Oranges: Facts About the Vibrant Citrus Fruit
Health benefits of oranges
Most citrus fruits have a good deal of vitamin C, and oranges have high levels even compared to their tangy brethren. Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, protects cells by scavenging and neutralizing harmful free radicals, according to a 2018 review published in the journal Advances in Analytical and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
Free radicals are reactive atoms that can form from things such as environmental pollution, cigarette smoke and stress, and exposure to a high level of free radicals may lead to chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
The vitamin C in oranges may also boost a person’s immunity to everyday viruses and infections such as the common cold, according to the same review.
Some research suggests that the vitamin C in oranges may be linked with a lower risk of certain cancers.
“The vitamin C in oranges is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer due to preventing DNA mutations from taking place,” Flores said. Studies have shown that about 10 to 15 percent of colon cancers have a mutation in a gene called BRAF.
In addition, a 2013 study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that the high amounts of vitamin C and folic acid, coupled with the antioxidant properties, in orange juice can reduce DNA damage and, therefore, the risk of cancer.
In addition to vitamin C, oranges contain fiber, potassium and choline, all of which are good for your heart. Potassium, an electrolyte mineral, is vital for the healthy functioning of the nervous system, and a lack of potassium can lead to arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), increased blood pressure and a depletion of calcium in bones, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
“The potassium found in oranges helps to lower blood pressure, protecting against stroke,” Flores said. Too much potassium, however, can lead to hyperkalemia which can be serious and life threatening and include symptoms of muscle fatigue and weakness, nausea and paralysis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Flores also noted that oranges are high in folate, a B vitamin that helps the body lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is common in red meat and is linked with poor heart health.
The fiber in oranges may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes and improve blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association lists oranges, along with other citrus fruits, as a “superfood” for people with diabetes.
Fiber also aids in digestion and may help lower cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Oranges are great for you, but you should enjoy them in moderation, Flores said. “Eating too many oranges has some uncomfortable side effects,” she said. “When [oranges are] eaten in excess, the greater fiber content can affect digestion, causing abdominal cramps, and could also lead to diarrhea.”
Though oranges are relatively low in calories, eating several per day can end up leading to weight gain. It is also possible to consume too much vitamin C (more than 2,000 milligrams a day); an excess of this nutrient may lead to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating or cramps, headaches and insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Because they are a high-acid food, [oranges] can contribute to heartburn, especially for those who already suffer [from heartburn] regularly,” Flores said. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, also called acid reflux disease) may experience heartburn or regurgitation if they eat too many oranges.
People who are taking beta-blockers (a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure) should be careful not to consume too many fruits that are high in potassium, such as oranges and bananas, according to the American Heart Association. These medicines increase potassium levels and, if mixed with large amounts of potassium-rich foods, can lead to an excess of potassium in the body. This is a significant concern for people whose kidneys are not fully functional, as the additional potassium will not be effectively removed from the body.