The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Citrus Fruits into Your Diet

Citrus fruits are some of the most popular fruits in the world. They belong to the genus Citrus of the Rutaceae family. These fruits come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are often eaten raw or their juices are extracted for consumption. Fruits in the citrus family are also widely used as additives in food and beverage, as cosmetic ingredients, and as chemoprophylactic drugs in pharmaceuticals. Before we delve into the nutritional and health gains of citrus fruits, here are some of the popular variants:  

  • Grapefruit: Ruby red, white, oroblanco
  • Sweet oranges: Navel, caracara, blood orange, valencia.
  • Lemons: Meyer, Eureka.
  • Mandarins: Tangor, satsuma, clementine, tangelo.
  • Limes: Key lime, Persian, kaffir
  • Other kinds of citrus fruits: Yuzu, Citron, pomelos, sudachi.

Health and Nutritional Benefits of Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are very healthy fruits that can significantly improve your plant-based diet. They contain important macronutrients such as potassium, folate, magnesium, Niacin, calcium, and Thiamin. Fruits in the citrus family are also rich in active properties like flavonoids, alkaloids, phenolic acids, limonoids, coumarins, carotenoids, and essential oils, which are all beneficial to human health.

Here are the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals content found in common citrus fruits:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorous 
  • Copper
  • Fiber 
  • Sugar

Nutrients and secondary metabolites derived from these fruits are proven to provide anti-cancer, anti-oxidative, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory effects, cardiovascular protective effects, as well as obesity control. Below, we give a brief insight into some of the positive results of consuming citrus fruits.

Boosts Immune System

One of the key nutrients that boost the immune system is Vitamin C. This nutrient helps the production of white blood cells which helps the body fight against infection. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that protects body cells from free radicals. Free radicals are known to cause oxidative stress which can lead to chronic infections and diseases. Citrus fruits contain an ample amount of Vitamin C. One medium-sized orange which contains about 70mg of Vitamin C can provide about 78% of the DV.

In addition, Vitamin C works on the skin to ensure barrier integrity and wound healing. The vitamin also promotes the production of collagen, a protein that prevents skin sagging and improves the overall health of the skin. 

Regulate Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Level

Flavonoids derived from citrus fruits play an important role in preventing the progression of hyperglycemia. Citrus fruits contain flavonoids like hesperidin, naringin, neohesperidin, and nobiletin are compounds proven to significantly inhibit amylase-catalyzed starch digestion. In essence, these fruits have antidiabetic effects and can help improve insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients. 

Moreover, citrus fruits like oranges contain a high amount of soluble fiber and water which accelerates digestion and helps lower cholesterol levels. If you wish to gain weight-loss benefits from a plant-based diet, integrate citrus fruit into your daily intake. You are likely to see results as they contain very low calories.

May Help Fight Cancer

While not yet conclusive, several studies speculate that the consumption of Citrus fruits may be linked with a reduced risk of various types of cancers. Secondary metabolites found in citrus fruits, such as flavonoids, coumarins, and limonoids, have been linked to a lowered risk of cancer, including gastric, lung, breast, colon cancer, etc. Also, as a good source of Vitamin C, citrus fruits help fight against free radicals in the body that can cause cancer.

May Reduce the Risk of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones occur due to an accumulation of mineral crystals within the kidneys. Inadequate citrate in the urine is known to be the cause of one type of kidney stone. Citrate inhibits the crystallization of calcium salts that can lead to the formation of stones. Fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, have the ability to increase citrate levels in the urine, thereby preventing the occurrence of kidney stones.

May Help Boost Brain Function

A host of fruits have been known to improve brain health, and citrus fruits are no exception. Thanks to their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, citrus fruits help protect brain tissues from damage. Brain and nerve damage is one of the earliest indications of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease. Certain studies have linked citrus juice with lowered risk of degenerative diseases. 

Further research also claims there is a connection between citrus fruits and increased cognitive function. While not yet conclusive, there are speculations that flavonoids like apigenin and hesperid present in citrus fruits can boost brain function.

In Conclusion

Citrus fruits are highly nutritious fruits that provide several health benefits when consumed daily. These fruits contain a host of plant compounds that help shield the body from several diseases. Nutrients present in citrus fruits such as vitamin C are also key to a healthy mind and skin. Depending on the variant of citrus that appeals to your tastes, you can work them into your smoothie, green juice, or water to get the best out of their flavor and nutrients. While you might be tempted to always go for fruit juice, bear in mind that whole citrus fruits are healthier alternatives as they have high fiber content.