Citrus Anti-oxidants Phytonutrients

Although we can get citrus fruits year-round, summertime seems to be the best season to enjoy their fresh tangy taste. After all, who wants to drink lemonade in winter?

Recently, someone asked me what was wrong with citrus fruits. The short answer? Nothing — mind you, I wouldn’t recommend processed orange juice, but as long as you can tolerate citrus, feel free to enjoy as much of it as you want.

The nutrient most associated with citrus fruits — thanks to the orange juice industry — is vitamin C. This antioxidant helps prevent the oxidation of cholesterol (which is linked to heart disease), wards off peptic ulcers, strengthens collagen, repairs artery walls and boosts the immune system.

But vitamin C isn’t the only antioxidant in the citrus fruit arsenal. They also have a host of phytonutrients like limonene. As well as providing citrus fruits with their distinctive smell, limonene has been shown to fend off cancers by increasing the levels of liver enzymes the body uses to detoxify carcinogens. In animal studies, it’s also been shown to reduce breast tumors.

Furthermore, citrus fruits contain organic acid phytonutrients, like the coumarins, which are also found in parsley, licorice, strawberries, and sweet clover. Coumarins are natural blood thinners which have natural anti-fungicidal and anti-tumor properties. Most coumarins are found in the white inner peel of citrus fruits, so don’t be afraid of leaving a bit of that white stuff on your orange. Citrus’ flavonoids, found especially in grapefruit, also help lower LDL cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels.

Citrus fruits have a lower glycemic index than most other fruits, meaning they don’t raise blood sugar levels dramatically. This is because of their high fibre content — fibre-rich citrus fruits engage the digestive process more fully than processed foods, so they slow the release of sugar into the blood. This also leads to a feeling of fullness, which helps prevent overeating.

But you do need to be careful with this type of fruit — citrus is a common food sensitivity. Also, if you experience heartburn regularly or have been diagnosed with acid reflux (GERD), you may want to lay off citrus fruits as they can really exacerbate these conditions.

But for the rest of us, adding citrus to our diets is easy and rewarding. Freshly-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice is a perfect way to start the day, or, if that seems like too much work, half a grapefruit with a little stevia sprinkled on top works just as well. Lemons and limes are a miracle food if you ask me — I use them for everything from marinades to salad dressings to beverages.

Author by Doug DiPasquale