With the citrus season in full swing, there is no better time than now to embrace all of the benefits that citrus has to offer. Just a hint…. it goes way beyond vitamin C. Citrus includes a wide variety of fruits with the most popular being grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, and tangerines. Reaching for these tasty fruits during cold and flu season certainly is a great way to boost your immunity, but let’s explore some of the other amazing health benefits of these gems.
Citrus is Loaded With Fiber
Most of us don’t get enough fiber. Women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, and eating more citrus is a great way to stay on top of this. For example, one medium-sized orange offers 2.3 grams of fiber, and a tangerine provides 1.6 grams. Another benefit is that two-thirds of the fiber in citrus is soluble, which has been found to lower cholesterol and regulate glucose levels. Insoluble fiber makes up the rest of the fiber in citrus, which is a great source of bulk in the digestive system to help keep us regular. In addition, munching on fiber-rich foods such as citrus can help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer, which makes citrus a great snack food for weight management and even weight loss.
Citrus is Good For Your Heart
The protective plant compounds found in citrus, known as flavonoids, help to promote a healthy heart and protect from heart disease. In one study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it was found that patients who had undergone bypass surgery and consumed antioxidant-rich red grapefruit had lowered “bad” or LDL cholesterol and lowered triglyceride levels. In a Japanese study, it was found that people who consumed more citrus had lower rates of both heart disease and stroke. A review of research conducted in 2017 found that grapefruit was linked to a decrease in systolic blood pressure.
Note: If you are taking statins to lower your cholesterol, it is unwise to consume grapefruit, which may interfere with these medications.
Citrus Fruit May Reduce Your Risk of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones often form when your urine is super concentrated or when you have a high level of stone-forming minerals in your urine. There is also a type of kidney stone that forms when levels of citrate in the urine are low. Several vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits, can elevate levels of citrate in your urine, thereby reducing the risk of kidney stones. Forty years of data on the eating habits of Americans show that kidney stones are more common in people who eat less citrus fruits.
Eating Citrus Fruits Can Protect Your Brain
The flavonoids found in citrus fruit have an anti-inflammatory impact on the body. Neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, are bolstered in part by chronic inflammation. It is thought that the flavonoids found in citrus fruits can help protect against the cascading events that can cause the nervous system to deteriorate. In animal studies, two particular flavonoids, hesperidin, and apigenin have been found to protect brain cells and increase brain function as well. Additionally, human studies conducted in older adults have shown promise for citrus fruits in increasing brain function.
Citrus Fruit May Protect Against Cancer
Citrus fruits have been widely researched for their cancer-protective benefits. A number of studies have found a link between the consumption of citrus fruit and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. One study found that people who consumed grapefruit or drank a serving of grapefruit juice daily had a lowered risk of lung cancer. Additional studies have found that eating citrus may also protect against pancreatic, stomach, breast, and esophageal cancers. It is thought that the flavonoids found in citrus fruit may be employed as antioxidants, blocking the expression of genes responsible for degenerative conditions such as cancer. There is also some evidence showing that citrus fruit may help fight cancer by blocking the formation of new cancer and deactivating carcinogens.
Some Things to be Aware of When Consuming Citrus
When considering adding more citrus to your diet, it is important to do this in the correct and most beneficial way. One thing people may confuse is that drinking citrus juice provides the same benefits as eating the whole fruit. Unfortunately, when you consume fruit juice, you are often drinking added sugar and miss the fiber benefit offered by the whole fruit. Hands down, it is far healthier to consume whole fruit rather than simply juice. Consuming higher calorie citrus juice translates to more calories and can contribute to weight gain. When you consume large amounts of fruit sugar (fructose) it is quickly taken up into the bloodstream and deposited in the liver. When the liver is overloaded with fructose, it turns the extra into fat, which can lead to fatty liver and other health issues over time.
If you take certain medications, you should be aware of the impact that eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice can have. In your gut is an enzyme that reduces the absorption of certain medications. A chemical in grapefruit – furanocoumarin, binds to the enzyme and inhibits it working properly. This causes the body to absorb more medication than it should. This chemical is also found in tangelos, and Seville oranges used to make marmalade. Several over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be impacted, including:
- Some stains for elevated cholesterol, including Lipitor and Zocor.
- Some calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, including Pendil and Procardia
- Some benzodiazepines, including Halcion, Versed, and Valium.
- Other medications, including Allegra, Zoloft, and Buspar.