The humble citrus has long been touted for its curative properties dating back to the 18th century, when it was utilized to treat scurvy, which allowed for accelerated global exploration by sea. Many seafarers depended on the abundant vitamins in dried citrus fruits for lengthy journeys.
This connection was confirmed in the 1930s by Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi, who discovered ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C, was the chemical component in citrus that’s responsible for preventing scurvy. This landmark discovery earned Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi a Nobel Prize in 1937. This chain of historic events also may have helped spawn a variety of fad diets purporting some citrus fruits as “superfoods” that “cleanse” or detoxify your body.
Vitamin C is an important, naturally-occurring nutrient in citrus fruits. From strengthening the immune system, to rebuilding tissue, bones and blood vessels, and boosting the body’s ability to synthesize calcium, vitamin C is something we all need, and citrus fruits are here to deliver it to us the natural way.
Other studies have confirmed the need for vitamin C to support brain function, heal from injuries, and recover from illnesses. A diet that lacks sufficient vitamin C will lead to fatigue and conditions such as colds and flus due to impaired immune function. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends we eat vitamin C foods on a daily basis. On average, men need about 90mg and women need 75mg daily.
Varieties of Citrus Fruit
- Rough lemon
- Leech lime
Benefits of Citrus
Citrus flavonoids are also antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and, in the process, protect against heart disease.
Studies show citrus flavonoids may improve blood flow through coronary arteries, reduce the ability of arteries to form blood clots, and prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is an initial step in the formation of artery plaques.
The vitamin C in citrus fruits greatly benefits the synthesis of collagen, which helps wounds heal and helps hold blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bones together and healthy.
Aside from being rich in vitamin C, citrus fruits are also good sources of folate and thiamin. Folate is necessary for cell division and DNA synthesis, while thiamin is a B vitamin important in metabolism.
Adding citrus to your diet may help you get more out of other foods you consume. The many beneficial components in citrus help your body absorb iron, a mineral that’s important for the immune system and helps your body produce red blood cells. Pairing citrus with iron-rich foods like leafy greens, fish, poultry, and meat can maximize the nutritional benefits of both foods.
Citrus fruits also contain plant compounds that can protect you against a variety of diseases such as, heart disease, cancer, kidney stones and cognitive decline.
Possible Side Effects
As healthy as citrus fruits are, they can be hard for some people to digest due to their high acidity. Those on blood pressure-lowering medication (calcium channel blockers) are advised not to consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice. The potential drug interactions with naturally occurring chemicals in grapefruits can be harmful for your health and/or subdue the effects of the medication you’re taking, as well as cause allergies.
As mentioned, some people may have digestive problems with these fruits because of their acid content. Some people typically find acid fruits “hard to stomach”.
Drinking milk while eating citrus can cause digestive problems for some people. Milk and dairy products and citrus typically don’t mix well, so it’s common to develop an unpleasant feeling in the stomach or even a serious allergic problem from combining the two. There are many stories of people whose stomach irritation from freshly squeezed orange juice disappeared after cutting down on dairy products, especially milk.
If you’re looking for a health boost, citrus is the way to go. They pack a strong dose of vitamins and antioxidants and are a straightforward substitute to vitamin supplements. So if you’re wanting more vitamins and antioxidants, grab some citrus.