Happy March and Happy Nutrition Month! I certainly don’t need a reason to write about nutrition but having a month dedicated to this timely, pertinent and dynamic field, gives all the more reason to celebrate! I am kicking off this month with some quick facts about citrus, winter fruit that coincides quite nicely with cold and flu season because of its prevalently recognized immunity-boosting properties. However, there is a LOT more reason to love this fruit (and not only because it is sweet as can be.)
1. Citrus is easily a super-star among winter produce. Perhaps the most noteworthy benefit of citrus is its immunity-boosting properties. One serving provides nearly 100% of your daily vitamin C intake, a nutrient that has been shown to shorten the duration of an existing cold.
2. Citrus is a vegetarian’s best friend when it comes to the precious nutrient, iron. Vitamin C has the ability to prevent formation of insoluble and unabsorbable iron compounds and aid bioavailability of iron for our use. This is particularly important since many plant-based foods (that many vegetarians rely on) contain antinutrients like phytic acid that can chelate iron and create insoluble complexes that are excreted from the body intact and may contribute to mineral deficiencies longterm.
3. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) also has the ability to reduce iron to it’s ferrous form making it easier for your body to absorb and utilize. This again is important for individuals who are concerned about iron intake and who don’t consume animal products (which contain heme iron– the most readily utilized by the body).
4. Citrus is rich in Vitamin C which is needed to produce collagen, a protein that promotes skin structure and elasticity.
5. Vitamin C is a power antioxidant with the ability to scavenge free radicals in the body and fight off potential damage to DNA which translates into potentially preventing onset of cancers.
6. Flavanones, phytonutrients found almost exclusively in citrus, are widely coveted for their lipid lowering effects and anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Citrus fruits contain folate which which helps lower levels of homocysteine- a suggested cardiovascular risk factor.
8. Citrus is a significant source of soluble fiber which helps lower cholesterol to healthy levels and keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating (providing an even-keeled energy).
9. Bananas aren’t the only ones to be coveted when it comes to potassium. Citrus is also an excellent source! Though potassium deficiencies are rare, getting adequate levels to balance out sodium levels (an electrolyte it exists in partnership with) is essential. This is particularly important since the standard American diet is heavy in sodium and low in potassium (which can be obtained from fruits and vegetables).
10. Finally they are so easy to “grab and go”! For such significant benefits, it’s a no brainer to throw one into your purse, backpack or lunch bag- especially during the winter months when they are at their peak (flavor and nutrition-wise)!