The citrus aurantium, or orange tree, is a fruit tree that is part of the citrus genus (rutaceae family) and its fruits are called oranges. It can grow up to 10m tall and is characterised by long and thick leaves and splendid white flowers. The sprouts of the orange tree are always green and its fruits are made up of fairly big berries, also known as hesperidia. In order to find the origins of this plant’s name, it is necessary to look into Greek mythology because oranges were often spoken about in myths and how they grew in the gardens of the Hesperides, 3 beautiful maidens who were the daughters of Atlas and Nyx. The tree originates from China and Japan but now it is also found in Spain, Greece and Italy, where it was first imported by Arabs and then by Genoese navigators.
The term ‘citrus fruit’, which the orange is classed as, refers to its acidic and sour taste and this is also the case for lemons, grapefruits, clementines and cedars. Oranges grow in the Winter, specifically between November and the Springtime, and they can even be picked up until June/July and one tree can produce around 500 berries per year. Oranges have quite rough skin, called pericarp, which is green at first but then changes to various shades of yellow and orange when the fruit is ripening, and finally it becomes bright orange when it is fully mature. The internal part of an orange is called the endocarp and it is naturally edible, fleshy and divided in to juicy cloves. The peel can be used too, however; the skin contains an essential oil that is often used to make sweets and desserts.
Some particular oranges, that are red, can be purchased and these are called blood oranges, from Sicily. The pulp of these fruits is red and they have Protected Geographical Status (PDO), however they are also grown in Calabria, where 1.7 times the amount of blood oranges are produced in comparison to Sicily.
Oranges are an important source of vitamins, above all vitamins A and C but also a large part of the B vitamins (particularly thiamine and riboflavin and vitamin PP, also known as Niacin), and to fulfil our daily requirements for vitamin C, all you need to do is eat 2-3 oranges a day. Vitamin C is important because it reinforces the immune system, thus helping to prevent colds and cold related illnesses. In addition, oranges also boast an elevated content of bioflavonoids which, together with vitamin C, are important for the rebuilding of collagen in connective tissue. Thanks to this they can also help to keep bones and teeth strong, as well as cartilage, tendons and ligaments. In addition, this pairing of bioflavonoids and vitamin C helps to keep the walls of blood vessels healthy and less fragile, which generally helps blood flow. This is also beneficial for those who have a lot of cellulite as improving blood flow can prevent the ‘stagnation’ of blood, which is the principle cause of cellulite. Vitamin B, on the other hand, helps to combat a lack of appetite and encourages good digestion (in fact, making a drink by boiling two or three orange peels in 1L of water is enough to deal with bad digestion), whilst carotenes, precursors of vitamin A, are good for the health of the eyes, skin and for preventing infections. Furthermore, the ‘red’ quality of the orange provides anthocyanins, which work well against inflammation. The vitamin C present in oranges also has anti-anaemic properties since it encourages the absorption of iron, which is needed for making red blood cells. Oranges are quite rich in terpenes too which, if consumed regularly as part of a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables, have been seen to be very effective at preventing colon and rectum tumours. Amongst terpenes, it is suggested to remember limonene, which is contained in orange, lemon and grapefruit peel and which, thanks to its ability to work against the effects of oestrogen, helps to protect us from breast cancer.
Every part of an orange has beneficial properties, even the white pith inside the orange as it contains a small amount of soluble dietary fibre that acts as an equilibrator in regulating the absorption of sugars, fats and proteins. Experts recommend consuming dietary fibre to prevent diabetes, arteriosclerosis and to improve functioning of the intestines.
Bitter oranges, which are different from regular oranges thanks to their bitter flavour, are used a lot in the food and pharmaceutical industries. The edible part is usually used to make jams and candied fruit, whilst the peel is used to make liquors. The pith, due to its high content of synephrine, a substance that carries out actions similar to those of adrenaline, is used in the diet supplement industry in the production of thermogenics, which are used to lose weight. The pharmaceutical industry uses the skin of bitter oranges to make various digestive products and toners.
Thanks to the numerous, beneficial properties of oranges, together with their high level of digestibility and modest calorie content, consuming this citrus fruit should be a must for those who want to follow a correct and healthy food regime: it is highly recommended to start your day with freshly squeezed orange juice so that you are full of vitamins and energy to face the day with, as well as being a good idea for a snack.
Blood oranges have extraordinary beneficial potential, as well as having an extraordinary and enjoyable taste. They are divided into two groups:
Oranges are approximately 87% water, they are low in fats and proteins but full of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, selenium) and many vitamins (vitamins C, A, B1 and B2). The citric acid contained within blood oranges carries out an important action in the body: it lowers the acidity of urine and prevents the formation of kidney stones. In addition to the abovementioned beneficial properties, blood oranges can also combat degenerative tumours, thanks to the high number of antioxidants present in these fruits, and they act as a shield against angina, bronchitis, cardiovascular illnesses, hypertension, diabetes, gingivitis, obesity, migraines, headaches and rheumatism. Gurgling blood orange juice is also a good cure for gingivitis and stomatitis and these fruits are a good, natural and healthy dietary addition, thanks to their lightness and extraordinary content of useful substances that can supply our daily energy needs.
Nutritional values of oranges
Oranges [citrus aurantium]
Values for 100g:
|• Edible part: 80g - 34Kcal
• Animal protein: 0g
• Plant protein: 0.7g
• Carbohydrates: 7.8g
• Fats: 0.2g
|• Fibre: 1.6g
• Iron: 0.2mg
• Calcium: 49mg
• Vitamin C: 50mg