Citrus fruits are full of great health benefits.

You'll be glad to know they're nutrient-dense foods packed full of vitamins and minerals, fibre and phytochemicals without fat or salt.

This is important in countries like Australia where obesity is reaching epidemic proportions.

Citrus fruits can be considered:

Citrus fruits generally have the highest antioxidant activity of all fruits.

They boost the immune system and may protect against cancer, heart disease, infections, cataracts and degeneration of the macular area of eyes.

Citrus fruits contain high levels of folate. One orange has 18 percent of your recommended daily intake.

Folate prevents neural tube defects in children, such as spina bifida. It also stabilises genetic material and may protect against cancer and heart disease.

Citrus is a good source of some terpenes including mono terpenes and tripterpenes (eg. liminoids).

Limonene (found in citrus oils) is used in Japan to dissolve gallstones. Most other experiments and uses relate to tumours in animals.

One orange contains 6 percent of your recommended daily intake.

High potassium and low sodium levels may help prevention of high blood pressure.

Citrus contains minimal amounts of fats and cholesterol. The total fat in one orange is equal to 0.12g.

All fats are energy dense and should be eaten in moderation. High intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease.

Citrus contains moderate to high levels of carotenoids. These include beta-caratene, alpha carotene, lutein, zeazanthine, and cryptoxanthine.

Citrus is a good source of this class of phytochemical.

In animal studies, it has been shown to inhibit tumours. It inhibits the growth of colonic aberrant cysts plus oral and large bowel cancer. At this stage, data from experimental studies in relation to human cancers is limited.

Citrus contains a minimal amount of salt, also known as sodium chloride. When included with potassium, salt regulates fluid balance in the body. High intakes of salt can increase blood pressure, so high potassium with a low salt diet is encouraged.

Citrus fruits have a high Vitamin C content, which is an anti-oxidant. One orange has 62mg of Vitamin C, which is twice your recommended daily intake.

Antioxidants boost your immune system, and may protect against cancer, heart disease, cataracts and infection. It also helps the absorption of iron and zinc in other foods.

One orange contains 2.4g of fibre; which is 8 percent of your recommended daily intake.

Dietary fibre reduces the transit time of food in your gut, improving gut microflora. Plus certain fibres help lower your blood fats.

Fibre may also reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease, as well as relieve gastric conditions such as constipation.

Citrus is a good source of polyphenols.

These have been shown to have a range of health related effects that are anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and anti-carcinogenic. Most interest has centred on a possible role in cancer and heart disease.

Citrus is low in dietary energy and energy density (kilojoules). One orange is equal to 187kj.

With increasing levels of obesity in Australia, low energy foods with high nutrient value are a valuable part of your diet.

Weight and obesity increases risks of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, blood pressure and stroke. They also add to symptoms of other conditions eg. Arthritis.

An orange has over 170 different phytochemicals.

Lack of Phytochemicals in your diet does not lead to deficiency diseases seen with low intakes of more traditional nutrients such as vitamins. Rather, there is an increasing interest that these substances may protect against some common chronic diseases.

Citrus is a rich source of phytocemicals, which includes polyphenols, flavonoids, coumarins, terpenes, phytoterols etc. Liminoids are a major phytochemical class in citrus.

Phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties, as well as being good at inhibiting blood clots. Their strong antioxidant activity may protect against some of the common chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, degenerative eye and cognitive conditions and general damage caused by aging.

Source:

CSIRO Health Sciences & Nutrition Report. Consumer Science Program 'The Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits' June 2003. Report prepared by; Dr Katrine Baghurst