What is an Orange?
Oranges are round citrus fruits ranging in diameter from about 2 to 3 inches/5 to 7% cm with ﬁnely texturized skins that are, of course, orange in color, just like their pulpy ﬂesh. They are undoubtedly one of the most popular fruits in the world. Oranges are classiﬁed into two general categories—sweet and bitter—with the former being most commonly consumed. Popular varieties of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) include Valencia, navel, and Jaffa oranges, as well as the blood orange, a hybrid species that is smaller in size, more aromatic in ﬂavor, and has red hues running throughout its ﬂesh. Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest serves as the ﬂavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
History of Orange
The ﬁrst known reference to oranges is found in the second book of the traditional text The Five Classics, which appeared in China in 500 B.C.E. Oranges were ﬁrst cultivated in the Middle East around the ninth century. During the ﬁfteenth century, sweet oranges were introduced to Europe by various explorers and traders during their travels to the Middle East and Asia.
However, it was the Spanish explorers who were responsible for transporting the orange to Florida in the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century, Spanish missionaries brought the fruit to California for cultivation as well.
The modern-day orange was developed from varieties native to southern China and Southeast Asia. In the United States, oranges are the leading fruit crop. Other large world producers of oranges are Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Israel, and China.
Some fun facts about oranges include:
- Oranges originated around 4000 B.C. in Southeast Asia, from which they spread to India.
- Oranges are unknown in the wild. They are a hybrid of the pomelo, or “Chinese grapefruit” (which is pale green or yellow), and the tangerine.
- The orange tree is a small tropical to semitropical, evergreen, flowering plant. It grows up to 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 meters).
- Oranges are actually modified berries.
- The fruit came before the color. The word “orange” derives from the Arabic “naranj” and arrived in English as “narange” in the 14th century, gradually losing the initial “n.”
- “Orange” was first used as the name for a color in 1542.
- Oranges are classified into two general categories: sweet and bitter. The sweet varieties are the most commonly consumed. Popular varieties of the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) include Valencia, navel and Jaffa oranges, as well as the blood orange, a hybrid species that is smaller in size, more aromatic in flavor and marked by red hues running throughout its flesh.
- Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are often used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest is used as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.
- The name “navel orange” comes from the belly-button formation opposite the fruit’s stem end. The bigger the navel, the sweeter the orange.
- Moorish, Portuguese and Italian traders and explorers introduced sweet oranges into Europe around the 15th century, after finding the fruits on voyages to Asia and the Middle East.
- Renaissance paintings that display oranges on the table during “The Last Supper” are wrong. Oranges were not cultivated in the Middle East until sometime around the ninth century.
- Christopher Columbus planted the first orange trees in the Caribbean islands in the late 15th century after he brought the seeds there on his second voyage to the New World.
- Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon brought oranges to Florida in the 16th century, and Spanish missionaries brought them to California in the 18th century,
- Commercial oranges are often bright orange because an artificial dye, Citrus Red Number 2, is injected into their skins at the level of 2 parts per million.
- Oranges can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will generally last the same amount of time, two weeks, with either method, and will retain nearly the same level of vitamin content.
- The best way to store oranges is loose rather than wrapped in a plastic bag, because they can easily develop mold if exposed to moisture.
- In 2008, the top five orange-producing countries, by millions of tons produced, were Brazil (18.3), the United States (9.1), Mexico (4.3), India (4.2) and China (3.4).
- In Spanish, “anaranjear” means, literally, to “orangicate” — to pelt something with oranges.
- About 85 percent of all oranges produced are used for juice.
- There are over 600 varieties of oranges worldwide.
- A typical orange has 10 segments.
- Orange peel sprinkled over a vegetable garden is an effective slug repellent.
- The white orange blossom is the state flower of Florida.
Types of Oranges
There are two basic categories of orange: the sweet orange (C. sinensis) and the bitter orange (C. aurantium).
Sweet orange varieties
Sweet orange is divided into four classes, each with distinct characteristics:
- Common orange – There are many varieties of common orange and it is widely grown. The most common varieties of common oranges are the Valencia, Hart’s Tardiff Valencia, and the Hamlin, but there are dozens of other types.
- Blood or pigmented orange – The blood orange consists of two types: the light blood orange and the deep blood orange. Blood oranges are a natural mutation of C. sinensis. High amounts of anthocyanin give the entire fruit its deep red hue. In the blood orange category, varieties of orange fruit include: Maltese, Moro, Sanguinelli, Scarlet Navel and Tarocco.
- Navel orange – The navel orange is of great commercial import and we know it well as the most common orange sold at the grocers. Of the navels, the most common types are the Cara cara, Bahia, Dream navel, Late Navel and Washington or California Navel.
- Acid-less orange – Acid-less oranges have very little acid, hence little flavor. Acid-less oranges are early season fruit and are also called “sweet” oranges. They contain very little acid, which protects against spoilage, thus rendering them unfit for juicing. They are not generally cultivated in large quantities.
Also included among the sweet common orange varieties is an original citrus species, the mandarin. Amongest its many cultivars are:
- Bitter orange varieties
Of the bitter oranges, there exists:
- Seville orange, C. aurantium, which is used as root stock for the sweet orange tree and in the making of marmalade.
- Bergamot orange (C. bergamia Risso) is grown primarily in Italy for its peel, which in turn is used in perfumes and also to flavor Earl Grey tea.
- Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) is also sometimes included here and is also used as root stock for sweet orange trees. Trifoliate oranges bear downy fruit and are also used to make marmalade. They are native to northern China and Korea.
Some oriental fruits are included in the category of bitter orange as well. These include:
- Naruto and Sanbo of Japan
- Kitchli of India
- Nanshodaidai of Taiwan
Wow! As you can see there are a dizzying variety of oranges out there. Certainly there must be a type of orange suited just to you and your morning orange juice fix!
Nutritional Highlights for Orange
Oranges are an excellent source of ﬂavonoids and vitamin C—one orange (131 grams) supplies nearly 100 percent of the recommended dietary intake of vitamin C. They are also a very good source of dietary ﬁber. In addition, they are a good source of B vitamins (including vitamins B 1, B 2, and B 6, folic acid, and pantothenic acid), carotenes, pectin and potassium.
Oranges are far more than just delicious, they are low in calories but high in fiber and many important nutrients that can support and promote our overall health. In addition, they also contain health-promoting compounds known as flavanones. Research suggests that these citrus phytochemicals may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as having some anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial benefits.
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Carbohydrates or Carbs
Oranges are mainly composed of carbs and water, and contain very low amounts of both protein and fat. They are also low in calories. Simple sugars, such as glucose, fructose and sucrose, are the dominant form of carbohydrates in oranges. They are responsible for the sweet taste.
Despite their sugar content, oranges have a low glycemic index, ranging from 31 to 51. This is a measure of how quickly the sugar enters the bloodstream after a meal. Low values on the glycemic index are associated with numerous health benefits. The low glycemic index is explained by the fact that oranges are rich in polyphenols and fiber, which moderate the rise in blood sugar.
Oranges are a good source of fiber. One large orange (184 g) contains around 18% of the daily recommended intake. The main fibers found in oranges are pectin, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Dietary fiber has been associated with many beneficial health effects. In general, fibers are renowned for improving the function of the digestive system and feeding the friendly bacteria that reside there. Fiber may also promote weight loss and lower cholesterol levels.
Vitamins and Minerals
Oranges are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, thiamin, folate and potassium.
Vitamin C: Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C. One large orange can provide over 100% of the daily recommended intake.
Thiamin: One of the B-vitamins, also called vitamin B1. Found in a wide variety of foods.
Folate: Also known as vitamin B 9 or folic acid, folate has many essential functions and is found in many plant foods.
Potassium: Oranges are a good source of potassium. High intake of potassium can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension and has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health.
One medium raw orange contains about 62 calories, according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans; a cup of raw orange sections has about 85. If you prefer orange juice, 1 cup of fresh squeezed juice contains 112 calories, and 1 cup of canned unsweetened juice contains 105. One cup of orange juice prepared from frozen concentrate, unsweetened and diluted with three parts water, has about 112 calories.
Other Plant Compounds
Oranges are rich in various bioactive plant compounds. Plant compounds are believed to be responsible for many of the beneficial health effects of oranges. The two main classes of antioxidant plant compounds in oranges are carotenoids and phenolics (phenolic compounds).
Oranges are an excellent source of phenolic compounds, especially flavonoids, which contribute to most of their antioxidant properties.
Hesperidin: A citrus flavonoid that is one of the main antioxidants found in oranges. It is associated with several health benefits.
Anthocyanins: A class of antioxidant flavonoids found in blood oranges, which makes their flesh red.
All citrus fruits are rich in carotenoids, a class of antioxidants that is responsible for their orange color.
Beta-cryptoxanthin: One of the most abundant carotenoid antioxidants found in oranges. The body is able to convert it into vitamin A.
Lycopene: An antioxidant found in high amounts in red-fleshed navel oranges (Cara cara oranges). It is also found in tomatoes and grapefruit and has various health benefits.
Oranges, and other fruits of the citrus family, are high in citric acid and citrates, which contribute to the sour taste. Research indicates that citric acid and citrates from oranges may help prevent kidney stone formation.
Health Benefits of Oranges
We’ve all heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But with all of the antioxidants, micronutrients and health-promoting properties crammed inside the orange, it’s safe to say that oranges may be just as effective in keeping you healthy. In fact, the orange nutrition profile contains a good chunk of the fiber, vitamin C, folate, thiamine and potassium that you need in the entire day.
Eating oranges — along with using orange oil — has been associated with numerous health benefits, from reducing the risk of heart disease to fighting cancer. With the many varieties of oranges available from kumquats to clementines to cara caras and beyond, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this delicious citrus fruit and get the benefits of orange nutrition.
The combination of high vitamin C content and ﬂavonoids make oranges important wherever vitamin C is required to function, especially within the immune system, lens of the eye, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs and in the connective tissues of our body, such as the joints, gums, and ground substance; and in promoting overall good health.
One of the most important ﬂavonoids in oranges is hesperidin. Hesperidin has been shown in animal studies to lower high blood pressure as well as cholesterol, and to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. The concentration of hesperidin is considerably higher in the inner peel and inner white pulp of the orange, rather than in its orange ﬂesh.
The consumption of oranges and orange juice has been shown to protect against cancer and help ﬁght viral infections. The pectin in oranges also possesses properties similar to that of grapefruit pectin in lowering cholesterol levels.
Note: Mandarin oranges, tangerines, and satsumas provide similar health beneﬁts as the orange.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 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.
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 (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation. Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.
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. 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 more than we can consume. One study has concluded that vitamin C from oranges could one day be harnessed to impair colorectal cancer cells, but 300-oranges worth of vitamin C would be needed.
High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer. However, in 2015, a study linked grapefruit and orange juice with a higher risk of skin cancer. Researchers found that people who consumed high amounts of whole grapefruit or orange juice were over a third more likely to develop melanoma, compared with those who consumed low amounts.
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 Dr. Mark Houston, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Tennessee.
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). 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.
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 recommend 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.
Prevention of Kidney Stones
Oranges are a good source of citric acid and citrates, which are believed to help prevent kidney stone formation. Potassium citrate is often prescribed to patients with kidney stones. Citrates in oranges seem to have similar effects.
Prevention of Anemia
Anemia, the decrease in the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, is often caused by iron deficiency. Although oranges are not a good source of iron, they are an excellent source of organic acids, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and citric acid. Both vitamin C and citric acid can increase the absorption of iron from the digestive tract. Therefore, when eaten with iron-rich food, oranges can help prevent anemia.
Boosts Brain Function
The flavonoids found in oranges could help preserve cognitive function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition even found that a higher intake of citrus fruits was linked to improvements in cognitive function among older adults.
According to a recent 2017 study, the neuroprotective effects of citrus fruits may stem from the presence of two important flavonoids, nobiletin and tangeretin. Although more research is needed, preliminary findings from animal studies suggest that these flavonoids could be useful in the treatment and prevention of dementia.
Oranges are one of the best sources of vitamin C, packing in 163 percent of what you need for the whole day in just one serving. In addition to its powerful antioxidant properties, vitamin C is also revered for its ability to improve immune function.
One review published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism showed that getting enough vitamin C could help reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections like the common cold. Additionally, it could also decrease the incidence and improve the outcome for conditions like pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea.
High in Antioxidants
Citrus fruits like oranges are packed with health-promoting antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals to prevent oxidative stress and protect against chronic disease. Antioxidants are believed to play a role in the development of conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
In particular, oranges are high in bioflavonoids like hesperidin and hesperetin, which have been shown in test-tube studies to help neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation and decrease oxidative damage to cells
Oranges contain pectin, a soluble fiber that binds cholesterol in the gut, thereby preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Moreover, they contain a flavanone called hesperidin that has been found to lower cholesterol levels.
Protect against rheumatoid arthritis
Orange juice is a great source of vitamin C which has been shown to relieve arthritis pain and inflammation of the joints. Also, its phytonutrients zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin protect against oxidative damage that can result in inflammation. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice per day can assist in reducing the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Being an excellent source of vitamin C, orange may help lower the risk of developing ulcers. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that people with diets high in vitamin C were less likely to get ulcers than those who are vitamin C deficient.
Maintain eye health
Oranges are a good source of vitamin A which is essential for eyesight. It helps protect your eyes against age-related eye issues and supports the functioning of the cornea. Furthermore, the vitamin C and all other antioxidants in orange juice can lessen the risks of developing cataracts and slow down the development of age-related mascular degeneration.
Improve male fertility
Enriched with vitamin C and folic acid, oranges are also beneficial for your sexual health by keeping your sperm healthy. Antioxidant found in orange also helps in protecting the sperm from genetic damage which is the main cause of birth defects.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research says vitamin C supplementation helps boost testosterone levels and improves fertility in male rats exposed to stress. Likewise, a 2010 study in Fertility and Sterility says vitamin C boosts nitric oxide production, which improves vasodilation and erections in men.
Maintain a healthy hair
Vitamin C found in orange helps to stimulate collagen production. Collagen is an essential component for the maintenance of healthy hair and skin. If you suffer from hair loss, make sure to eat an orange every day to boost the growth your hair.
Digestive problems are often linked to insufficient stomach acidity and drinking orange juice can help increase the acidity within your stomach and promote better digestion. The high fiber content in oranges also aids in digestion and helps prevent constipation.
How to Select and Store Orange
Choose oranges that are ﬁrm and heavy for their size (this indicates that they are full of juice). Lighter fruit has more skin and drier pulp, which results in less juice. For the juiciest, sweetest fruit, look for oranges with a sweet, clean fragrance. One should avoid oranges that are severely bruised, soft, mouldy, or puffy. Color should not be used as a factor in choosing an orange. Oranges that are green or brown may be as ripe and delicious as those of a solid orange color. Actually, the uniform orange color of non-organic oranges may be due to the injection of an artiﬁcial dye, Citrus Red No. 2 (this additive has no E number, so while it may be found in the U.K., it hasn’t been certiﬁed by E.U. safety tests).
Like other citrus, oranges can be stored at room temperature for about two weeks or loosely stored in the refrigerator. It is better not to store oranges wrapped, for wrapping leaves the fruit more susceptible to moisture and mould. Also, orange peel can be dried and stored in an airtight container and kept in a dry, cool environment, and orange juice can be squeezed into ice cube trays and frozen for later use.