With cold, grey skies overhead and spring a long way off, you may be settling into the winter doldrums.
Your meals, however, can be brightened up with sunny citrus fruits, which may help you feel better as well as help you eat well.
Citrus is in season when it’s winter here in the Northwest, so you will find a variety of fruits at local groceries.
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, even pomelos and kumquats, add distinctive flavors to dishes from salsa to salad to sorbet.
At the same time, they offer important nutrients to help you stay healthy during cold and flu season and provide disease protection all year long.
Citrus is renowned for having high levels of Vitamin C. A medium orange contains 70 milligrams, an entire day’s supply, and a whole grapefruit contains even more.
Citrus is high in many other nutrients as well, including Vitamin A, potassium, and calcium. For example, half a grapefruit contains 31% of your daily dose of Vitamin A.
Vitamin C is a nutritional powerhouse. It helps your body absorb iron and supports normal growth and development. It's also an antioxidant, helping fight heart disease and cancer.
Your body doesn’t produce or store Vitamin C, so it’s important to get enough from foods, says EvergreenHealth Nutritionist Marcy Dorsey, MS, RD, CD. Adults need 65-90 milligrams per day, but no more than 2,000 mg.
Marcy recommends getting your C from foods to receive the greatest benefit, as supplements are not as effective
The nutrients in citrus fruit have been shown to aid your health in many ways:
Weight management -- The soluble fiber in citrus helps keep you full, aiding in weight management. Fiber also lowers cholesterol and helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Marcy stresses that it is always better to eat the whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice, which does not contain fiber and can spike your blood sugar.
Oranges contain the most fiber of all citrus fruits with 3 grams in a medium orange.
Stroke prevention -- A study in the United Kingdom found that a diet rich in citrus fruits reduces certain types of stokes.
The study found that women who consumed the greatest amount of flavanones, a compound found in citrus, reduced their stroke risk by 19 percent.
Heart health – Flavonoids (phytonutrients found in citrus) help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and inhibit blood clot formation. Most of the phytonutrient content of citrus is found in the peel, so use the zest to flavor recipes.
Potassium is important for healthy cells, building muscle, and controlling heart rate and blood pressure. An orange contain 237 mg of potassium, and a grapefruit contains approximately 350 mg.
Digestion – Citric acid, found in high levels in lemons and limes, aids in digestion and liver function.
Marcy recommends drinking a glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon first thing in the morning to promote a healthy digestive system.
Vision -- Grapefruits are an excellent source of vitamin A, an essential vitamin that helps promote healthy vision. Just half a grapefruit contains 31% of your RDA.
Immunity – Several nutrients in citrus help boost immunity.
Mood – According to the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin C fights fatigue and depression and could improve your mood, helping banish those winter doldrums.
In addition to all of those benefits, the Vitamin C in citrus prevents scurvy, too! During these chilly days, brighten up your meals with citrus to help you eat well and stay well all winter long.
You can make these dishes together in one feast where citrus plays the starring role, or try them one by one to brighten up your winter meals.
Visit our Healthiest Best Foods homepage for more great ideas to get you and your family eating healthier.