Have you been craving sweet, juicy oranges lately?
Oranges are not only delicious and refreshing, but they also are super healthy for you!
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about oranges, including some history and facts about them, nutrition facts, health benefits, and more.
Did you know?: The oil from orange peels can be used as an antibacterial agent due to its bacteria-fighting properties.
Table of Contents
- History of Oranges
- Production and Types of Oranges
- Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits of Oranges
- Ways to Consume Oranges
- Potential Risks of Consuming Oranges
- Frequently Asked Questions
History of Oranges
Oranges, also known as Citrus Sinensis, belong to the genus Citrus and the plant family species Rutaceae. In addition to oranges, other citruses in this family include mandarins, limes, lemons, grapefruits, and citrons, all varying by shape, size, color, and taste (1).
For centuries, oranges have been used to treat illnesses such as bronchitis, tuberculosis, coughs, colds, and menstrual disorders (2). They were even used as traditional medicinal herbs in several Asian countries for treating indigestion, skin inflammation, muscle pain, and ringworm infections (3).
Today, some of the many uses for oranges other than eating them include being added to beverages, cosmetics, food additives, spices, and pharmacological drugs (4).
Summary: Oranges have played a role in treating various health conditions for centuries such as coughs, colds, indigestion, inflammation, and skin issues.
Production and Types of Oranges
In general, the Citrus species are grown all over the world in more than 140 countries. The leading citrus fruit-producing countries include China, Brazil, the USA, India, Mexico, and Spain (5). More specifically, oranges account for about 70% of the total annual production of the citrus species. In 2010, it was estimated that the annual production of oranges from their fruit trees was around 123 million tons (6).
There are several different types of oranges, and they all vary in shape and size. Some of the most popular and ones you may see most often in grocery stores include navel, mandarins, and clementines, also known by the brand name Cuties or Halos.
Fun Fact: There are over 600 different varieties of oranges.
Oranges are full of important nutrients that support overall health. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, low in sodium, and contain zero fat. Check out some of the macronutrients and several vitamins in minerals that an average orange contains.
Per one whole orange (around 160 grams in weight, without seeds), include the following nutrients (7):
- Calories: 100 kcal
- Protein: 2.07 grams
- Fat: 0.47 grams
- Carbohydrate: ~25 grams
- Fiber: 7.16 grams
Vitamins & Minerals
Below are some of the highlighted vitamins and minerals that you will find in one orange (7):
- Calcium: 111 milligrams (mg), 8.5% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Iron: 1.27 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 312 milligrams (mg), 6.6% of the RDI
- Sodium: 12.6 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 113 milligrams (mg), 125% of the RDI
- Folate: 47.7 micrograms (mcg), 12% of the RDI
Oranges are most known for being high in vitamin C which, compared to the nutrient facts above, is true. Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient, meaning the body cannot produce it on its own. So, getting enough vitamin C from your diet is key. Vitamin C helps with metabolism and plays a role as a major antioxidant (8).
If you aren’t getting enough vitamin C through diets or supplements, it may have a negative effect on your health. Vitamin C deficiency can result in medical issues like anemia, bleeding gums, scurvy, infections, and poor wound healing (9).
One orange has a relatively high amount of fiber, a little more than 7 grams, which is ~25% of the daily fiber recommendation for adults. Fiber can help keep your digestive system regular and speed up the time food spends in the gut which may help improve gut issues like constipation. Additionally, it helps to increase the amount of intestinal flora, which helps to promote gut health (10).
Furthermore, oranges contain a low amount of sodium and are high in potassium which helps with fluid balance. Low sodium and high potassium levels may help to lower blood pressure (11).
Summary: Oranges are full of all kinds of nutrients, some of the highlighted ones including fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.
Health Benefits of Oranges
As you may have heard, eating oranges have a ton of health benefits, many of the benefits stemming from the amount of vitamin C that is packed in one orange plus its impressive nutrient profile.
Did you know? Oranges are non-climacteric, meaning they won’t ripen after they’re picked.
Oranges may help lower cholesterol
Oranges contain different types of fiber. Specifically, citrus contains the types of fiber called cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin which make up 60 to 70% of an orange’s total fiber content. These fibers plus lignin, another type of fiber, may help to lower cholesterol levels (12). Other studies have shown that vitamin C, which is high in oranges, may lower cholesterol in people with high cholesterol levels (13). Additionally, some studies showed that a deficiency in vitamin C leads to increased accumulation of cholesterol (14).
Summary: Oranges and the vitamin C in oranges may have an inverse relationship with cholesterol: as you consume them, cholesterol levels may decrease. If you don’t consume enough, your cholesterol levels may increase.
They May Help Maintain Skin Health
As mentioned, oranges contain a large amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C is known as the most plentiful antioxidant in human skin. This means that eating oranges may help protect against free radicals that damage cells in the human body (15). Additionally, vitamin C protects the skin from oxidative stress which can cause skin damage long-term.
One other bonus of eating oranges is that due to the vitamin C it contains, it may also promote the formation of collagen in the skin and help with uneven pigmentation (16). Additionally, vitamin C is a key nutrient in the promotion of wound healing (17).
Summary: Eating oranges may help maintain skin health due to the vitamin C content in them.
Oranges May Benefit Heart Health
Cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease are the number one cause of death in the United States (18). Furthermore, a diet low in fruits is considered to be the third most important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (19). There is research to support that a diet rich in fruits delays the onset and decreases the severity of cardiovascular diseases (20). Studies have shown that consuming fresh fruits daily decreases high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and stroke (21).
Oranges are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol (22). All of these together support a heart-healthy diet. Additionally, when you eat an orange, you are getting high amounts of nutrients including flavonoids, vitamin C, and carotenoids, all of which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and promote heart health (23).
Summary: Eating fruits like oranges may help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases and promote heart health.
Ways to Consume Oranges
One of the easiest ways to eat an orange is to just peel it! When you eat it this way you are getting a lot more fiber and nutrients due to the layer of skin it will have on it when eating it. You can also cut the orange up into chunks, slice it, or quarter it. You may also want to try juicing an orange, however, you won’t get as many of the great nutrient benefits like fiber compared to eating the whole thing.
If you want some extra zest to a cocktail or fragrance in your house, you can lightly squeeze the outside peel of the orange. This forces the oils on the peels to be released, which adds a fresh fragrance to a room or a fruity beverage. Some people use orange oils in essential oil diffusers.
Other than eating an orange on its own, it can be incorporated into food and drink in a ton of different ways:
- Try adding sliced oranges to a salad! This adds a sweet and savory flavor profile.
- Add orange to a smoothie.
- Cut up an orange and add it as an ingredient for fruit salad.
- Add orange to your favorite salsa for a sweet spicy flavor.
- Use oranges as a fruit for fruit skewers.
- Dip orange slices into chocolate for a healthy dessert.
- Slice oranges and add to fruit bread and cakes.
Summary: There are so many ways to consume oranges by adding them to different recipes. The easiest way to eat them is by peeling or cutting them up.
Potential Risks of Consuming Oranges
In general, consuming fruits daily like oranges, in addition to all of the other food groups, are part of an overall well-balanced diet. However, it is important to be aware of the few risks and side effects that may occur when eating oranges.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Oranges are high in acid. If you have medical conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating oranges may worsen GI symptoms like heartburn, upset stomach, cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea.
It may increase blood sugar
If you are diabetic or need to watch how much sugar you are eating, keep in mind that oranges contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates and natural sugars. Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you have any questions.
It May Increase Potassium Levels
If you are on certain heart medications like beta blockers or on a low-potassium diet, consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian prior to eating oranges. This is due to the moderate amount of potassium that oranges contain.
Summary: Overall, oranges are part of a healthy diet. However, you should talk to a doctor if you have certain medical conditions like GERD or diabetes prior to eating them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to store an orange?
Whole oranges can be kept at room temperature for up to around 1 week. However, if stored in the refrigerator they can last up to a month.
Is there a specific orange that has the most nutritional benefits?
All oranges, even if they are the same type of orange, will likely vary in nutrition facts. In general, they all have similar nutrient profiles high in the same vitamins and minerals, but there is no type of orange that is “healthier” than another.
When is the best time to buy oranges?
Typically, oranges are available in grocery stores year-round. One thing to keep in mind when buying oranges is that they are more in season in the winter months from December through March. Since the wintertime is when oranges are in season, this means they are more likely to be budget-friendly in stores around this time too.
Which is better, an orange or orange juice?
Orange juice and whole oranges are nutritionally similar. However, orange juice will not contain the amount of fiber and less nutrients than a whole orange. Orange juice will also typically have more calories and carbohydrates. This means that to get the most nutrients, it is better to consume a whole orange rather than orange juice. A diabetic person that needs to watch their carbohydrate intake would likely benefit from eating the whole orange.
Fun Fact: Orange juice is the most popular juice in America.
Oranges are one of the most popular fruits for a reason-they are refreshing, delicious, and quite healthy!
They are a high source of vitamin C and contain other nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.
Studies show that consuming oranges on a regular basis may have great health benefits, including decreasing risk of heart disease, improving skin and heart health, and lowering cholesterol.
If you don’t have them in your fridge already, add them to your next grocery list just to see how tasty oranges really are.