Tasty citrus tips for boosting vitamin C

By Patricia West-Barker
Posted 12/12/19

If an apple a day can keep the doctor away, what could an orange -- or lemon, lime or grapefruit -- do for you?

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Tasty citrus tips for boosting vitamin C

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If an apple a day can keep the doctor away, what could an orange -- or lemon, lime or grapefruit -- do for you?

Between the mid-16th and mid-18th centuries, it was estimated that about 50 percent of the seamen (and pirates!) who set sail would die during long voyages, most from scurvy, a disease triggered by a lack of vitamin C in the sailors' provisions.

Most plants and animals can synthesize their own vitamin C, but a few -- including monkeys, guinea pigs and humans -- cannot make the essential nutrient. So, while scurvy is not a current problem in North America, including a good source of vitamin C in your diet is still a good idea.

Healthline.com offers an overview of the benefits of including orange, yellow and green citrus in your diet:

Citrus is a great source of vitamins C and B; minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper; and antioxidant plant compounds like flavonoids and carotenoids. The antioxidant flavonoids may help protect you from certain types of cancer. And, by reducing inflammation, also may help shield your brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Citrus is also good source of fiber (there are 4 grams in one cup of orange segments), which can improve digestion. The fiber and flavonoids in citrus may also improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels.

All these benefits come at a low cost -- of calories, that is. There are only 35 calories in a small, juicy clementine, 39 in half a grapefruit, 62 in a medium orange. But that is only if you eat the whole fruit: juicing concentrates the sugars, increases the calorie count and reduces the amount of beneficial fiber in a serving.

Citrus may also have some mental health benefits. Although they grow year-round in tropical and subtropical regions around the world -- like Spain, Brazil, China and India -- in North America, citrus is at its ripe best in winter, just when we most need a jolt of color and spritz of acid to brighten dark days and enliven heavier foods.

You can simply peel and eat most citrus out of hand. A quick squeeze of orange, lemon or lime juice perks up roasted or sautéed chicken, shrimp and fish, and adds flavor to tacos and tostadas. If you are more ambitious, you can make jam or marmalade; cook up some lemon, lime or orange curd; or candy the rinds for a future baking project.

Citrus fruits also go well with the bitter greens of winter, like arugula, dandelion, radicchio, endive, watercress, mustard and escarole. Combine a tablespoon or two of juice with olive oil, a little grated garlic, salt and maybe a touch of mustard for a simple vinaigrette. Or get fancy and "suprême" that fruit -- a fancy French word for removing the membrane from citrus -- before adding the pulp to a green or avocado salad.

To free the segments from the membrane that connects them, trim the two ends of the fruit with a sharp, small knife. Then cut away all the peel and pith (the bitter white layer under the peel). Hold the fruit over a bowl with one hand while you slip the knife along one side of the membrane, cutting toward the center. Do the same with the next membrane. When the two cuts meet, you can release the segment and flip it into the bowl. With some practice, you'll be able to free the segments from the membrane quickly, and without losing too much of the pulp.

It's easier than it sounds. Watch a video or two before you start. There are many to choose from on YouTube: just put "how to suprême an orange" into the search field. The video uploaded by Blue Apron is especially short, sweet and ad-free.

The Spanish version of this column is on Page C4.

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