Produce of the Day: Citrus

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Citrus

Nothing brightens up a dreary March day like a pop of vibrant citrus – its bright color and fresh flavor help remedy most cases of late-winter funk.  One bite of a juicy tangerine immediately gets me dreaming of sunshine and citrus groves, which is just what I need when there is still snow on the ground!

Image Source: White on Rice

Image Source: whiteonricecouple.com

One of the things that I love about citrus is that there are so many varieties – each one has its own unique flavor and appearance.  What they do have in common is their nutritional profile; citrus is a healthy choice no matter which variety you pick.

Here are some health benefits associated with all citrus fruits:

Vitamin C

Image Source: http://www.thejournal.ie

Image Source: thejournal.ie

We all know that oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, but what does that really mean?  Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, so it helps protect our cells from damaging free radicals.  Free radicals can alter our cells’ structure and even their DNA, which could lead to inflammation or cancer.  Protecting our cells with antioxidants like Vitamin C is key in keeping them healthy.

Vitamin C also contributes to a healthy immune system and strong bones and muscles.  Additionally, Vitamin C can improve iron absorption, so it’s vital for anyone with an iron deficiency.  One serving of citrus provides at least 100% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C.

Heart Health

A diet rich in citrus fruits has been shown to offer protection against cardiovascular disease.  Citrus contains:

  • Folate, a B Vitamin found lower risk of heart disease.
  • Potassium, which lowers blood pressure and helps prevent stroke.
  • Flavonoids and carotenes, phytonutrients shown to improve cardiovascular health
  • Fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol

Citrus has also been linked to the prevention of arthritis, improved blood glucose control, reduced risk of kidney stones, and many other positive health benefits.

Source: www.eatingwell.com

Source: eatingwell.com

With so many citrus fruits available, you’ll never get bored!  Here’s low down on a few options and a few tips to use them to make half your plate produce:

Oranges

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the world.  They’re great fresh out of hand, added to salads, or as part of a fresh salsa. You can also:

  • Snack on them after a workout  to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes (anyone remember orange slices after soccer practice?)
  • Try orange segments instead of juice with breakfast; when you juice you lose all the heart-healthy fiber and some nutrients.
  • Serve these Snow Peas with Orange and Jicama as a side dish with your favorite protein.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit’s Latin name is Citrus paradisi, a fitting name given that its taste, aroma, and gem-like fruit conjure pictures of paradise.  Red and pink grapefruits are rich in lycopene, a phytonutrient that is shown to protect against the formation of tumors.

Grapefruit “brulee” makes a fabulous dessert or breakfast.  To make, just slice in half and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Let the sugar caramelize under the broiler for a seemingly decadent treat.

Tangerine

I love how portable tangerines are; they come in their own natural wrapper!  I like to keep some handy in my purse in case my one-year old or I get hungry while we’re on-the-go.  They have a looser peel than most other citrus, so they’re ideal in a pinch.

Tangerines are also great in recipes. I like this Warm Chicken Salad with Tangerine, Tarragon, and Arugula for lunch or a light supper.

Image Source: www.sunkist.com

Image Source: Sunkist.com

Lemons

These bright yellow fruits add loads of tangy flavor with very few calories.  I recommend that my clients try seasoning with lemons instead of salt to reduce their sodium intakes.

Add their zest to steamed veggies, use their juice in salad dressing, or even just throw them in your water to give it some zing.  Meyer lemons are an interesting variety of lemon with beautiful floral undertones that are wonderful in desserts.

Limes

You know the term, “limey”?  It actually comes from British sailors in the 1800s who added lime juice to their rum while they were at sea to prevent scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency).

I like to add lime juice to marinades, guacamole, and dressings. It also adds zippy flavor to roasted veggies – just roast them in the oven and add fresh lime juice and zest.  Makes a great side dish or salad addition.

Kumquats

These little guys are known as the, “little gold gems” of the citrus family.  What make them so interesting is that, unlike most citrus, their rinds are sweet while the flesh is very tart.  Slice them up (skin and all) and toss them in a salad or try them in this Citrus Habenero Salsa with fish or chicken.

Image Source: http://blog.needsupply.com

Image Source: blog.needsupply.com

Learn More about Citrus

If you want more citrus info, Sunkist is a great resource. Check out their website and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add citrus into your diet? Did I miss any of your favorite varieties? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

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