus fruits becomes even more important here because not only does the amount of collagen reduce in our skin with aging but also because our body cannot naturally produce it (1), (2).
2. Exfoliate Your Skin
Grossed out by your clogged pores and all the dead skin on your face? Then, orange peels are here to your rescue! The coarse peel of this citrus fruit is filled with vitamin C, which is a great exfoliating and cleansing agent. It clears all old, dead skin cells and shrinks pores to leave your skin looking clear and glowing (3).
3. Reduce Pigmentation
Dark spots and pigmentation occur when your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The UV rays deplete the antioxidants in your skin, thus causing oxidative damage (4). The vitamin C in citrus fruits prevents pigmentation and UV-induced photodamage. For this purpose, you can either consume citrus fruits or apply their juice topically.
Any Benefits For The Hair?
Who doesn’t love soft, shiny, and long hair? The one nutrient that can help you achieve the hair of your dreams is vitamin C. And you know which fruits are filled to the brim with this magic nutrient? Citrus fruits, of course!
Some amazing hair benefits of citrus fruits include:
4. Prevent Hair Loss And Strengthen Hair
Along with the host of other things that it does, vitamin C is also responsible for the production of collagen in your body. Collagen is the component that provides strength and structure to your hair and prevents it from breaking (5). So, load up on those vitamin C-rich citrus fruits as this nutrient is not naturally produced by our body.
5. Fight Dandruff
When applied to your hair, the acidic nature of lemon juice helps deep clean your scalp and get rid of all the dandruff. It also reduces the dullness in your hair and makes it look thicker and shinier (6).
What Are The Benefits For Health?
Citrus fruits are low in calories and are beneficial for weight watchers and diabetics. Additionally, they do not contain any saturated fats or cholesterol that are oh-so-harmful to your health. Citrus fruits also help flush toxins out of your body.
Some of the other amazing health benefits of citrus fruits include:
6. Work Wonders For Weight Loss
Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, when paired with a low-calorie diet, work brilliantly in helping you lose weight. This is because aside from being low in calories, they also have a high water and fiber content that fills you up and prevents you from feeling hungry (7, 8).
7. Lower The Risk Of Stroke In Women
All you women out there, here’s some good news for you. A recent study conducted by Norwich Medical School has found that citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit contain components called flavanones that helped reduce the ischemic strokes in women by a staggering 19%. The lead author of this study, however, does urge people to consume citrus fruits as is (as opposed to drinking their juice) to ensure you obtain the maximum amount of flavanones from the fruits (9).
8. They protect against cancer
A study conducted at Harvard found that citrus fruits contain components like flavonoids, folate, carotenoids, and vitamin C that significantly reduce the risk of esophageal cancer (10).
Vitamin C and a specific flavonoid (nobiletin) found in citrus fruits are also supposed to be antiangiogenic. This means that they prevent the formation of new blood vessels that help in spreading the cancer to other areas of the body (11).
The risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer was also found to be significantly lower in women who consumed citrus fruits, owing to the flavonones found in them (12).
According to the American Cancer Society, citrus fruits are especially helpful in lowering the risk of stomach cancer (13).
9. Maintain The Health Of Your Eyes
We already know that citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. But it’s interesting to note that this vitamin not only helps maintain the health of the blood vessels in your eyes, but it is also essential to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (which is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55 in the Western world) (14).
10. Aid In Lowering The Dosage Of Certain Drugs
Grapefruit has long been associated with dangerous drug interactions due to its ability to slow down the metabolism of certain drugs, thus helping them remain in your system for much longer and increasing their side effects. The folks at the University of Chicago Medicine used this trait of grapefruit and harnessed it to create a positive result. They found that drinking a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice along with the anti-cancer drug sirolimus helped magnify its effects threefold. This could potentially mean that the dosage of this drug can be reduced over time and the patient would, as a result, also have to suffer lesser side effects (15).
11. Help Reduce Stress
Two major reasons for a rise in stress levels are the increase of the hormone cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) and a rise in blood pressure during high anxiety situations. The vitamin C found in citrus fruits works to combat both these issues and reduces stress (16).
12. Boost Immunity
Besides the vitamin C and vitamin B6 that they are most famous for, citrus fruits also contain many plant compounds such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and essential oils that are responsible for a majority of the health benefits associated with them (17).
The vitamin C found in citrus fruits is especially important as it is not only anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial, but it also works to boost your immune system (18).
13. Great Sources Of Soluble Fiber
Citrus fruits are great sources of not just dietary fiber but soluble dietary fiber, which has many health benefits (19). This soluble dietary fiber has been found to be responsible for lower lipid levels and blood pressure, weight loss, improved blood glucose control, reduced inflammation, and improved immune function (20).
14. Low In Calories
For people who like to keep track of their calorie intake, citrus fruits are a great way to fill your stomach without taking in too many calories. Following are some citrus fruits along with their calorific content:
Orange: 84.6 cal (21)
Grapefruit: 73.6 cal (22)
Tangerine: 103 cal (23)
Lime: 20.1 cal (24)
15. Reduce The Risk Of Kidney Stone Formation
Kidney stones form when the citrate levels in your urine drop. Drinking a few glasses of fresh lemonade throughout the day has been found to increase urinary citrate levels and reduce the risk of kidney stone formation (25), (26).
16. Protect The Health Of Your Heart
17. Protect Your Brain
After just an eight-week trial, which involved making healthy older adults drink flavanone-rich orange juice, the component was found to have a significant positive effect on their cognitive function (29). This just goes to show that regular consumption of this marvelous fruit has the potential to protect our brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
18. Have Low Glycemic Index
According to the official glycemic index website, “The glycemic index (or GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested, absorbed and metabolised and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar (glucose) levels. Low GI carbohydrates – the ones that produce smaller fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels – is one of the secrets to long-term health, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease (30).”
Citrus fruits have a low glycemic index that has been found to reduce the monthly average blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and coronary heart disease risk in type 2 diabetes patients (31).
19. Help Shorten Colds
Sorry for bursting your bubble, but the vitamin C in citrus fruits does not help in curing colds completely, as it was once thought to do. However, eating a citrus fruit at the first sign of the sniffles can reduce the overall duration of the cold by a day (32).
20. Packed With Potassium
Citrus fruits are packed with the electrolyte potassium (33). The intake of potassium through citrus has been found to reduce blood pressure and the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease in adults. It also reduces the effects of age-related bone loss, renal disease, and kidney stones (34), (35). This potassium is also needed by our body to break down carbohydrates, build muscle, and maintain the regular electrical activity of the heart (36).
21. Are Hydrating
Grapefruit is about 90% water while orange is about 82% (37), (38). This super high water content of citrus fruits ensures that your thirst is fully quenched and you feel full without having to load up on calories.
While it sure is great that citrus fruits give you a wealth of nutrients, you need to keep in mind that you can obtain their benefits only if you select the right fruits at the market, store them properly, and eat them before they start rotting. Here’s what you need to do…
How Do I Select And Store Citrus Fruits?
First things first, it’s important to note that citrus fruits do not continue to ripen after they have been plucked off the tree. So, it’s important that you pay close attention when picking your fruits at the supermarket. There are a few simple things that you can keep in mind when selecting any citrus fruits.
- Make sure the rind has no blemishes.
- Pick fruits that feel heavier in your hand as this means that they are juicier.
- Choose fruits that have smooth, finely textured peels as opposed to coarse, heavily dimpled ones.
- Avoid fruits that have tender spots, wrinkled skin, or that have started to rot.
- Go for citrus fruits that have a strong and sweet smell as they tend to be fresher and juicier.
- A lot of people believe that storing any food item in a Ziploc or an airtight plastic bag or container will help it stay fresher for longer. But that could not be further from the truth when it comes to storing citrus fruits. If you plan on storing your citrus fruits in the fridge, keep them in mesh bags that allow air to circulate and keep away the condensation that makes fruits soften faster. This way, they’ll stay fresh for about 2 to 3 weeks.
- If you prefer storing your citrus fruits on the counter, simply place them in a fruit basket in a well-ventilated place. This way, they will keep for about a week.
Citrus fruits are great and can benefit your health in a number of ways. But beware! They also come with their fair share of side effects. Read on to find out what they are.
What Are The Side Effects Of Citrus Fruits?
- Fungi Growth
Citrus fruits are susceptible to fungal growth at the farm, during transportation, and even after being bought by the consumer. Some of these molds and yeasts can cause allergic reactions or infection or even grow and produce mycotoxins that can cause diseases. So, make sure you wash the fruit thoroughly before eating it and that you consume it within a few days of buying it.
- Digestive Problems
Some citrus fruits, like oranges, have high fiber content that can cause digestive problems like abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
- Biphenyl Toxicity
To prevent fungi growth, citrus fruits are often sprayed with biphenyl when being packaged. When consumed in acute quantities, this chemical can cause skin and eye irritation. It can also have toxic effects on your kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.
People who regularly suffer from heartburn or have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (also called acid reflux disease), are better off steering clear of citrus fruits as they have high acid content that can aggravate these problems.
- Drug Interaction
There are certain enzymes that are released by your body that help in breaking down medication. Citrus fruits contain some chemicals that could inhibit the release of these enzymes, thus allowing high levels of these medication to stay in your system and potentially exacerbating their side effects.
Citrus fruits are high in potassium. Anyone taking beta-blockers (that also work to increase the potassium levels in your body) should avoid citrus fruits because, in combination with this medication, they can sky-rocket the potassium levels in your body that cannot be easily brought down by their weakened kidneys.
Some citrus fruits, like grapefruit, can interact dangerously with certain medications like antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs, blood pressure medication, organ transplant rejection drugs, and cholesterol lowering drugs. This can lead to kidney failure, respiratory failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and other such major complications. So, make sure you speak to your doctor about which citrus fruits you can safely consume.
You also need to be careful while consuming these fruits or their juices. Here are some things you need to keep in mind.
- The best time to consume these fruits is in the morning on an empty stomach or after a light meal.
- Avoid drinking water after consuming citrus fruits as it might increase acidity in your stomach.
- Do not preserve citric fruits for a long time since the nutritional value reduces with extended shelf life. Opt for fresh fruits in your daily diet.
- Try eating the fruit along with its mesocarp (the white skin covering the individual segments) to gain the benefits of its fibrous content, which reduces constipation.
- Never include these fruits along with your meal because they could cause acidity and hinder digestion. You could have them a couple of hours before or after a meal.
So, you see, citrus fruits are the key to good health, beautiful skin, and strong hair. More reason to bite into the juicy delight of these amazing fruits!
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- “Mechanisms Regulating Skin Pigmentation: The Rise and Fall of Complexion Coloration.” University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy, Cincinnati, USA. 2009 September.
- “Hair Loss And Diet.” University of Pennsylvania.
- “Handbook of Hair in Health and Disease.” 2012.
- “Orange juice allied to a reduced-calorie diet results in weight loss and ameliorates obesity-related biomarkers: A randomized controlled trial.”
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- “Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in β-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue.” Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Nagoya, Japan. 2008 October.
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