Oranges are known for their vitamin C, but they offer other health & nutrition benefits, too. Learn all that this fruit has to offer, plus, how to select, store & enjoy them.

With back-to-school right around the corner, oranges are the perfect fruit to brag about.  That’s because they’re one of the most popular fruits served for school lunch. They are also an easy fruit to toss in your gym bag or back pack for after school.  And, they are available year round.

History of Oranges

Oranges are native to Asia. They were first introduced to the Americas, specifically Haiti, by Columbus in 1493.  They were later introduced to Central America, then Florida. Their introduction to Arizona, Hawaii and finally California, followed. Today, Florida, California and Brazil are all known for their robust orange production.

Florida grows ~75% of all oranges in the United States. Yet, if you purchase them at a Florida supermarket, you’ll likely see California or another country of origin on the sticker. That’s because, most oranges grown in Florida and Brazil are for processing. They are squeezed to make juice, and the oils are extracted from the peel, then used for flavors, scents, cleaners and solvents. According to Ed Pines, a citrus grower from Pines Ranch, Inc. in Florida, only ~3% of Florida oranges are used in the fresh market. Most fresh oranges, eaten as table fruit, come from California.

Though oranges come in many different varieties. The two most commonly consumed as table fruit, though, are Naval and Valencias.

Health & Nutrition Benefits of Oranges

Oranges are loaded with Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that works to protect and heal cells, aid in wound healing, promote healthy gums and boost the immune system. They contain quite a few other vitamins and minerals, too. Among them are thiamin, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

1 medium orange provides:

  • ~80 calories
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 130% of the RDA for Vitamin C
  • ~5% potassium needs

Their nutritional quality goes beyond vitamins and minerals, though. They are packed with a variety of phytonutrients, too.  Four powerful flavonoids found in oranges – hesperetin, naringin, naringenin and limonoids – are being studied for their ability to help maintain a healthy immune system and their potentially beneficial role in cancer treatment.

Selecting and Storing Oranges

Oranges are harvested at their peak level of sweetness. Unlike other fruits, they don’t continue to ripen after being picked. The fresh fruit will last longer when stored in the refrigerator, but they can also be stored in a cool, dry place for four to five days.

Don’t be concerned if you find a green spot on your orange.  According to the Florida Department of Citrus, a hint of green on the peel could have been cause by temperature, or a natural process known as re-greening. It has nothing to do with the ripeness of the fruit inside.

This orange creamsicle smoothie is made from fresh oranges and is packed full of vitamin C

Ways to Enjoy Oranges

The following are some delicious ways to add an orange to your daily meal plan.

Eat Them Fresh.

Fresh oranges are easy to pack and take with you. To make it even easier, peel it, then separate the fruit into wedges to eat on the go.

Make Fresh Orange Juice

For the best nutritional value and taste, juice only enough navel oranges to drink and enjoy right away.

Make an Orange Sauce

Squeeze an orange and use the juice in combination with other ingredients to make a sauce.  The orange flavor pairs well with popular protein picks such as chicken, whitefish and seafood.

Add To Recipes

Toss orange sections into pancake or waffle batter to sweeten up your breakfast without added syrup. You can also sweeten your salad by adding orange. The flavor pairs great with greens and oil-based dressings.

Make Orange Marmalade

Use fresh oranges to make a delicious homemade jam or marmalade.

Make A Smoothie or Yogurt Bowl

Make an orange smoothie or puree an orange to mix into yogurt.  Some smoothie recipes call for orange juice and others suggest using a whole orange.  Oranges also taste great paired with other fruits in smoothies. Try this protein-packed orange creamsicle smoothie recipe.

Do you have a favorite way to eat oranges? Share in the comments below.

*Photo credits to the Florida Department of Citrus


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