By Gemma Hurditch for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).
Oranges, particularly ones which are organically grown, are bursting with compounds known as phytonutrients which can do wonderful things for our health and wellbeing. The juicy delicious flesh is not the only part of the fruit containing properties which can be harnessed by the body to nourish and protect. We shouldn’t overlook the rind, which is the orange skin, and the pith which is the inner white pulp.
Phytonutrients in Oranges
The phytonutrients abundant in oranges have a wide range of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-viral and anti-cancer effects. Citrus peel eaters have been found to have lower rates of skin cancer, and various other studies support the consumption of citrus fruits with improved health and wellness.
When we think of oranges, it is not surprising that we think of vitamin C. A single medium sized orange can contain over 90% of our daily vitamin C requirement. What’s more, they are sweet, refreshing, and surprisingly low in glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL). This means that despite being sweet in flavour, the slow release nature of the sugars in the orange will not spike your blood sugar levels. So instead of your energy and possibly your mood shooting up and then crashing down after a sugary snack or drink, you get a steady supply of calmer energy.
Vitamin C is a vitally important nutrient. There is not a cell in the body that doesn’t benefit from it. Being water soluble vitamin C is rapidly lost from the body and needs regular replenishing. One of the most well-known vitamin C deficiency diseases is called Scurvy. The disease was responsible for the deaths of millions of sailors as being far from land they missed out on a regular supply of vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables. An orange a day could have changed the course of history for so many people!
Anti-ageing Properties of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is required for collagen, that well-known building block of the body’s tissues and without which we would simply disintegrate! Vitamin C is also a major antioxidant, scavenging free-radicals and protecting us from the damaging effects of diet, lifestyle and the by-products of our normal functioning. Among its many actions, vitamin C is involved in the production of stress hormones that help us cope with a busy modern lifestyle. It provides immune support and protects our cardiovascular system. It also recycles vitamin E, and E protects the integrity of our cell membranes.
What is really exciting about oranges, as well as other vitamin C- rich foods like peppers, is that the combination of their phytonutrients are more beneficial than each taken individually. Properties in oranges such as bioflavonoids increase the power of the vitamin C so that all the wonderful effects such as immune support and free radical combating are enhanced. A whole orange including the pith and the stringy bits, is actually much better for you than a vitamin pill or an effervescent vitamin C drink! Plus the fruit rather than just its juice, contains beneficial fibre to support your digestive processes. Think food before pills!
The zesty peel of citrus fruits is home to over 170 health promoting phytonutrients, often in higher quantities than found in the flesh. Another great reason to choose organic is so you can use the zest without fear of adding pesticides and toxins. Use the zest to flavour salads, soups and other dishes. Or rub the pith gently onto your skin for it’s brightening and skin supportive effects, best to do so at night as it can be sun-sensitising. Add a teaspoon into a mug of green tea for a zesty treat! Always give your orange a good scrub before zesting.
Sweet orange oil has a cheerful uplifting fragrance which aids relaxation. It is also used to tone and support normal digestion, working equally well for constipation or diarrhoea. Try abdominal massage with a bergamot, cinnamon and orange essential oil blend.
An orange a day really can help keep the doctor away!
Naturopath Gemma Hurditch lectures at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine). CNM is the UK’s leading training provider in a range of natural therapies, with colleges across the UK and Ireland. To find out more about CNM courses, visit www.naturopathy-uk.com