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7 Reasons to Eat More Citrus Fruits

Sweet, brightly colored citrus fruits bring a burst of sunshine
into winter days. But citrus fruits are not only flavorful and
pretty — they’re also good for you.

This class of fruits includes lemons, limes, oranges and
grapefruit, as well as many more hybrids and varieties.

They have a bunch of health benefits, from boosting immunity to
fighting cancer.

Read on to find out 7 reasons to eat citrus fruits.

Citrus Fruit in a Bowl

What Are Citrus Fruits?

Citrus fruits grow on flowering trees and shrubs. They are
characterized by a leathery rind and white pith
that encases juicy segments.

They’re native to Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and
possibly Southeast Asia (1).

Nowadays, they are cultivated in tropical and subtropical
climates all over the world. Major production hubs include
Spain, Brazil, China, the US, Mexico and India (1).

Interestingly, nearly a third of all citrus fruits are used to
make juice (1).

You can find all kinds of citrus fruits year round. The peak
season for oranges and grapefruits in the Northern Hemisphere
is between mid-December and April.

Here are some popular varieties of citrus fruits:

  • Sweet oranges: Valencia, navel, blood
    orange, cara cara
  • Mandarins: Satsuma, clementine, tangor,
  • Limes: Persian, key lime, kaffir
  • Grapefruit: White, ruby red, oroblanco
  • Lemons: Eureka, Meyer
  • Other kinds: Citron, sudachi, yuzu, pomelos

Read on for 7 reasons to add these fruits to your diet.

1. They’re Rich in Vitamins and Plant Compounds

Cut Oranges

Citrus fruits are an excellent source of
vitamin C
, a nutrient that strengthens the immune system
and keeps your skin smooth and elastic (2, 3, 4, 5).

In fact, just one medium orange has all the vitamin C you need
in a day (6).

Citrus fruits also have good amounts of other vitamins and
minerals that your body needs to function properly, including B
vitamins, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium
and copper (7).

Additionally, they are rich in plant compounds that have
various health benefits, including anti-inflammatory
and antioxidant effects.

These compounds include over 60 varieties of flavonoids,
carotenoids and essential oils, and they are responsible for
many of citrus fruit’s health benefits (7, 8).

Summary: Citrus fruits are very nutritious,
offering a host of vitamins, minerals and plant compounds
that help keep you healthy.

2. They’re a Good Source of Fiber

Citrus fruits are a good source of fiber.
Just one cup of orange segments contains four grams of fiber

To put that in perspective, it’s recommended that you consume
14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. It’s
estimated that only 4% of men and 13% of women in the US get
that amount (9).

Fiber has several health benefits, including improving
digestive health and aiding
weight loss

Oranges are particularly high in soluble fiber, the kind of
fiber that helps lower cholesterol levels (10).

Compared to other fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits are
unique in that they have a higher ratio of soluble to insoluble
fiber (11).

Summary: Citrus fruits are good sources of
soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and aids

3. Citrus Fruits Are Low in Calories

Slices of Citrus Fruits

If you’re watching your calorie
, citrus fruits are a good choice.

They’re low in calories, yet their water and fiber contents
help fill you up.

Here’s how many calories the main kinds of citrus fruits
contain (6, 12, 13, 14, 15):

  • 1 small clementine: 35
  • 1 medium orange: 62
  • 1/2 pink grapefruit: 52
  • 1/2 white grapefruit: 39
  • Juice from 1 lemon: 12

What’s more, a 2015 study that looked at people’s eating habits
and weight over 24 years found that eating citrus fruits was
linked to weight loss (16).

Summary: Citrus fruits are low in calories,
making them a smart choice for people seeking to lose or
maintain their weight.

4. They May Reduce Your Risk of Kidney Stones

are painful mineral crystals.

They can form when your urine is very concentrated or when you
have higher-than-normal amounts of stone-forming minerals in
your urine.

One type of kidney stone is caused by low levels of citrate in

Many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, can raise
the levels of citrate in your urine, lowering the risk of
kidney stones (17).

Drinking citrus juices and eating these fruits can offer a
natural alternative to potassium citrate supplements.

According to data on American eating habits over the last 40
years, kidney stones are more common in people who eat fewer
citrus fruits (18).

Summary: Eating citrus fruits may help lower
the risk of kidney stones in some people by raising citrate
levels in urine.

5. They May Help Fight or Protect Against Cancer

Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruit and Mandarins

Many studies have linked citrus fruits to a reduced risk of
certain cancers (1).

In one study, people who ate one grapefruit or drank one
serving of grapefruit juice daily had a lower risk of lung
cancer (19).

Other studies have suggested that citrus fruits may also
protect against esophageal, stomach, breast and pancreatic
cancers (20, 21, 22, 23).

These fruits contain a host of plant compounds, including
flavonoids, that may help protect against cancer (8).

Some of these flavonoids act as antioxidants
and may block the expression of certain genes that are
responsible for some degenerative diseases, including cancer

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Citrus fruits may also help suppress cancer cells, blocking the
formation of new cancers and making carcinogens inactive

Summary: Citrus fruits have been widely
studied for their protective effects on a variety of cancer

6. They Contain Nutrients That Boost Heart Health


Eating citrus fruits could be good for your heart.

In fact, a Japanese study found that people who ate higher
amounts of these fruits had lower rates of heart disease and
stroke (24).

Furthermore, a 2017 review suggests that grapefruits are linked
to a decrease in systolic
blood pressure

Several compounds in citrus fruits can improve markers of heart

For example, their soluble fiber and flavonoids may improve
cholesterol levels by raising “good” HDL cholesterol and
lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (7).

And many of the flavonoids in citrus fruits, including one
called naringin, are strong antioxidants that benefit the
heart in several ways (26).

Summary: Many compounds in citrus fruits can
benefit heart health by improving cholesterol levels and
lowering blood pressure.

7. They May Protect Your Brain

The flavonoids in citrus fruits may help ward off
neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and
Parkinson’s, which result from the breakdown of cells in the
nervous system.

In part, these diseases are caused by inflammation.

Flavonoids found in citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory
capabilities that are thought to help protect against the chain
of events that causes the nervous system to deteriorate
(27, 28).

Specific types of flavonoids, including hesperidin and apigenin, have been shown to protect brain cells
and improve brain function in mice and test-tube studies

Several studies in older adults have also shown that citrus
juices may boost brain function (29, 30, 31).

Summary: Citrus fruits and juices may help
boost brain function and protect the brain from
neurodegenerative disorders.

The Downside of Citrus Fruits

While the overall picture of citrus is pretty rosy, there are a
few potential downsides.

High Amounts Could Cause Cavities

Eating lots of citrus fruits or juices could increase the risk
of cavities. That’s because the acid in citrus fruits erodes
tooth enamel (32, 33).

This is a particular risk if you sip on lemon
all day long, bathing your teeth in acid.

Interestingly, certain compounds in citrus peels may combat the
bacteria that cause dental cavities, although more research is
needed to see how that information could be used (34).

Fruit Juice Isn’t as Healthy as Whole Fruit

Small Glass of Orange Juice

While orange and grapefruit juices contain lots of vitamin C
and other nutrients often found in whole citrus fruits, they’re
not quite as healthy.

That’s because a serving of
delivers much more sugar and way less fiber than a
serving of whole fruit (6, 35).

There are a couple reasons why that’s a problem.

First, more
per serving translates to more calories. Drinking
fruit juice and other high-calorie beverages can cause you to
gain weight (36).

Second, when your body takes in large amounts of sugar, such as
fructose or sucrose, it is quickly absorbed into the
bloodstream (37).

If your body gets more sugar than it needs, the extra calories
are stored as fat. Excessive, long-term intake of fructose is
especially concerning, as it may lead to fatty liver disease

Getting fructose from whole fruit is not a problem, given that
you’re getting a smaller amount at a time. Plus, the fiber
found in fruit buffers the fructose, causing it to be absorbed
more slowly into your bloodstream.

Grapefruit Can Interact With Certain Medications

Eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice can be a problem
if you take certain medications.

There’s an enzyme in your gut that reduces the absorption of
certain medications. Furanocoumarin, a chemical in grapefruit, binds to
this enzyme and keeps it from working properly.

As a result, your body absorbs more medication than it’s
supposed to (39).

Furanocoumarin is also found in tangelos and Seville oranges
(the kind used for marmalade).

There are several prescription and over-the-counter drugs that
are affected by grapefruit, including (40):

  • Some statins, for high cholesterol, including Lipitor and
  • Some calcium channel blockers, for high blood pressure,
    including Plendil and Procardia
  • Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant drug
  • Some Benzodiazepines, including Valium, Halcion and Versed
  • Other medications, including Allegra, Zoloft and Buspar

Summary: While citrus fruits are generally
healthy, they can have some drawbacks. Their acid can erode
tooth enamel and grapefruit can interact with some

The Bottom Line

There are many reasons to eat citrus fruits.

They’re nutritious and contain plant compounds that can protect
against a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease,
brain dysfunction and kidney stones.

But aim to consume whole fruits, rather than a lot of fruit
juice, as its high sugar content can lead to problems.

Overall, citrus fruits are healthy, low in calories and
convenient to eat. Most people could benefit from adding more
citrus to their diet.

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