By JORDY KIVETT
---- — Citrus fruits are known to be part of a healthy diet, especially since they have a high vitamin C content.
As nutritional science progresses, we are learning that it is not just the vitamins that are important, but a complex combination of factors within healthy foods that benefit our bodies. Citrus fruits have many phytochemicals, which help protect against many chronic diseases. In addition, fresh citrus is a good source of fiber that is low in calories.
Luckily, fresh citrus fruits — such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes — are available to us year-round. During the winter months, many varieties are in season and will taste even better and cost less. During these cold months, you may also find that your supermarket carries a wider variety, giving you the chance to taste types that you may not normally have access to. In the grocery store, judge citrus fruit by weight; the heaver the fruit, the juicier it will be.
Oranges, tangerines and grapefruit have distinct tastes, and the fresher they are, the more delicious. Citrus fruits picked from an orchard or farmstand in the South taste wonderful. I was surprised to get some dull, brown grapefruit from a friend a few years ago after hearing her rave about the fruit’s sweetness. Sure enough, once I cut through the skin, it was the best grapefruit I had ever eaten.
It’s important to remember that canned fruit and 100-percent juice count toward fruit servings. Any fruit is better than no fruit, but fresh citrus is a really great option. Consider swapping a glass of orange juice for an orange for the following nutritional benefits:
▶ An 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains 112 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates, zero grams of fiber and contains 207 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.
▶ One cup of orange sections contains 85 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and contains 160 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.
The calorie savings may seem slight, but keep in mind that those nutritional values are for 8 ounces of orange juice and the average glass is larger. A 12-ounce serving would have 168 calories — nearly double the calories in a large orange.
It is a common misconception that orange juice with pulp is a good source of fiber. It actually contains much less fiber than an orange. Even orange juices labeled as having the most pulp contain fewer than 1 gram of fiber (some orange juices do have added, but not natural, fiber). The carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio for an orange is especially important for diabetics, as foods with less carbohydrates and higher fiber content are much better for their diet. Lastly, when you get more than 100 percent daily value from one food choice, having a little less vitamin C is not a big deal. Extra vitamin C cannot be stored, so you do not need to get 200 percent for breakfast.
Get creative with fresh citrus while it is in season. The bright, acidic flavor makes the juices a great base for dressings and marinades. Some citrus zest, shavings of the colorful part of the peel, will add brightness to baked goods or even oatmeal. A citrus salsa with chopped onion, fresh herbs and maybe a little jalapeño is simple to prepare and a great substitution for fresh tomato salsa this season. It tastes great served with fish or chicken.
Check out the citrus selection, and add something bright and fresh-tasting to your diet during this cold, dark season.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.