Citrus Fruits and Healthy Eating
Citrus fruits have long been known to have many health benefits. In the days of the first ocean crossings, sailors often became sick with scurvy due to vitamin C deficiencies caused by a lack of citrus fruits. Even though vitamin C deficiency is no longer such a problem, many people do not eat enough citrus fruits. That is a shame since citrus fruits are among the most delicious and most nutritious fruits available. Whether you have a grapefruit at breakfast or orange at lunch, adding more citrus to your diet can do wonders for your healthy eating program.
Of course, citrus fruits are not limited to the standard oranges and grapefruits. Most major grocery stores have an endless variety of citrus fruits on their shelves, including pineapples, tomatoes, lemons, kumquats, mandarin oranges, tangerines, and lemons.
Everyone knows that citrus fruits have large amounts of vitamin C to offer, but many citrus fruits have significant levels of other important nutrients, such as potassium, as well. Let’s take a closer look at what citrus fruits have to offer.
Vitamin C is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of citrus fruits, and, indeed, most citrus fruits are loaded with this important vitamin. Vitamin C is perhaps the most studied of all vitamins. It has shown promise in shortening the duration of colds, helping wounds heal faster, and protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Vitamin C is essential for healthy skin and gums, and since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, sufficient quantities must be consumed every day. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin C is not stored in the body. That is why eating at least a few servings a day of citrus fruits and other vitamin C rich foods are important. Luckily, getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin C is not difficult since a single orange contains 150% of the government’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
Fiber content is often overlooked as a benefit of citrus fruits. After all, most people picture cereals and grains when they think of fiber. Even so, citrus fruits are a good source of dietary fiber, including the all-important soluble fiber. Fiber plays a vital role in digestion, and studies have indicated it may help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and even reduce the risk of some kinds of cancer.
Folate (folic acid)
Folate, or folic acid as it is also known, plays a vital role in early pregnancy, so all women of childbearing age are encouraged to consume adequate amounts of this important nutrient. One of the most critical times in pregnancy occurs before the woman knows she is pregnant. In addition to its importance in preventing many neural tube congenital disabilities, folic acid also aids in producing mature red blood cells and helps prevent anemia. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of folic acid.
Oranges are particularly high in potassium, as are noncitrus fruits like bananas. Potassium is vital to maintaining a proper fluid balance in the body and transmitting signals between nerve cells. Potassium levels can be affected by excess caffeine consumption and by dehydration, so it is important to consume adequate levels of potassium every day.
With all these things going for them, it is easy to see why citrus fruits are important to the diet. No matter your ultimate fitness goal, a diet rich in citrus fruits will help get you off to the right start. And with the many varieties of citrus fruits to choose from, it is easy to spice things up and bring variety to your healthy eating plan.