Oranges were once an exotic luxury, one that featured heavily in Christmas traditions back in the 19th century. Getting an orange in your stocking was an incredible treat, especially if you came from a poor family. These days the fruit doesn’t have that same reputation. Instead, it’s a common and inexpensive type of fruit that you can find at any grocery store. But are oranges good for you?
With how common they are, it’s easy to take oranges for granted. They certainly seem less interesting than many of the exotic fruits on the scene, like persimmons, pomegranates, dragon fruit, and goji berries.
What about it then? Are oranges good for you? And, are they vastly inferior to other types of fruit?
Honestly, oranges are a great reminder that we shouldn’t write foods off just because they’re familiar. Many of the fresh fruits and vegetables that we eat most days are surprisingly powerful for our health.
Are Oranges Good For You?
- Types Of Oranges
- Benefits Of Oranges
- How Oranges Could Be Harmful
- Oranges Versus Orange Juice
- Are Oranges Keto Friendly?
- Should You Eat Orange Peel?
- Final Thoughts
Types Of Oranges
Before we delve into the health side of oranges, we need to clear up some confusion around the terms oranges, tangerines, mandarins, satsumas, and the like. The names all refer to small orange citrus fruits, but there are some distinct differences.
Part of the confusion is that there are multiple levels of naming going on.
To begin with, oranges are the round orange citrus fruit that we’re all familiar with. Oranges tend to have thick skin and are somewhat tart.
Then there are mandarins. These are much smaller than oranges and are a little sweeter. They have a thinner skin too and tend to be easier to peel. Interestingly though, mandarins are still a type of orange.
Clementines are one of many mandarin orange varieties. They tend to be very small, sweet, and are often seedless. You’ll sometimes see them described with terms like Sweeties.
Tangerines are mandarin oranges as well. They fall somewhere between regular mandarins and clementines in terms of size and tend to be tarter than either of them.
Oh, then there are satsumas. They’re another type of mandarin orange and are very easy to peel.
There are other varieties too, along with plenty of different cultivars. Regardless though, the different types are all still oranges, so the benefits we’re talking about today will apply to all of them.
Benefits Of Oranges
A Portable Snack
Oranges are fantastic as a snack because they’re so portable. Their thick skin makes them more resilient than most other types of fruit, making it easy to carry them with you. Most oranges will even survive being dropped with surprisingly little harm.
Their portability makes them an excellent choice for camping or for countless other situations.
Oranges are easy to eat too. Most types can be peeled without too much effort or you can simply cut them into wedges and eat them that way. Mandarin oranges aren’t as resilient as the larger oranges, but they are easier to peel and are naturally snack sized.
May Help With Weight Loss
It’s easy to assume that the sugar in fruit leads to weight gain. But, unless you’re overdoing it, this generally isn’t the case.
Instead, fruit often helps with weight loss. This is partly because it contains a decent amount of fiber and water, helping you to feel full. Fruit also tends to be low in calories and contains just enough sweetness to decrease your sugar cravings.
Oranges are a particularly good choice here, as a small orange just contains around 45 calories, along with 2.3 grams of fiber. Oranges also take time to eat, which reduces the risk that you’ll consume too much.
However, this benefit does specifically refer to the whole fruit, rather than orange juice. Fruit juices contain much more sugar per serving and aren’t nearly as satisfying as fresh fruit either.
Oranges are famous for their vitamin C content. In fact, you get more than 160% of your daily vitamin C intake in a single large orange. This is impressive, especially as vitamin C provides many benefits, including helping with your immune system and acting as an antioxidant.
There’s even the chance that going beyond your required daily vitamin C intake provides extra health benefits.
There are some other important nutrients present too, although the amounts are smaller. For example, a large orange gives you around 14% of your daily intake for folate, 11% for thiamin, 10% for potassium, 8% for vitamin A, and 7% for calcium.
Those are still impressive numbers, especially as those nutrients all play critical roles. Folate is particularly important for pregnant women and oranges are an easy way to get more of the vitamin.
The low calorie content of oranges is relevant here too. This means you can easily use oranges to increase your nutrient intake, without the risk of weight gain.
Oranges are considered a low FODMAP fruit, as they don’t contain excess fructose and they’re not high in sorbitol. This means that you can eat oranges even if you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome and are following a low FODMAP diet.
However, it’s still important to be careful. Some side effects are related to the total fructose load in your gut, so it’s important not to have too much fruit in one sitting. Sticking with a single serving of fruit at a time is often the best way to protect yourself.
Excellent For Fiber
Fiber comes up as a discussion point for almost every type of fruit and vegetable. This might make it sound boring, but honestly, fiber isn’t to be underestimated.
The macronutrient plays a multitude of roles throughout our body, from promoting regular bowel movements and helping us to feel full, to decreasing cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Some of these effects could even decrease the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and perhaps even cancer.
Oranges work well for fiber, with a large one giving you close to 4.5 grams of fiber. That’s close to 20% of your daily requirements. Not too shabby for a single serving of fruit, right? If that’s not enough of a reason to eat oranges more often, then here’s another – most of us aren’t getting enough fiber. That’s right. Despite how important fiber is, up to 95% of Americans aren’t meeting their daily targets. That’s an incredibly large gap to fill and oranges can help.
Improves Iron Absorption
Remember how we talked about vitamin C earlier? Well, vitamin C has another interesting effect – it increases the absorption of plant-based iron.
This is an important effect, as iron deficiency is much more common than it should be. The most powerful way to improve this is to focus on iron rich foods. And, if some of these are plant-based, then a source of vitamin C should help you to absorb that iron well.
One way to do this is to include small pieces of orange in a salad. Doing so gives you a fantastic contrast in color and flavor between the oranges and the rest of the salad, while also giving you the much needed vitamin C. You could also try making an orange salad dressing or even taking both approaches in the same salad.
Contains Some Powerful Compounds
Oranges contain a host of important plant-based compounds as well. Such compounds are always interesting, as they have many direct and indirect impacts on our health.
Antioxidants are the most famous example. These compounds help to decrease oxidation from free radicals. By doing so, they help to protect us, reducing the risk of damage to our cells and DNA,
They do more than just fight oxidation too. Take hesperidin, for example, which is a key citrus flavonoid. As well as reducing inflammation, hesperidin decreases blood pressure and inflammation.
The combination of plant-based compounds, fiber, water, and nutrients have flow-on effects on your health, helping to decrease the risk of some conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
How Oranges Could Be Harmful
Could Make Heartburn Symptoms Worse
The biggest problem with oranges comes from their acidity. This can sometimes irritate the lining of your stomach, especially if you’re having oranges on an empty stomach.
Oranges can also increase side effects for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). So, if you already experience acid reflux regularly, oranges could increase your symptoms. You might find that you need to cut out oranges entirely and focus on low acid foods instead.
Thankfully, the acidity in oranges shouldn’t be a problem for most people – as long as you’re not eating multiple oranges in a serving.
Side Effects From The Fiber
Oranges are a decent source of fiber. That’s generally a good thing, unless your intake is too high.
In particular, consuming too much fiber at a time or suddenly increasing your fiber intake can lead to a host of unpleasant side effects, like nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
These effects should pass soon enough and they’re not particularly concerning. More than anything, they’re a sign that the fiber is doing its job. Still, it’s always best to start slowly with fiber. Pay attention to your overall fiber consumption too, as it is possible to consume too much fiber.
Their Sugar Content
We can’t forget about the sugar either, as a large orange contains roughly 17 grams of sugar.
This is natural sugar from a whole fruit and it is much less than you’ll find in candy bars, soda, and the like. But, even so, natural sugars can still have negative impacts if you’re consuming too much.
Plus, with all the sources of sugar in modern diets, sugar intake can add up quickly.
Oranges do offer many benefits, so the sugar shouldn’t be a reason to avoid them entirely. Instead, it’s important to be aware of their sugar content and adjust other parts of your diet to account for this.
Oranges Versus Orange Juice
If you focus on a natural product, then orange juice is simply juice extracted from oranges, so, it still offers many of the same nutrients and antioxidants that you get with whole oranges. However, this doesn’t mean that oranges and orange juice offer all the same benefits.
The biggest issue with orange juice is the loss of fiber. Even if you choose orange juice with pulp, you’re getting much less fiber per serving than with fresh oranges.
Remember too that juice is much easier to consume than oranges. You end up consuming much more sugar and calories than you would if you were eating fresh oranges. After all, it takes multiple the juice of four to five oranges to give you a glass of juice. How many of us eat more than one orange in a sitting?
Orange juice also impacts your blood sugar levels much faster than fresh oranges. This can be a serious issue for anyone with diabetes.
Are Oranges Keto Friendly?
Oranges aren’t the most carb heavy fruit, as they contain much less sugar than grapes or ripe bananas. Even so, the sugar content is generally too high for oranges to be included on a keto diet.
This isn’t too surprising, as you’re often looking at around 13 net grams of carbs from a single orange. Even half an orange could be too much for your carb targets.
You’d see more benefits by focusing on lower carb fruit. Berries are often fantastic, as they’re low in carbs and high in protein (except for blueberries, which have far too many carbs for keto).
That said, you can include almost anything on a keto diet if you plan for it. So, if you really love oranges and don’t want to give them up, you might be able to have a few orange wedges here and there without dropping you out of ketosis.
Should You Eat Orange Peel?
Most of the time, we eat the flesh of oranges and ignore the peel. That’s hardly surprising, as orange peel doesn’t taste that good. The main exception is when we use orange zest in baking or perhaps as a cocktail ingredient.
Interestingly, orange peels do have health benefits. They contain many of the same nutrients and antioxidants that you find in the flesh of oranges. There may be even more of some of them.
If you’re going to consume the peel, look for organic oranges. This way you avoid any pesticide residue or wax on the skin.
Watch out for the white pith that’s under the skin, as this is bitter. Using a grater or a sharp knife should help you to get plenty of orange peel and hardly any pith.
Oranges mightn’t be the most exciting fruit, but they still have a delicious flavor, contain a large amount of vitamin C, and are rich in antioxidants. They’re also a safe choice, as they don’t cause many side effects and allergies are relatively rare. Honestly, if you want to improve your health, you need look no further than the humble orange.