The Effects of Eating Too Many Oranges

Did you know that a single orange provides more than 100 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake? That's right — do a quick online search for "orange nutrition facts" and you'll be surprised at how healthy these fruits are. Plus, they have just a few calories per serving, so you can enjoy them anytime without the guilt. Eating too many oranges, though, may cause unpleasant side effects, from bloating and heartburn to stomach pain.

There are a few negative effects from eating too many oranges. (Image: Mehmet Hilmi Barcin/E+/GettyImages)

Tip

Oranges are healthy and nutritious, but you still need to watch your portions. When consumed in excess, these fruits may cause bloating, cramping, stomach pain and other digestive problems.

Orange Nutrition Facts

Oranges are some of the most beloved fruits worldwide. Loaded with vitamin C, they keep your immune system strong in the winter and quench your thirst on hot summer days. They also contain potent antioxidants that protect your cells from oxidative stress, fight inflammation and strengthen your natural defenses.

This juicy fruit is rich in flavonoids, according to a review published in the journal Molecules in April 2017. These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, reduce oxidative stress and improve blood lipids, as reported in a December 2016 research paper featured in the Journal of Nutritional Science.

The same source states that citrus flavonoids act as cholesterol-lowering agents and scavenge free radicals. Furthermore, they are responsible for the bitter taste of the peel and juice of oranges and other citrus fruits.

Flavonoids also support brain health and may protect against neurodegenerative disorders. These bioactive compounds inhibit certain enzymes that contribute to the onset of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Their antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiplatelet properties are well-documented. As the researchers point out, some flavonoids improve immune function, while others may help in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, cancer and atherosclerosis.

These fruits also boast large doses of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Several types of oranges exist and each has a different nutritional value. Common oranges, such as Hamlin and Valencia, navel oranges, blood oranges, bitter oranges and Lima oranges are just a few to mention. Florida oranges, for example, provide the following nutrients per serving (one large fruit):

  • 69 calories
  • 17.4 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 0.3 grams of fat
  • 3.6 grams of fiber
  • 13.8 grams of sugar
  • 76 percent of the DV (daily value) of vitamin C
  • 2 percent of the DV of vitamin A
  • 2 percent of the DV of vitamin E
  • 5 percent of the DV of potassium
  • 5 percent of the DV of calcium
  • 4 percent of the DV of magnesium

California Valencia oranges, by comparison, have only 59 calories and 14.3 grams of carbs per serving. The same amount of navel oranges delivers 75 calories and 19.3 grams of carbs.

All varieties are high in vitamin C, fiber and electrolytes, including magnesium, calcium and potassium. Your body needs electrolytes to maintain its pH levels and fluid balance, remove waste from its cells and move nutrients across the cell membranes. That's why orange juice is so popular among athletes. It's much healthier than most sports drinks and has no chemicals or added sugars.

Potassium, one of the most abundant minerals in oranges, supports the proper functioning of your nervous system, regulates your heart rate and keeps your kidneys healthy. As the National Institutes of Health points out, potassium deficiency can deplete your bones of calcium and increase blood pressure. Also, a diet low in this mineral can put you at risk for kidney stones.

Can Oranges Upset Your Stomach?

As you see, the humble orange benefits your heart, brain and immune system. On top of that, it's naturally sweet and low in calories, making it ideal for dieters. But what happens if you eat too many oranges, such as five, six or eight a day?

Contrary to popular belief, eating too many oranges won't turn your skin orange. These fruits are low in beta-carotene, the pigment that gives carrots and other foods their vibrant color. However, you may experience digestive problems.

Oranges boast more than 3.6 grams of fiber per serving. The daily recommended fiber intake is 25 to 30 grams. If you eat five oranges, that's 18 grams of fiber. Nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables and other fruits contain this nutrient too, so you might end up eating too much fiber.

When consumed in excess, this nutrient may cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, digestive comfort and abdominal pain. Additionally, it may affect the absorption of iron, zinc, calcium and other minerals, leading to nutrient deficiencies. Fiber also fills you up quickly, so you may have a hard time eating other foods, which can affect your overall diet.

Citrus fruits are not the best choice for those suffering from heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). In a July 2017 study published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, oranges frequently or occasionally induced GERD symptoms in more than half of sufferers.

Furthermore, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders points out that citrus fruits and their juice may worsen GERD and should be avoided. Apples, pears, bananas and other non-citrus fruits are safer.

Remember that oranges are high in vitamin C. Too much of this nutrient may cause digestive distress, cramping, nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as reported by the National Institutes of Health. The daily recommended intake is 2,000 milligrams, so try not to exceed this limit.

Is Orange Juice Healthier?

Orange juice is lower in fiber compared to the whole fruit, so it's less likely to upset your stomach. In general, it's easier to consume too many calories when drinking juice than when eating fruit, which can lead to weight gain. One half-cup serving of raw orange juice provides:

  • 56 calories
  • 12.8 grams of carbs
  • 0.8 grams of protein
  • 0.2 grams of fat
  • 0.2 grams of fiber
  • 10.4 grams of sugars

A single orange, by comparison, has only 69 calories, 17.4 grams of carbs and 13.8 grams of sugar. Due to its high fiber content, it curbs hunger and keeps you full for hours.

Orange juice, on the other hand, doesn't increase satiety. It's not uncommon to see dieters drink a whole bottle of orange juice in one sitting. Beware that one serving of fruit juice is considered only half a cup, less than almost anyone would drink at once. If you don't keep an eye on your portions, the calories will add up.

Just like oranges, this beverage is loaded with flavonoids and other phytochemicals that may benefit your health. According to a research paper published in the December 2014 edition of Nutrition Reviews, fruit and vegetable juices may improve cognition and memory. They appear to be particularly beneficial for older adults and people with mild cognitive impairment.

If you have frequent heartburn or GERD, you may experience the same side effects from the juice as you do the fruit and should choose other, less acidic juices. Or, better yet, drink water.

Eating too many oranges or drinking too much juice is unlikely to cause serious side effects as long as you don't make a habit out of it. However, you might end up gaining a few pounds. All foods contain calories — and oranges are no exception. Enjoy these fruits in moderation to fully reap their benefits.

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