Oranges: nutrition powerhouse | Daily News

Oranges: nutrition powerhouse

What the Crusaders and Portuguese discovered so long ago in those ancient lands has been a blessing to the rest of the world. The Orange –is a fruit introduced to Egypt and Palestine by the Arabs, which was where the Crusaders discovered it. The Portuguese successfully spread the orange tree, when they brought it back from China or Sri Lanka around the 15th century. Green Thumbs speaks to Institute of Indigenous Medicine, Department of Dravyaguna Vignana, Senior Lecturer, Dr. S.D. Hapuarachchi on the Orange a fruit with many health benefits grown in Sri Lanka since time immemorial. Today on Green Thumbs we start our series on Citrus fruits with the Orange fruit.

There are four major types of orange varieties in the world; Round Orange, Navel Orange, Blood Orange and Acidless orange. “In my research I have found out that reports indicate that the cultivation of sweet orange has been attempted by the British in Sri Lanka as far back as 1850s during colonial times. Sweet orange unlike many other crops requires special attention. Sweet orange cultivation in Sri Lanka is distributed over 20 districts predominantly in Moneragala, Badulla, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala and Kandy districts. In other areas of the country scattered trees are found in the home gardens. It is believed that sweet orange has been grown in Sri Lanka from time immemorial although the exact beginning cannot be traced,” said Hapuarachchi.

Sweet orange is a highly valued fruit crop in Sri Lanka. The sweet orange fruits primarily provide vitamin C along with other nutrients such as calcium, potassium, thiamin, niacin and magnesium. Sweet orange fruits are used in traditional medicine as well.

“However the peel colour and flavour of sweet orange fruits vary according to the variety. Sweet orange variety Sisila was recently released by the Department of Agriculture. This variety has good flavour, juice content and an especially attractive yellowish orange peel colour at a fully matured stage. In most cases, the fruit will fall off the trees when it is ripe. You can’t tell just by the colour, so pick an orange and taste it. If it tastes sweet and fresh and is juicy, it is probably ready to harvest. Of course you need to check the fruit for mold, fungus, or blemishes.

The surest way to check to see if oranges are ready to be picked is to taste one or two fruits before you harvest the entire tree. Remember, citrus does not continue to ripen once removed from the tree,” pointed out Hapuarachchi.

Hapuarachchi also added that Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits cooked with sugar and water. You can also take an orange fruit and put it in your grater, and shred the whole orange and then sprinkle it on top of your foods. Sprinkle it on your salad, ice cream, soup, cereals, smoothies, noodles, spaghetti sauce, rice, sushi and fish dishes. Also traditionally, orange peels are used internally in teas to help with stomach cramps and as an appetite stimulant.

“Oranges also offer an individual nourishing skin benefits. For those who are very conscious about their skin, the fruit offers you the facility of making an orange peel face mask. Grind dried orange peels to a powder and add water and milk until you have a paste. Then apply as a face and body treatment. Also the uses of Orange are not only limited to the culinary. Placing orange peel at the bottom of your trash can, before putting the bag in, is said to reduce odor and discourage insect infestation,” added Hapuarachchi.

Hapuarachchi suggested that you can make delicious homemade oil for use on salads with Orange. Place bits of orange peel (pith removed) and dried cranberries or a sprig of your favourite herb, in a bottle and fill the remainder with extra virgin olive oil. Close the bottle and place it in a dark place. Remember to gently shake every few days. After several weeks the orange peels and herbs will impart a wonderful flavour to the oil.

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HEALTHY BENEFITS OF EATING ORANGES

(Furnished by Dr. Hapuarachchi)

High in Vitamin C

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C. Good intake of vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer as it helps to get rid of free radicals that cause damage to our DNA. Vitamin C, which is also vital for the proper function of a healthy immune system, is good for preventing colds and preventing recurrent ear infections.

Prevents skin damage

Anti-oxidants in oranges help protect skin from free radical damage known to cause signs of aging. An orange a day can help you look very young.

Keeps blood pressure under check

Oranges, being rich in Vitamins B6, helps support the production of hemoglobin and also helps keep blood pressure under check due to the presence of magnesium.

Lowers cholesterol

According to a study by US and Canadian researchers, a class of compounds found in citrus fruit peels called Polymethoxylated Flavones (PMFs) has the potential to lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs without side effects.

Controls blood sugar level

Fiber in oranges helps by keeping blood sugar levels under control thereby making oranges a healthy snack for people with diabetes. Moreover, oranges have simple sugars. The natural fruit sugar in oranges, fructose, can help keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating. However, that does not mean you go about eating too many oranges in one go. Eating too much can spike insulin and may even lead to weight gain.

Lowers the risk of cancer

Oranges contain D- limonene, a compound that is known to prevent cancers like lung cancer, skin cancer and even breast cancer. Vitamin C and antioxidants present in oranges are both important to build body’s immunity – they help in fighting cancer. According to a study many cancer cases happen because of mutations in the DNA, which can be prevented with Vitamin C.

Alkalizes the body

While the basic nature of oranges is acidic before you actually digest them, they have a lot of alkaline minerals that play a role in the process of digestion. This property of oranges is similar to that of lemons, which are without doubt among the most alkaline foods.

Good eye health

Oranges are a rich source of carotenoid. The Vitamin A present in them play an important role in keeping the mucus membranes in the eyes healthy. Vitamin A is also responsible to prevent age-related macular degeneration, which in extreme cases can lead to blindness. It also helps eyes to absorb the light.

Safeguards against constipation

Oranges have both soluble and insoluble fiber. This helps in keeping your intestines and stomach function smooth, preventing irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, the fiber helps treat constipation to a greater extent.

Oranges like most citrus fruits, produce more juice when warmer so juice them when they are at room temperature. Vitamin C gets destroyed fast when exposed to air, so eat an orange quickly once cut up. The sweetest variety of oranges are Valencia, bloody orange, Navel and the Persian variety.

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Cultural facts about oranges

The first set of oranges was grown in the north eastern part of India, Southeast Asia and the south of China. They were first cultivated in China in 2500 BC. It was in first century AD, that the Romans took young orange trees from India to Rome.

Christopher Columbus planted orange orchards in Haiti. He had bought the seeds in 1493. By year 1518, Panama and Mexico also got their first taste of oranges and shortly thereafter Brazil started growing their own. They were first planted in America in 1513.

Sweet orange is most probably the result of a mutation of the bitter orange tree, about 2,000 years ago. In China and India, bitter oranges were already grown and cultivated 3,000 years ago. The lower Himalayas, near Bangladesh, is most certainly the native area of this citrus.

In Eastern Cultures, orange is used to symbolize love, passion, happiness, and marriage. In ancient mythology, oranges were often given as a marriage gift. The second chakra, which is orange, is located near the womb and is associated with creativity. Orange blossom and the very act of blooming symbolize prosperity and happiness. It means life is moving forward. Shiny, bright orange fruits have also been associated with the beauty of the Sun and thus with the heavens and the divine – the holy light of God.


 

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