The connection between consuming citrus fruits and its impact on good health is difficult to deny. Long touted for its cancer-fighting properties, this nutrient-packed fruit has also been accused of causing cold sores and inflammation. What is truth and what is fiction?
In addition to being free of fat, cholesterol and sodium, citrus fruits contains a hefty list of essential nutrients such as folate, potassium, vitamin B6, calcium, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus, copper, riboflavin, magnesium, pantothenic acid and, best of all, phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals have proven to be effective in fighting several kinds of chronic disease, including heart disease and several kinds of cancers. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “The possible anticarcinogenic mechanisms of phytochemicals include their antioxidant capabilities, their effects on cell differentiation, and the blocking of nitrosamines. The regular intake of a varied mix of phytochemicals is only possible through the consumption of plant-based foods, such as citrus, as part of the normal diet.”
What kinds of phytochemicals are found in citrus fruits? The two most common are biflavonoids and phenolics (also found in legumes and most fruit juices). Phytochemicals continue to be studied for their health benefits, such as fighting blood clots, inflammation, and allergies, and blood clots, protecting against heart disease and slowing the aging process.
Are some types of citrus fruits healthier than others? Besides ‘regular’ oranges, Mandarins grapefruit and Pomelos are particularly effective against cancer. Lemons, in addition to being high in vitamin C, are a diuretic and have proven to be helpful for people with high uric acid problems or frequent urinary tract infections. Drinking hot water with lemon can relieve both nausea and heartburn. Centuries ago, sailors ingested lime to avoid scurvy. Finally, both lime juice and lime oil can reduce body odor and rejuvenate the skin. The positive impact on health of all citrus fruits continues to be researched.
What about pineapple? Many people ask about pineapple, as there is a common misconception that it is a member of the citrus family. Pineapple is not a citrus fruit, although it does have a similar nutritional profile. Like citrus, it cleanses the bloodstream and is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Pineapples strengthen the immune system. Also, pineapple loosens up the extra mucus that puts people at an increased risk for upper respiratory infections, cold, and flu.
However, pineapple has a ‘secret health weapon’ that citrus fruits do not. In addition to vitamin C, pineapple is rich in the enzyme bromelain, which has been linked to decreased pain and swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
What about those who are allergic to citrus? For people with a citrus allergy, these fruits can indeed cause inflammation and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. If citrus is off limits, try tart cherries instead, which have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food. Other inflammation-fighting foods are olive oil and berries of all types.
Helpful tips for storing and using citrus fruits: If the plan is to eat the fruit within a week, leaving it on the counter or in a bowl is just fine. The crisper drawer in the refrigerator will keep the fruits good for six to eight weeks. If there is a lot of produce to be used, more than 2,000 citrus recipes can be found at Allrecipes.com. There are more citrus-focused recipes at the Sunkist website.
Consuming whole foods and natural juices is preferable over taking supplements, which each contain only a single nutrient. The positive impact on health of including nutrient-dense foods, such as citrus fruits, into the diet cannot be over-emphasized.
By Jenny Hansen
Global Healing Center
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Melzer Wellness Institute