If you’re a fan of citrus fruits, you’ve probably enjoyed your fair share of oranges.
Citrus sinensis, or the sweet orange, is the type people typically enjoy fresh and in juice form.
Sweet orange trees originated in China thousands of years ago and are now grown in many areas worldwide, including the United States, Mexico, and Spain.
Oranges are a treasure trove of nutrients and protective plant compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Studies show that consuming oranges regularly may benefit your health in several ways.
This article explains everything you need to know about oranges, including their nutritional value, potential health benefits, and more.
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Nutrition facts of oranges
Here’s the nutritional breakdown for one orange (140 grams):
- Calories: 66
- Water: 86% by weight
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Carbs: 14.8 grams
- Sugar: 12 grams
- Fiber: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Vitamin C: 92% of the daily value
- Folate: 9% of the daily value
- Calcium: 5% of the daily value
- Potassium: 5% of the daily value
Like most fruits, oranges mainly comprise carbs and water, contain very little protein and fat, and are relatively low in calories.
Oranges are a good source of fiber. One orange (140 grams) packs around 10% of the daily value.
Getting enough fiber daily is essential for overall health and helps keep your digestive system healthy by supporting regularity and fueling your beneficial gut bacteria.
Plus, diets rich in fiber are associated with several benefits, including decreased risks of heart disease, colon cancer, and obesity.
Oranges are also high in certain nutrients, especially vitamin C and folate.
One 140-gram orange covers 92% of your daily vitamin C needs. This water-soluble nutrient is essential for your health. Your body uses it for immune function, collagen synthesis, iron absorption, and more.
Folate is a B vitamin that plays a role in metabolism, fetal and placental development, and many other vital processes.
In addition to vitamin C and folate, oranges provide smaller amounts of other nutrients, including calcium, potassium, and thiamine (vitamin B1).
Summary: Oranges are a good source of fiber and a rich source of vitamin C and folate, among many other beneficial nutrients.
Oranges are high in beneficial plant compounds
Oranges are an excellent source of various bioactive plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. These include flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C.
Oranges are packed with phenolic compounds — especially flavonoids, which contribute most to their antioxidant properties.
- Hesperidin. A citrus flavonoid that’s one of the primary antioxidants in oranges, hesperidin may have blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects in the body.
- Naringenin. Naringenin is another citrus flavonoid that has been linked to health benefits. Drinking naringenin-rich orange juice may help improve blood vessel function and enhance antioxidant defenses in the body.
All citrus fruits are high in carotenoid antioxidants, responsible for their rich orange, red, and yellow colors.
A study found that drinking fresh orange juice helped increase skin carotenoid levels, which are good indicators of the total antioxidant status of the body.
- Beta-cryptoxanthin. This compound acts as an antioxidant in the body, protecting cells against oxidative damage. In addition, your body can convert beta-cryptoxanthin into the active form of vitamin A.
- Lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant in high amounts in red-fleshed navel oranges (Cara Cara oranges). It has various health benefits, and getting enough in your diet may help protect you against heart disease.
Vitamin C is one of the most well-known and well-researched antioxidants.
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Maintaining optimal intake of vitamin-C-rich foods and beverages like oranges is essential. Higher dietary intake and blood concentrations of vitamin C have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from all causes.
Summary: Oranges are a rich source of several plant compounds that may be responsible for many of their health benefits.
Health benefits of oranges
According to research findings, regularly consuming citrus fruits, like oranges, may benefit your health in several ways.
Oranges help promote heart health
Heart disease is currently the world’s most common cause of premature death.
Several nutrients and plant compounds in oranges, including vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids, may help promote heart health and reduce heart disease risk if consumed at optimal levels.
Regularly consuming oranges and orange juice may help reduce heart disease risk factors.
One review of 10 high-quality studies found that consuming orange juice reduced several heart disease risk factors, including levels of:
- blood sugar
- LDL (bad) cholesterol
- the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP)
Diets high in citrus fruits may protect against chronic diseases
In addition to protecting heart health, regularly consuming oranges and other citrus fruits may help reduce the risk of other health conditions, including certain types of cancer and diabetes.
Studies suggest that diets high in citrus fruits may help reduce the risk of several types of cancers, including:
- lung cancer
- mouth cancer
- stomach cancer
- head and neck cancer
What’s more, diets high in fruits, including citrus fruits, may help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One study, including over 7,000 Australian adults, found that those with moderate total fruit intakes that included oranges and other citrus fruits were 36% less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes at five years compared with people with the lowest fruit intakes.
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Keep in mind that this study found benefits connected to eating fruits, in general, and it didn’t isolate the benefits of eating whole oranges, specifically. In addition, it didn’t find the same beneficial effects in people who drank fruit juice.
This is likely because fruit juice has much less fiber and a more significant effect on blood sugar than whole fruits.
Although citrus fruits may help reduce the risk of some medical conditions if you consume them regularly, remember that your diet and lifestyle are much more important than any food.
Vitamin-C-rich foods may help prevent anemia, a condition when your body lacks adequate amounts of the mineral iron.
Although oranges are not a good source of iron, they’re an excellent source of vitamin C, which enhances your body’s ability to absorb iron.
One study found that adding 120 grams of orange to meals composed of rice or flatbread with lentils or a greens-based dish called saag enhanced the bioavailability of iron by as much as 10.7%.
Try adding a sprinkle of orange juice to lentil and bean dishes or adding orange segments to spinach salads to help enhance iron absorption.
Oranges may help support immune health
Regularly consuming fruits high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds can help promote healthy immune function.
Oranges and other citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C.
This nutrient is critical to the function of immune cells like natural killer cells. It’s likewise necessary for a process called apoptosis, in which old, damaged cells die, then are cleared out and replaced with new healthy cells.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps protect against the process of oxidative damage, which otherwise can negatively affect immune health and increase disease risk.
Other compounds in oranges, including hesperidin and naringenin, have anti-inflammatory activities.
Chronic inflammation can negatively affect the immune response, so foods rich in anti-inflammatory substances may help support immune functioning.
Fiber is another nutrient provided by oranges that can help promote immune health. Your body needs fiber to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, influencing immune system development and function.
Summary: Oranges may benefit heart health, reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, enhance iron absorption, and support a healthy immune response.
Whole oranges vs. orange juice
Orange juice is one of the most frequently consumed juices in the United States.
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It’s sweet and refreshing and provides several essential nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
Even though orange juice and whole oranges are nutritious, there are several differences between the two.
One of the main differences between pure orange juice and whole oranges is that juice is much lower in fiber.
One cup (248 mL) of pure orange juice has nearly double the calories of a whole orange and contains almost twice as much sugar. Plus, orange juice contains much less fiber than whole oranges, so it’s much less filling.
As a result, fruit juice is much easier to overconsume than whole oranges. Drinking too much fruit juice isn’t good for your overall health because it could contribute to excessive calorie consumption.
Plus, some orange juices contain added sugars, which you should keep to a minimum for optimal health.
Although quality orange juice can be a healthy choice when consumed in moderation, choosing whole fruit more often is wise.
Summary: Fruit juices are more concentrated in sugar and contain less fiber, making them much less filling than whole fruit.
Adverse effects of oranges
Oranges don’t have many known adverse effects.
Although rare, orange allergies do exist. If you’re allergic to oranges, you should avoid eating oranges or drinking orange juice.
For people who experience heartburn, eating oranges can make symptoms worse. This is because oranges contain organic acids, mainly citric acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Summary: Some people are allergic to oranges, and their acidity may increase heartburn symptoms. However, oranges pose few health risks overall.
Oranges are among the world’s most popular fruits — they’re as nutritious as they are tasty.
They are a good source of vitamin C and several other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Some studies show that regularly consuming citrus fruits like oranges may help lower the risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease.
This bright citrus fruit is an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
Expert tip: If you’re looking for ways to include oranges into your diet, try scattering orange slices into your favorite salad. Their sweet taste pairs well with savory salad ingredients like fish, chicken, nuts, and cheese.