While the name “blood orange” might sound somewhat frightening, this delicious citrus fruit is simply a variety of orange with vivid red coloration – and plenty of healthful plant compounds packed into the scarlet flesh.
Blood oranges do have a somewhat dramatic background - as they are native to the volcanic atmosphere of Mount Etna in Sicily. These days, however, they are commercially grown in the United States, particularly in Arizona and Florida. Once so prized that they were reserved only for royalty, blood oranges are now accessible to everybody – which is fortunate. Recent studies reveal the tart-but-sweet blood orange as a “superfood” that offers extraordinary health benefits to the heart, digestive system and skin.
Protect your heart with antioxidant-rich blood oranges
If you want to make your heart – and your cardiologist – happy, blood oranges are the way to go.
They are packed with anthocyanins, natural plant pigments which are also responsible for the scarlet hue of raspberries, the dusky indigo color of blueberries and the deep purple of eggplant.
Incidentally, factors that contribute to free radical formation include exposure to cigarette smoke, medications, alcohol, environmental toxins, ultraviolet radiation (from sunlight) and EMF radiation (from cell phones, laptops and microwaves). Fortunately, anthocyanins help to scavenge and neutralize these troublemaking molecules before they can cause harm.
Blood oranges are also rich in hydroxycinnamic acid (HCA), another potent antioxidant. In fact, the authors of a 2018 review published in Frontiers in Chemistry credited HCA as “effective in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer” – quite an endorsement for this compound’s ability to fight potentially life-threatening chronic illness!
Citrus flavonoids found in blood oranges have been shown to help slash triglycerides (fats in the blood) by 34 percent and decrease harmful LDL cholesterol by an impressive 27 percent, thereby helping to ward off heart attacks and strokes.
And, generous amounts of vitamin C (you get up to 150 percent of the RDA for adults by eating one blood orange) help to regulate blood pressure, while keeping arteries flexible. Finally, as a low-fat, high-fiber food with a low glycemic index, blood oranges can help combat obesity and overweight - primary risk factors for heart disease.
Enhance and protect your skin with the anti-aging effects of blood oranges
Hydroxycinnamic acids found in blood oranges have another important benefit: research shows that they help to protect the skin from precancerous changes due to exposure to UV light. In addition to protecting skin, vitamin C-rich blood oranges can also enhance its appearance.
In fact, it’s no accident that vitamin C is a staple of commercial skin care serums.
This antioxidant nutrient aids in the skin’s natural regeneration process by promoting the production of collagen and elastin, natural protein fibers which are essential for firm, supple skin. Vitamin C also functions as a brightening agent that can lighten dark spots, while imparting radiance and luster to a dull complexion.
Blood oranges also step up the skin-protective value with their content of vitamin A – another key ingredient in skin care creams. However, some experts say that topical application is not the best way to access the dermatological benefits of blood oranges.
According to Professor Marcello Monti, the Senior Consultant of Dermatology at Humanitas Research Hospital, skin cells tend to eliminate antioxidants or vitamins that contact the skin - rather than absorbing them. In other words, the best way to avail yourself of the complexion-enhancing “goodies” in blood oranges is simply to eat them.
As a health tip: Natural health experts advise steering clear of commercial beverages advertised as being prepared with blood orange juice. One study found that these drinks were so diluted that the irritated researchers stated that they should be billed as “water-based” instead of “fruit-based” beverages!
Adding insult to injury, many of these juices contained very low levels of anthocyanins – and achieved their red color through the addition of food dye. (Can you say “rip-off?”)
Promote good digestion while supporting the health of the microbiome
Each blood orange contains about three grams of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. And, yes, both types of fiber have health benefits.
Soluble fiber forms a gel in the digestive tract - helping to absorb cholesterol before it can reach the bloodstream. It also helps to detoxify the body and promotes regularity. Multiple studies have shown that dietary fiber is associated with lower risk of cancer.
The other type of fiber in blood oranges, insoluble fiber, is indigestible by the human gastrointestinal tract. This might sound like a drawback, but it is really a “plus.” Insoluble fiber from blood oranges is prebiotic, meaning that it provides fuel for the beneficial community of bacteria (or microbiome) living in the gut.
What else can we say ... from fiber to vitamins to anthocyanins, blood oranges offer up a real jackpot of health-protecting nutrients. It might be a wise move to add these colorful citrus fruits to your diet - starting today.
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