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a salad with orange slices

The word “orange” has passed down to us from n-ara•ngah, the Sanskrit word for “orange tree.” Experts believe sweet oranges first appeared in the humid Indian forests that run along the foothills of the Himalayas or perhaps farther east in China. It’s no surprise so many orange varieties come from these regions.

Today’s oranges are a hybrid originally created by crossing pomelo with mandarin, and there are a lot of orange varieties out there. Tangerines, clementines, satsumas, blood oranges, Cara Cara, and Valencia are readily available in supermarkets. Pure mandarins are one of the original citrus fruits; they’re the progenitor of oranges, not a subtype.

Carotenoids give the fruit their orange color, while the sanguine hue of blood oranges comes from anthocyanins, the same phenolic compounds that give red grapes, pomegranates, and red cabbage their concentrated hues and offer anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic health benefits.

Just one large navel orange satisfies more than 90 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. In fact, the benefits of eating oranges significantly outweigh those of drinking the juice. One 8-ounce glass of OJ contains about 16 grams of sugar (an -orange has 12), and none of the fiber.

Although oranges have more sugars compared with other citrus, their fiber and low glycemic-index count help prevent blood-sugar spikes. So does combining oranges with other foods or eating them for dessert.

“Having [citrus] as part of a meal reduces the risk [of blood-sugar spikes], and so having protein and fat prior to the citrus would also reduce the risk,” says functional-medicine physician Terry Wahls, MD, author of The Wahls Protocol.

Try this:

  • Chop oranges into homemade salsa with other citrus and onions.
  • Enjoy them in leafy-green salads or hearty whole-grain bowls, where the combined fiber will help control blood-sugar levels.
  • Use the juice to make glazes and marinades for meats and root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes) rather than drinking it.
  • Save those peels! Use them to infuse olive oil; dry them and use for teas; add them to soups, stews, or stocks; or mix them into marinades. Dried orange peels add a lovely bitterness that rounds out a variety of dishes.

Nutrient content per orange: Fiber: 2.8 g Sugar: 12 g Vitamin C: 83 mg

This was excerpted from “The Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits” which was published in the January/February 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Camille Berry

Camille Berry is a wine and food writer based in San Francisco.

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