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Food/Nutrition Columnist Author: Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist - Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

It’s Peak Citrus Season

By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist -
Jan 29, 2017 - 9:24:40 AM

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( - Winter is the peak season for citrus fruits – grapefruits, oranges, clementines and some you may have never eaten like kumquats, pummelos and tangelos. Everyone knows citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, but these superfoods provide much more. When eaten regularly, they help protect your body against disease and may even help with weight control.

Did you know – simply squeezing a lemon wedge into your next cup of tea increases the levels of catechins, powerful antioxidants found in white, green and black tea. But drink tea the British way, with added milk, and casein, the main protein in milk, inhibits the beneficial effects of catechins.

Did you know – that eating foods rich in flavanones, like citrus fruits, can reduce the risk for ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Researchers in the United Kingdom and the US examined the diets of over 171,000 women. Those who regularly ate foods containing flavonols (found in tea) and flavanones (found in citrus fruits) had a significantly lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. They concluded that a simple diet change could make a big difference.

Did you know – if you eat high fat foods you can protect your body from cell damage by adding citrus fruits. When we eat a high fat diet we subject our bodies to oxidative stress which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals in the body, which damage cells, and our ability to counteract their damage. Antioxidants neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals and citrus fruits are a major source of flavanones, a powerful class of antioxidants.

In a recent study from Brazil researchers showed that feeding obese mice citrus flavanones the mice had less cell damage, less liver damage, lower blood lipids and lower blood sugar. Though this was an animal experiment, the research team intends to conduct human studies in the future. Overweight individuals are more likely to develop serious diseases. The Brazilian researchers believe that excess weight puts people at greater risk for cell damage and that by adding more citrus flavanones to their diet they could lower the risk for disease.

Did you know – that iron deficiency is the most widespread nutrition problem in the world and citrus foods can help you absorb iron from foods more effectively. The iron found in food is absorbed into your body from two separate sources. Heme iron, found in meat, fish and poultry, is easily absorbed and the other foods eaten at the same time have little effect on this absorption. Nonheme iron comes from plant sources, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, and enriched cereals, and they are not as easily absorbed. Fiber, minerals, the tannins found in tea all interfere with our use of plant-based iron. But, vitamin C-rich citrus fruit is a powerful enhancer of the absorption of plant-based iron and it can reverse the inhibiting effect of other foods in a meal. One medium orange contains all the vitamin C you need each day.   

Have you ever eaten?                                                   

Minneola tangelos are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. They are rich in vitamin C and folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects and keeps cells healthy.

Clementines or California mandarins are small, flat-round, seedless and easy to peel. Two clementines provide your daily need for vitamin C.

Cara cara oranges are seedless with a rich pink flesh which comes from the presence of lycopene, the same powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes. Cara caras also contain more vitamin C than other oranges and are rich in vitamin A. 

Moro oranges are also known as blood oranges because of their reddish flesh. Their taste resembles a cross between oranges and berries. One moro orange contains all the vitamin C you need in a day.

Pummelos are the largest of all citrus fruits with a thick green peel that fades to yellow. They are less acidic than grapefruit and have a lovely scent. One quarter of a pummelo provides your daily need for vitamin C.

Kumquats are native to China and weigh less than 1-ounce each but just one contains half your daily need for vitamin C. Often candied or pickled, but if kumquats are eaten fresh they do not need to be peeled.

When buying any variety of citrus the fruit should be heavy for its size and free from any soft or brown spots.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books. Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:

Diabetes Counter

Calorie Counter

Protein Counter

Healthy Wholefoods Counter

Complete Food Counter

Fat and Cholesterol Counter

Available in print from Gallery Books:

Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd Ed.

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:



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