Oranges, native to Southeast Asia, date back 7,000 years when different varieties were grown in parts of India. They arrived in Europe, where they were mostly used medicinally, in the 15th century. From there, Spanish explorers brought oranges to the New World in the 16th century, when missionaries planted orange trees in Florida and, later, California -- two states well-known for their orange groves. These citrus gems were highly prized and expensive before the 20th century, eaten only on special holidays, like Christmas. Fortunately, this popular fruit is much more accessible today!
The most commonly grown tree fruit in the world, oranges are classified as either sweet or bitter. The sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), which includes varieties such as Valencia, Naval, and blood orange, is the most commonly consumed. Bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium) are used for making jams, and their zest (the top layer of an orange's peel) flavors orange liqueurs, like Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and Triple Sec. Perhaps best known for their high vitamin C content, a one-cup serving of the fruit holds 160 percent DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories per day) of this powerful antioxidant. It also serves up an impressive dose of dietary fiber and folate.
Oranges are a rich source of many plant chemicals with health benefits, including dietary flavonoids, which reduce risk of adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke. Women who consumed the most citrus fruit--including oranges--had a 19 percent lower risk of having an ischemic stroke than women who ate the least, according to a study that followed almost 70,000 women for 14 years (Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2012.) Oranges also contain carotenoids that are associated with reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A study in a 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking just one glass of orange juice daily delivers enough carotenoids to reduce RA risk.
Oranges don't have to be brightly colored to be good. A bit of green or brown on an orange can yield fruit that may be just as ripe and delicious. For the juiciest fruits, choose oranges that are heavy for their size and have a clean citrus scent. Stored at room temperature or refrigerated, they'll last about two weeks. Oranges are wonderful peeled or sliced, eaten as a snack or added to salads, and can be juiced and zested to brighten dressings, sauces and desserts.
Oranges, 1 cup, sections (180 g)
Dietary fiber: 4 g (17 percent DV)
Vitamin C: 96 mg (160 percent DV)
Thiamin: 0.2 mg (10 percent DV)
Folate: 54 mcg (14 percent DV)
Potassium: 326 mg (9 percent DV)
(Note: g=grams, mg=milligrams, DV=Daily Value, mcg=micrograms)
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