The citrus fruit family includes oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits as well as tangerines and pomelos. Typically in season during the winter-time in the United States, these fruits are packed with compounds called flavonoids which have many anticancer properties. Studies have shown that citrus fruit flavonoids help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and even work to prevent the spread of tumors. They do this neutralizing free radicals in the body.
People with very fair skin or a history of melanoma may wish to be cautious about how much citrus they eat.
What’s more, these compounds have also been shown to protect against heart disease, by reducing the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and improving blood flow through coronary arteries.
Citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C
- Contrary to popular belief, Vitamin C does not do much to prevent the common cold, but may reduce the length of illness and severity of cold symptoms.
- Vitamin C is important for the formation of collagen, which is essential for strong ligaments, tendons, bones, blood vessels as well as proper wound healing and tissue repair.
- It is also important in the absorption of iron in food, which has been shown to have an effect on improving anemia.
- Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant in the body. These compounds are critical for preventing free radical damage, which has been associated with several disease states, some of which include cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cataracts.
Citrus fruits are also high in folate which is important for cell reproduction and growth as well as potassium which is an essential mineral that plays a key role in transmitting nerve impulses to muscles (including our heart!) and aids in the maintenance of normal blood pressure.
Health Benefits of Citrus
The health benefits associated with citrus are huge! I like to start each morning with a cup of warm water that contains a spritz of lemon. It’s incredibly warm and soothing on a cold winter morning. This is also a common morning practice for those following an alkaline diet. I also like to add lemon and lime slices to a pitcher of water that I keep in my fridge to let the flavors slowly infuse over the course of a day. There are so many ways to incorporate citrus into your day.
Below is a great, easy Lemon Chicken with Artichokes recipe that I often make. Enjoy!
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3/4 Cup chicken stock (low/no sodium)
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons capers with juice
- 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is heated, swirl it to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken breasts and sear them until browned. Turn the chicken breasts and brown them on the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate and increase the heat to high.
- Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice, scraping up any browned bits into the sauce. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.
- Add the lemon slices to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and place the chicken breasts on top of the lemon slices.
- Add the capers, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook covered for 10 min.
- Remove the lid and add the drained artichoke hearts.
- Cover and continue cooking for 5 min, or until the breasts are cooked through.
- Remove the chicken to a warm plate. Increase the temperature and reduce the sauce to a glaze.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
- Just a little salt will reduce the acidity of the lemons, capers, and artichokes and balance the flavors. Serve the chicken with artichoke hearts, capers, and melted lemons drizzled with the glaze.
[i] Nutritional and health benefits of citrus fruits. FAO. Accessed at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/x2650t/x2650t03.htm
[ii] HEalth benefits of citrus fruit. Dairy Coucil of California. Accessed at: http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/All-Star-Foods/Fruits/Article-Viewer/Article/204/Health-Benefits-of-Citrus-Fruit.aspx?Referer=mealsmatter
[iii] Gershoff, S. 1993. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): new roles, new requirements? Nutrition Reviews, 51(11): 313-326.