In all colours and sizes, the fruits of the Citrus family originate from South Asian regions. Imported into the Mediterranean Basin from the 8th century, they were for a long time considered to be rare and precious commodities in Northern Europe. Today, you can find all kinds of citrus fruits throughout the year on your market stalls. However, the nutritional value of citrus fruits is particularly interesting from the first signs of winter. During this season, your body needs a greater intake of Vitamin C, to protect itself against the cold. Lemons, oranges, clementines and grapefruits will provide you with the necessary energy to strengthen your immune defenses in order to effectively fight against infections related to the cold weather. In case of extreme tiredness, these acidic-flavoured fruits that are highly concentrated in Vitamin C will give you a boost in case of temporary tiredness. (1).

Nutritional information

Low in calories (approximately 45 kilocalories for an orange), citrus fruits, like most fruits and vegetables, are full of polyphenols and flavonoids, which allow to fight against cellular aging and the appearance of chronic illnesses related to the degeneration of certain cells, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (2). This category of fruits is also recommended for preventing the appearance of different types of cancers affecting the digestive tract. The flesh and skin of citrus fruits, in fact, containlimonoid acid or limonin. This powerful antioxidant, only present in citrus fruits, is anti-carcinogenic (3). Thus, for those who consume at least one citrus fruit per day, the chances of contracting this type of cancer would be reduced by 40-50%. But that’s not all! The high concentration of citrus fruits infolates, potassium and carotenoids not only significantly reduces cardiovascular risks, but also the risks of polyarthritis (4) or those who regularly consume them (5).

How to choose, store and taste citrus

To benefit as much as possible from the nutritional qualities of these delicious fruits, do not hesitate to vary your pleasures! The different varieties of citrus fruits have their own qualities. When choosing your citrus fruits, always favour heavier fruits, which have not started going soft: an already soft clementine will not have as many advantages for your health. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the colour has no importance as to the fruit’s ripeness.

The acidity of citrus fruits is beneficial for helping the body to rid itself of toxins. A little lemon juice diluted in hot water can, for example, help your liver release the necessary enzymes in order to digest a plentiful or boozy meal (6). Do not hesitate to use the lemon’s zest in order to add some taste to your sweet and savoury preparations. However, as most pesticides and protective waxes used in their cultivation agglomerate in their skin, it is recommended insofar as possible to use, more often than not, products from organic farming or, failing this, to avoid consuming their skin too often.

The orange, which is among the most cultivated fruits in the world, would be particularly effective when consumed in the form of juice in order to benefit, as much as possible, from the combination of Vitamin C and other active ingredients contained in its pulp. Therefore, to revitalise yourself, there is nothing better than a nice glass of orange juice. However, be careful not to keep your orange juice chilled for too long: Vitamin C tends to “evaporate” over the course of days: drink the orange juice as quickly as possible after opening or opt, at best, for a freshly squeezed “homemade” version!

Pink grapefruit is particularly rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant which fights against free radicals that can cause certain cancers, such as prostate cancer. Enjoy it as a starter or dessert, with a little sugar, depending on how you feel at the time! (7) 

References: (1) Kawaii S, Tomono Y, Katase E, et al. Antiproliferative effects of the readily extractable fractions prepared from various citrus juices on several cancer cell lines. J Agric Food Chem 1999 Jul;47(7):2509-12. 1999. PMID:13190. (2) Cho E, Seddon JM, Rosner B, Willett WC, Hankinson SE. Prospective study of intake of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and carotenoids and risk of age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004 Jun;122(6):883-92. 2004. PMID:15197064. (3) Tanaka T, Kohno H, Tsukio Y, Honjo S, Tanino M, Miyake M, Wada K. Citrus limonoids obacunone and limonin inhibit azoxymethane-induced colon carcinogenesis in rats. Biofactors. 2000;13(1-4):213-8. PubMed PMID: 11237184. (4) Pattison DJ, Silman AJ, Goodson NJ, Lunt M, Bunn D, Luben R, Welch A, Bingham S, Khaw KT, Day N, Symmons DP. Vitamin C and the risk of developing inflammatory polyarthritis: prospective nested case-control study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Jul;63(7):843-7. 2004. PMID:15194581. (5) Kurl S, Tuomainen TP, Laukkanen JA et al. Plasma vitamin C modifies the association between hypertension and risk of stroke. Stroke 2002 Jun;33(6):1568-73. 2002. (6) Cha, J. Y., Cho, Y. S., Kim, I., Anno, T., Rahman, S. M., & Yanagita, T. (2001). Effect of hesperetin, a citrus flavonoid, on the liver triacylglycerol content and phosphatidate phosphohydrolase activity in orotic acid-fed rats. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 56(4), 349-358. (7) Matos HR, Di Mascio P, Medeiros MH. Protective effect of lycopene on lipid peroxidation and oxidative DNA damage in cell culture. Arch Biochem Biophys 2000 Nov 1;383(1):56-9. 2000.

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