Pucker up!

Bet you thought we were writing about the health benefits of kissing, right? Not even close!  We’re talking citrus, and while some citrus fruits, like oranges, are sweet not tart, they’re all tasty, refreshing and loaded with nutrients, fiber and minerals. Regardless of your taste for fruit, you should be able to find something you like in the citrus family, which features a variety of oranges (including mandarin oranges, clementines and tangerines), pineapples, tomatoes, lemons, kumquats, tangerines, and limes.

We love our cold glass of orange juice first thing in the morning, and what beats the natural “puckering up” citrus blast from a grapefruit or lemon? And while we don’t typically think of a tomato as a “fruit,” it is, and it offers many valuable health advantages along with its citrus cousins.

Increasing citrus in your diet offers a multitude of benefits. A few centuries ago, sailors making ocean crossings often became sick with scurvy due to vitamin C deficiencies caused by a lack of citrus fruits. Vitamin C deficiency typically isn’t a problem anymore in the United States, but many people don’t eat enough citrus fruits, even though they’re readily available in grocery stores.

Vitamin C is the first thing most people think of regarding citrus fruits, and for good reason: It’s perhaps the most studied of all vitamins, and has shown promise in shortening the duration of colds, helping wounds heal faster, and protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. It also is essential for healthy gums and skin.

Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, sufficient quantities must be consumed every day. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin C is not stored in the body. That is why eating at least a few servings a day of citrus fruits and other vitamin C-rich food is so important. Luckily, getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin C is not difficult, since a single orange contains 150% of the government’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Citrus fruits also are high in fiber content. While we most often think of cereals and grains when we think of fiber, citrus fruits are a good source of dietary fiber, including the all-important soluble fiber. Fiber plays a vital role in digestion, and studies indicate it may help to reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood and even reduce the risk of some kinds of cancer.

Another benefit is derived from folate, or folic acid as it is better known. Folates play a vital role in early pregnancy, so all women of child-bearing age are encouraged to consume adequate amounts of this important nutrient. That is because one of the most critical times in a pregnancy takes place before the woman knows she is pregnant. In addition to its importance in preventing many neural tube birth defects, folic acid also aids in the production of mature red blood cells and helps to prevent anemia.

Need more convincing? Oranges are particularly high in potassium, as are non-citrus fruits like bananas. Potassium is vital to maintaining a proper fluid balance in the body, and for transmitting signals between nerve cells. Potassium levels can be affected by excess caffeine consumption and by dehydration, so it is important to consume adequate levels of potassium every day.

With so many benefits, it’s easy to see why citrus fruits are so important to the diet. No matter what your ultimate fitness regimen, a diet rich in citrus fruits will help you achieve your goals and remain healthier. And with the many varieties of citrus fruits to choose from throughout the year, you can add plenty of variety to your healthy-eating plan.

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Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!