We typically rely on fruits and veggies from our neighbors down South. We are fortunate that growers in states like California, Texas, and Florida provide us with quality citrus fruits just when we're needing an extra dose of vitamin C during these cold winter months. So whether you're into grapefruits, pommelos, clementines, oranges, lemons, kumquat, or limes, now's the time to get your citrus fix.
Citrus fruits are likely best known for their vitamin C content. A deficiency of vitamin C can lead to scurvy, which during earlier centuries, proved lethal. Scurvy can be prevented by a diet that includes certain citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons. But the benefits of citrus go well beyond vitamin C. Cancer prevention and reparation, enzymatic activity, anti-inflammatory, and phytonutrient dense, we may all benefit from including citrus fruits in our daily diet.
The demand and desire for grapefruit peaked along with the grapefruit diet, which originated during the 1930's and became popular in the 1970's and 80's. Varieties like Ruby Red and pink grapefruits contain more antioxidants than the white flesh grapefruits and they taste sweeter. These pink fleshed varieties contain at least two cancer-preventing antioxidants including liminoid and naringen. Grapefruits have a low glycemic index and eating ¼ or ½ a grapefruit at each meal has been a dieter's trick for many years. A few small studies have shown that eating grapefruit may help lower cholesterol and regulate insulin, which in turn may give a boost to metabolism.
Eating grapefruit can actually interfere with the action of certain medications including statin drugs and hormone therapy, so if you are taking meds you should talk to your doctor before you decide to go on a grapefruit binge or even eat it more than once a week.
We like to buy organic lemons when possible so that we can use the peel as well as the juice. Lemon peel contains the powerful flavone tangeretin, which has been shown (in animal studies) to have protective effects on brain disorders like Parkinson's disease. Juice from lemons has antibacterial, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating properties. A tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with hot/warm water in the morning has been a popular way of combating constipation and assisting the body in cleansing and elimination. This combination has also been used as a digestive aid and to help with nausea - so you don't have to limit it to just the morning.
In addition to vitamin C, lemons contain B-1, B-2, and B-6, as well as the minerals magnesium, calcium and, phosphorus.
Lemons aren't only awesome for their internal benefits, but we can use lemons for a variety of household projects and skin care. A natural grease cutter and disinfectant, lemons can be used in kitchen clean up and the peel can be put down into the garbage disposal as a natural sanitizer and freshener.
Limes have similar benefits as lemons. They received attention in the early centuries when given to sailors and soldiers to prevent scurvy. Limes have an amazing way of boosting the flavor of other ingredients, whether in soups, salads, or squeezed on top of other fruits.
People often assume oranges contain more vitamin C than any other fruit. While they are a good source of the vitamin, there are other fruits that boast higher vitamin C content (kiwi, guava, and papaya all have higher concentrations). Like other citrus fruits, oranges contain phytonutrients, including hesperidin, which has been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Hesperidin is found in highest amounts in the inner white pulp, which is one of the reasons to buy juice with pulp as opposed to pulp-free. And speaking of orange juice, one of the most popular beverages in America, limit your orange juice consumption to just 6 ounces daily maximum (like any other juice). Opt instead for the whole fruit, which will decrease your overall sugar intake considerably.
Mandarins or Clementines (Cuties)
Like oranges, these sweeter, smaller, easy-to-peel citrus snacks are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Eating these little mandarins may help prevent liver disease, clogging of the arteries, and type 2 diabetes.
If you've ever wondered where those gigantic grapefruits came from, don't worry, they're not grapefruits, they are actually pomelos. Pomelos are the largest citrus fruit and they can look like giant grapefruits or more like a giant green grapefruit. Like it's citrus family relatives, the peel of the pomelo has anticancer properties. The juice may help sooth a sore throat and contains vitamin C and is low in calories. It has a much thicker peel and membrane surrounding its segments compared to grapefruit, but the flesh it less bitter. It is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine but has yet to take America by storm the way other members of the citrus family have.
Meyer lemons are less acidic and bitter than common lemons. They have thin skin and their flesh resembles that of a pale orange. The nutritional profile is similar to lemons, with a high vitamin C content. Try substituting Meyer lemon juice instead of lemon or orange juice in dressings and other recipes.