It’s January, prime citrus season and the trees are heavy with fruit here in southern California. In my backyard I have several navel orange trees, a couple Meyer lemon trees and a small lime tree. I also have citrus groves in San Diego with more than 100 grapefruit, orange and lemon trees. My friend, who has a horse ranch nearby, has a couple of grapefruit trees that are practically ignored, but at this time of year they are full of the juiciest, tastiest pink grapefruits. I suspect the combination of benign neglect and plenty of natural fertilizer from the horses is the secret to wonderful grapefruit.
All citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, healthy fiber and low in calories. Each variety contains additional healthful properties that make citrus outstanding FoodTrients®.
Grapefruit – Grapefruits are a popular part of weight-loss plans for many reasons. A 2006 study conducted at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, CA published by the Journal of Medicinal Food found that overweight individuals who ate fresh whole grapefruit lost more weight than those receiving placebo pills or grapefruit juice. Also, insulin resistance improved in all except the placebo group. Depending on variety and when it’s harvested, grapefruit contains limonoids, which inhibit cancer in human breast cancer cells. The red color in ruby grapefruit means it contains lycopene, a carotenoid associated with reduced risk of prostate and other cancers. Pink and red grapefruits are also thought to be a top “anti-aging” food.
Oranges – Whole oranges are full of vitamin C, which helps maintain healthy cells. They also include cancer-inhibiting limonoids, which are being investigated for other therapeutic uses as antivirals, antifungals and antibacterials. Lab tests with human and animal cells show citrus limonoids help fight cancers of mouth, skin, lung, breast and colon. Oranges contain hesperidin, which strengthens capillaries and blood vessels. Also, oranges contain a good amount of potassium, which lowers blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering pectin fibers. Limonoids are most concentrated in the peel and pith (white) so eat them! Try orange zest in salads and on roast chicken for a FoodTrients boost. Try deep red, slightly raspberry-tasting blood oranges. The deep color means they have a high level of lycopene.
Lemons/Limes — Lemons have been used in folk remedies for centuries with good reason. Lemons are full of vitamin C, an anti-inflammatory agent and powerful anti-oxidant. They contain a compound called limonene (found in peel) that appears to be chemo preventive, which means they have the capability to naturally reverse or suppress the progression of many cancers including mammary, liver, lung and UV-caused skin cancers. Meanwhile, a University of Arizona study showed lemon peel in hot black tea reduces risk of skin cancer by 30%. There’s something to the classic combination of tea and lemon! The juice of ½ lemon daily raises level of citrate, which helps to fight kidney stones. However, other citrus fruits don’t have this effect and in fact grapefruit juice can INCREASE the chance of kidney stones, so be careful. Fun fact: Captain James Cook insisted on feeding his crew limes on long voyages to prevent the vitamin deficiency, scurvy, hence the name, ‘limeys.’
Along with wheat and dairy products, citrus fruits are among the dozen or so most allergenic foods, and can pose a problem for some sensitive individuals, so be aware of any unusual symptoms.
For those who don’t have sensitivities, here are some more benefits to adding more citrus to your diet:
Shorten the duration of a cold – Consuming a lot of citrus and vitamin C won’t prevent colds, but high doses of C (400 to 500 mg) may shorten colds and lessen the symptoms.
Heart health – As noted before, citrus fruits are rich sources of flavonoids. The prevalent flavonoid in citrus of all kinds—hesperidin—is credited with boosting “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Boost weight loss – All citrus is naturally packed with water and fiber, which helps you feel full and satisfied. Eating a half grapefruit before meals may help you lose weight, as a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found.
Reduce sodium – Lemons and limes enhance the flavor of food, so skip the salt and add a squeeze of their juice instead to minimize sodium intake.
Prevent cancer — The special class of antioxidants in most citrus, limonoids, may help guard against colon, lung, breast and skin cancers.
Eye C better — Recently, scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University showed that our retinas require the antioxidants in vitamin C for their nerve cells to function properly and maintain better eyesight.
Of course, I use citrus in many of the recipes from my book,
The Spinach and Grapefruit Salad contains iron as well as age-defying antioxidants. The grapefruit, of course, is chock-full of vitamin C and potassium. You can use pink or white grapefruit segments in this salad, though pink grapefruit has the added benefit of lycopene. Be adventurous and try blood orange segments. The Honey-Lime Dressing provides even more citrus benefits and perfectly complements the mellow flavor of the spinach.
For a tasty entrée, Grilled Swordfish in Secret Marinade is simple to prepare and delicious. The secret to this dish is the oyster sauce in the marinade. The lemon juice-enhanced marinade makes the fish so flavorful that it doesn’t need any extra sauce. You can top it with my Papaya Salsa (more lemon and lime juice) for antioxidant power.
Finally, double the antioxidant power of freshly squeezed orange juice by mixing in an ounce or two of fresh Turmeric Juice. Turmeric is a real FoodTrient because it helps reduce inflammation. Plus, the flavor combination of fresh orange juice and turmeric is deliciously unique.