Oranges are a smart choice for a healthy snack or as part of a meal. These tasty fruits are high in nutrition while remaining low in calories and fat. Eat them raw or squeeze them to make orange juice. Available year-round, different varieties of oranges have light or dark peels and an interior that can range from pale yellow-orange to the deep red of blood oranges.
Oranges contain an array of healthy nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, thiamine, folate and potassium. One orange supplies more than 100 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. The phytochemical component in oranges may be just as important, however. Oranges contain over 170 different identified phytochemicals and more may yet be undiscovered. Citrus flavanones are a group of phytonutrients found only in citrus fruits. In particular, the flavanone herperidin in oranges lowers inflammation and may reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
The jury is still out as to whether the vitamin C in oranges can help prevent colds, but there are some strong indications that it can help your immune system fight illnesses and shorten the time you are ill. Having low levels of vitamin C may make you more susceptible to illness, so an orange a day may keep your levels up high enough to allow your immune system to do its work in the first place.
Eating one orange a day can reduce the risk of mouth, larynx and stomach cancers by up to 50 percent, according to research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In addition, research presented at the 2006 symposium "Functional Foods and Health," sponsored by the American Chemical Society, showed that consuming mandarin oranges and drinking juice from these oranges cuts the risk of liver cancer. The high levels of antioxidants in oranges may be at least partially responsible for their anti-cancer effects.
While all oranges convey health benefits, some may be better than others. Scientists at a 2002 meeting for the American Chemical Society reported that organically grown oranges have up to 30 percent more vitamin C than conventionally grown fruits, even when the organic oranges were smaller. Fully ripened oranges may have a higher antioxidant content than unripe fruit, so letting them sit on the kitchen counter for a few days can boost their health properties.