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Seeing Orange this winter

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Feb 4, 2016

OrangesOranges, tangerines, clementines – that’s a lot of orange to look for in the grocery store.  Read my article on why you should stock up on these colorful fruits and have a ball enjoying them.

We’ve heard of the term “seeing red” but during the months of December, January and February, this is prime-time for seeing the color orange at the grocery store. That’s because it is peak season for orange colored fruits – clementines, mandarin oranges, tangerines, tangelos, and of course, oranges. There is no better time for citrus enthusiasts to stock up on these nutrient rich fruits taking advantage of their reasonable cost and availability. Their zesty, refreshing flavor and juicy goodness make them a phenomenal fruit along with their generous health perks.

Let’s take a look at the remarkable qualities each has to offer:

Oranges often seem to get overshadowed by apples – “an apple a day…..” but substitute the word “orange” for “apple” and the saying would be just as effective. Oranges have the distinction of coming from the most cultivated fruit tree in the world. Their popularity is due to their natural sweetness and their versatility – juices, marmalade, in recipes, plus they come in a naturally neat package of pre-sectioned orange slices! Just about everyone knows of oranges abundance of the star antioxidant, Vitamin C.

Take advantage of this natural source of vitamin C. Indeed, one orange contains 95 milligrams exceeding the daily recommended amounts of 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men. This superior vitamin boosts the immune system keeping us healthy. Vitamin C is often used in skin care products to help fight skin damage caused by exposure to the sun, to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture. In addition to vitamin C, oranges have over 170 different phytochemicals and more than 60 flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties in the body. Another key nutrient oranges are loaded with is the mineral potassium. Many adults in the United States do not meet the daily recommended 4700 mg of potassium.

Having sufficient daily intakes of potassium is associated with reducing blood pressure, kidney stone formation, and reducing heart disease. Oranges high fiber content – 3 grams – helps lower blood glucose numbers improving blood glucose and insulin levels. Navel and Valencia oranges are two of the most common varieties of oranges around. Navel oranges get their name from the opening at the blossom end of the fruit that resembles a belly button or navel. They are in season from November through June. Valencia oranges have a very high juice content and are considered a summertime orange as their peak season runs through July, August and September.

Nutrient composition of oranges

Calories – around 85

Fiber – 3 grams

Vitamin C – 90 mg

Potassium – 325 mg

Cholesterol – 0 mg

Fat – 0 mg

Sodium – 0 mg

Interesting fact on oranges – the proper name for an orange seed is a pip. Tangerines, Mandarin oranges, Clementines and Tangelos are grouped together as they are all related varieties of oranges. Here are the differences between them:

Tangerines – Tangerines are a mandarin orange but not all mandarin oranges are tangerines. They are the most common variety of fresh mandarin orange found in the United States. You can tell a tangerine from an orange by its smaller size, the skin is loose and easily peeled and the flavor is sweeter than an orange. In Europe they are known as mandarin oranges and in Japan they are called satsumas. Interesting fact on tangerines – they came to Europe from Tangiers which is where their name comes from.

Mandarin Oranges – “Mandarin oranges” is a term applying to an entire group of citrus fruits. This group includes Satsuma, Clementine, Dancy, Honey, and Pixie. The mandarin tree is much smaller than that of an orange tree and they are more cold-tolerant than oranges. The peel of a mandarin orange is colored either bright-orange or red-orange, is loose and easily separates into segments. Interesting fact on mandarin oranges – they have been nicknamed “kid-glove” oranges due to their thin, loose peel.

Clementines – Have you seen in the grocery store the term “cuties” used to describe this citrus fruit? It is a marketing term often used before the end of the year holidays. Think of clementines as a miniature version of an orange but with a tart, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor. Interesting fact on clementines – it was an accidental hybrid of a mandarin tree said to have been discovered by Father Clement Rodier of Algeria in the 1900’s.

Tangelos – This cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, has a sweet flavor with a hint of tartness. One popular variety is the Minneola tangelo which was introduced in 1931 by the USDA Horticulture Research Station in Orlando, Florida. Tangelos rival oranges in their size and are usually seedless. Interesting fact on tangelos – because they are bell shaped with a protruding nose at the stem-end, they are nicknamed “The Honeybell.” Nutrient composition of tangerines, mandarin oranges, clementines and tangelos Tangerines, mandarin oranges, clementines and tangelos all have a similar nutrient composition to oranges. Like oranges they have no fat, cholesterol or sodium but have slightly lower amounts of calories, fiber, vitamin C and potassium than what an orange provides.

Ideas for using citrus fruit each day

  • Citrus segments added to a green salad along with nuts make a tasteful addition.
  • Use their zest to add an orange flavor to baked goods.
  • The juice of citrus fruits can be used to make a citrus vinaigrette when mixed with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • Combine citrus fruits along with other fruits and low-fat vanilla yogurt topped with toasted coconut.
  • A tangy orange salsa goes well with fish and poultry. Combine orange peel, chopped oranges, tomato, cilantro, green onion, walnuts, and lime juice, spooning over fish orchicken for a refreshing flavor.
  • When making a smoothie, add in a citrus fruit for a pop of zesty flavoring.
  • Fruit kebobs are always a treat. Skewer on a wooden stick peeled citrus fruit, grapes, bananas, strawberries and pineapple dipped in chocolate pudding or low fat yogurt.
  • Don’t like the taste of plain water? How about adding a citrusy twist? Slice various citrus fruits, add to a pitcher of water and refrigerate.
  • Just have fun trying out each citrus fruit described seeing which one is your favorite.

Learn more about the naturally healthy and delicious goodness of citrus fruits and how to make them a regular part of your diet.

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.