Any Way You Slice it, Citrus Holds Appeal While Offering Health Benefits as Well
As Floridians, we enjoy milder spring-like weather when citrus fruits are plentiful. From oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tangerines, pineapples and even tomatoes, the choices are colorful and tasty. From January through March we pay homage to the kumquat and orange blossoms at festivals and fairs around the state, especially in central Florida. From citrusy liqueurs to jams, jellies and honey, we love our citrus. There’s even a local winery in South Pasadena that harvests citrus fruits for their aromatic and tangy libations. Visit Florida Orange Groves & Winery Inc. for tropical fruity wines available just minutes from Gulfport. The allure of citrus is linked to the notion of Florida as paradise.
Long touted for packing a healthy dose of Vitamin C, citrus fruits also contain carbohydrates, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and a variety of phytochemicals. Impressively, citrus contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol.
More recently, research has proven they are also good sources of antioxidants and able to counter the effects of free radicals. Citrus fruits are also rich in their ability to provide servings of folic acid. Others enjoy the burst of flavor reminding them of sun and sand. Flavor aside, citrus fruits have some nutrients that intrigue scientists.
Each year, Florida produces about 700,000 tons of dried peel solid leftovers from squeezing nearly 150 million crates of juice oranges. Research chemists at the Agricultural Research Service in northern California have been conducting research, which shows these substances may actually decrease blood serum levels of LDL cholesterol. That could be good news as it may help control atherosclerosis, clogged arteries and decrease heart attacks and strokes. Those are deteriorating conditions that can be accelerated by a chronic, low-grade inflammation of blood vessels. Yet for those taking certain cardiac medications, grapefruit should be avoided.
Despite that warning, there is good reason to dish about why the tangy fruits hold nutritional appeal:
Vitamin C has long been known for its ability to protect the body’s immune system. It also has the ability to grow and maintain collagen, a compound that binds cells together. (Collagen is found in connective tissue such as ligaments, joints, bones, gum tissues and in the walls of blood vessels, giving them elasticity.) Vitamin C may also help fortify the body’s resistance to infection. A deficiency of Vitamin C may cause scurvy, bruising and leave the body prone to infection.
Folic acid prevents neural cord defects (such as spinal bifida) during pregnancy, but is found in many other foods. Potassium, or “Vitamin K” assists with blood clotting, bone mineralization, cell growth and helps regulate retention of fluids. Currently there’s research underway to better understand linkages between Potassium and osteoporosis.
Citrus fruits are often touted for their healthy impact on other systems in the human body, including:
- Bones – Vitamin C is helpful in allowing our bodies to absorb calcium and keep bones strong. Vitamin K also helps in the absorption of calcium.
- Cardio-protective – Citrus fruits play a role in reducing bad cholesterol. The extent is still being researched, but nutritionists recommend hot water with lemon for cardiac patients.
- Digestion – Water with fresh lemon can aid in digestion, while helping decrease the formation of kidney stones. Citrus peels and pith, which are loaded with bioflavonoids, can also help with digestion and overall healing. Citrus contains fiber as well.
- Eyesight – A diet rich in citrus fruits may help prevent cataracts.
- Mood- The fragrance of citrus has been used to calm and soothe and as a mood elevator.
- Skin – Antioxidants such as flavanones, anthocyanins, polyphenols and vitamin C found in citrus fruits, work to counter the harmful effects of free radicals. That helps your body’s largest organ – the skin – skin stay healthy.
- In the 1500s, Spanish explorers brought the first citrus trees, planting them in St. Augustine, Fla.
- Citrus comes from the evergreen shrubs and trees of the Rutaceae family.
- Citrus means “golden plant”.
- Built in 1956, s a 226-foot citrus tower in Clermont, Fla. allowed tourists to see miles of central Florida citrus groves.
- According to the 2007-08 Florida Agriculture Statistics Services Citrus Summary, slightly more than 75 million citrus trees are grown on nearly 577,000 acres in Florida.
- During the 2007-08 season, Florida harvested 203.8 million boxes of citrus; about 70 percent of total U.S. citrus production. 90 percent was processed into juice; the remainder was sold as fresh fruit.
Because of its low calorie health benefits and tangy taste, citrus fruits can tempt your taste buds. That’s why I’m sharing two mouth watering recipes with a healthy tang to help you live well:
¾ cup of orange juice, ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar ,1 tsp. mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic, 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a blender, except olive oil. Blend until thoroughly mixed – about 12 seconds., Slowly drizzle in a few drops of olive oil to create an emulsion. Continue adding oil slowly. Serve over a bed of arugula and baby spinach, orange segments, pomegranate seeds, thin slices of red onion, black olives and goat or blue cheese.
Lemon caper chicken
Two chicken breasts, split. 1/4 cup dry, white wine, ¼ cup capers in scant amount of juice. 1 Meyer lemon, squeezed plus 1/2 any lemon cut into moderately thin slices
Squeeze lemon over chicken breasts and marinate in lemon juice (about ¾ c.) If Meyer lemons are unavailable, you may want to add a dash of sugar to the juice to cut the tartness. Let sit for one hour in fridge, turning occasionally. Lightly salt and pepper chicken breasts. Sauté them in 1 tblsp. olive oil until seared, turning occasionally. If thin, continue to cook. If thick, transfer to lightly oiled glass baking dish. Add wine to dish or pan, capers, and bake till done, at 350 degrees. Serve over bed of wilted spinach and enjoy.
Stop by The Gulfport Fresh Market every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Beach Blvd. for fresh produce.