Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits include many types of fruits, such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, and several types of oranges. Fruits in the citrus family grow on evergreen trees or shrubs. They have fairly thick skins and pulpy flesh that’s divided into segments.

Lemons, limes, and oranges are believed to have come from Asia before gradually making their way to other parts of the world. The oldest lemons in Rome date back to the first century B.C., where they were reserved for the elite.

Lemons and limes eventually made their way to the United States in the 16th century. Oranges also arrived around the same time, brought by Christopher Columbus and his crew on his second expedition. Grapefruits weren’t discovered until the 18th century, and the first cultivated grapefruits were planted in Florida in the 19th century.

Citrus fruits come in a variety of sizes, vibrant colors, and incredible scents. They provide many health benefits, from boosting your immune system to reducing your risk of heart disease. 

Health Benefits

Lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges are high in phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These nutrients are types of antioxidants and give the fruits their bright colors and strong scents. They can also help protect your body and prevent many health issues. 

Boost Your Immune System

Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, a nutrient known to help give your immune system a boost. It encourages your immune system to produce white blood cells, which are necessary to fight infections. Contrary to a popular belief, the vitamin C in citrus fruits can’t prevent colds. However, research suggests it may help shorten a cold’s length and severity.

Lower Your Risk of Kidney Stones

A 2014 study found that people with low amounts of citrate in their urine are more likely to develop kidney stones. Citrus fruits can increase citrate levels, which may help to reduce your risk. 

Protect Against Cancer

Citrus fruits are high in phytonutrients, including flavonoids. According to several studies, flavonoids may help prevent the development of certain types of cancer.

Continued

Improve Heart Health

Citrus fruits contain many compounds that can help keep your heart healthy. Their soluble fiber and flavonoids may help raise healthy HDL cholesterol and lower harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The fruits may lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease. They’re also rich in potassium, which can help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.

Protect Your Brain

Quercetin, a flavonoid found in citrus fruits, may help fight the chronic inflammation partly responsible for the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some studies also suggest that citrus juice may help improve cognitive function.

Boost Skin Health

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the production of collagen, one of the most common proteins in your body. It’s one of the main building blocks of your joints and muscles. It also provides support for your skin, to help keep it from sagging. A single lemon has about half the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, while an orange has more than 100%. Eating more vitamin C may help improve skin health and reduce skin aging.

Nutrition

Different citrus fruits have different nutrition, but all citrus fruits have varying amounts of the following vitamins and minerals:

Nutrients per Serving

The nutrients per serving in a citrus fruit vary depending on the type of fruit.

A single, peeled lemon contains:

A single, peeled lime has similar nutrients:

A single orange has slightly more calories and sugar:

Portion Control and Things to Consider

Citrus fruits come readily packaged in their suggested serving size of one fruit. Their natural sugars and health benefits generally make them good additions to any diet. However, the strong acids in citrus fruits can damage tooth enamel over time. To avoid this, be sure to brush your teeth after each meal. If you are on the go, rinsing your mouth with water after eating citrus fruits can remove some of the acids and help prevent damage to your teeth.

Continued

How to Prepare Citrus Fruits

When buying citrus fruits, look for ones that feel heavy for their size. Choose those with fine-grained, firm skins. Avoid overly soft fruits and those that have signs of mold.

Fresh citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They’ll typically last about a week at room temperature and a few weeks when refrigerated. To help them stay fresh, don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them.

You can prepare citrus fruits in a variety of different ways, including:

  • Add orange and grapefruit segments to a fresh fruit salad.
  • Top a breakfast parfait or oatmeal with citrus fruit.
  • Make fresh-squeezed juice from your favorite citrus fruit to go with your breakfast.
  • Add a splash of lemon or lime juice to guacamole.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over salmon or lobster.
  • Sprinkle zested citrus peel in baked goods, such as cookies, cupcakes, or muffins.
  • Create a citrus sauce for roast chicken or pork.
  • Dry citrus slices and dip them in dark chocolate.
  • Candy citrus peels for a sweet treat.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 02, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Citrus.”

Archaeology: “The History of Citrus Fruit.”

World’s Healthiest Foods: “Lemons/Limes.”

World’s Healthiest Foods: “Oranges.”

World’s Healthiest Foods: “Grapefruit.”

Journal of Leukocyte Biology: “Technical Advance: Ascorbic Acid Induces Development of Double-Positive T Cells from Human Hematopoietic Stem Cells in the Absence of Stromal Cells.”

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2: “Vitamin C for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold.”

Urology: “Changing Trends in the American Diet and the Rising Prevalence of Kidney Stones.”

Frontiers in Pharmacology: “Anticancer Potential of Citrus Juices and Their Extracts: A Systematic Review of Both Preclinical and Clinical Trials.”

Chemistry Central Journal: “Citrus Fruits as a Treasure Trove of Active Natural Metabolites that Potentially Provide Benefits for Human Health.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Getting More Potassium and Less Salt May Cut Heart Attack, Stroke Risk.”

The Benefits of Natural Products for Neurodegenerative Diseases: “Role of Quercetin Benefits in Neurodegeneration.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Chronic Consumption of Flavanone-Rich Orange Juice Is Associated with Cognitive Benefits: An 8-Week Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Healthy Older Adults.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Dietary Nutrient Intakes and Skin-Aging Appearance Among Middle-Aged American Women.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.