We all know the proverb "an apple a day," but equally an orange could be recommended.
There are thousands of reasons why eating an orange a day is a good idea; they are low in calories but full of nutrients, they promote clear, healthy skin and can help to lower our risk for many diseases and conditions as part of an overall healthy and varied diet.
Orange trees are the most cultivated fruit trees in the world. Oranges are a popular fruit because of their natural sweetness, wide variety of types and diversity of uses - from juices and marmalades to face masks and candied orange slices.
An orange has over 170 different phytochemicals and more than 60 flavonoids, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and strong antioxidant effects.6
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of the fruit and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more oranges into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming oranges.
Possible health benefits of consuming oranges
One orange provides a range of vitamins and minerals; a staggering 130 percent of your vitamin C needs for the day.
According to the American Heart Association, eating higher amounts of a compound found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit may lower ischemic stroke risk for women. Those who ate the highest amounts of citrus had a 19 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke than women who consumed the least. 5
Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation.3
Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.3
According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, consuming bananas, oranges and orange juice in the first two years of life may reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia. (resource no longer available at www.bastyrcenter.org)
As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C, oranges can also help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. While an adequate vitamin C intake is necessary and very beneficial as an antioxidant, the amount necessary to consume for therapeutic purposes for cancer is beyond oral intake.1 High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline content in oranges all support heart health. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Mark Houston, M.D, M.S, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Tennessee.3
In one study, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day).3
High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.3
Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One medium banana provides about 3 grams of fiber.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 g/day for women and 30-38 g/day for men.
The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form (as in an orange) or applied topically, can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin texture. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of your skin
On the next page we look at the nutritional breakdown of oranges, how to incorporate more oranges into your diet and the possible risk factors associated with consuming oranges.