by: Quincy L. Cheek, M. Ed
LSU AgCenter Family & Consumer Sciences Nutrition Agent
Fresh oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines boast vibrant orange and yellow colors that remind us sunshine isn’t far away during the long, sometimes dreary winter months. These citrus fruit are packed with vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium, plus they are a great way to include a refreshing sweet snack in your diet with no fat. We need plenty of vitamin C for growth and repair of tissues in the body. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it is a nutrient that can block some of the damage caused by free radicals and ward off chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Fiber, also known as bulk or roughage in the diet includes parts of plant foods that the body does not digest or absorb. A diet high in fiber lowers cholesterol, aids in controlling blood sugar levels, and can help in achieving a healthy weight. Depending on your age and gender, the average adult needs between 21-38 grams of fiber per day. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is extremely important for pregnant women because is aids in the production of genetic materials/DNA but it is also very important for many other bodily functions. Folic acid is added to many foods that we eat and is sometimes used in supplement form to treat/prevent certain types of cancer and memory loss. Potassium is both a mineral and an electrolyte that is crucial to heart function. It also plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction which make it very important for normal digestive and muscular function. The very best way to obtain these vitamins and minerals is by consuming foods that are rich in these nutrients.
Oranges and grapefruits are in grocery stores all year long, but they taste the best and are more reasonably priced during the winter months of December through March. Choose fruits that feel heavy and have no bruising. Heavy fruits are full of juice and sweet! Citrus fruits are best stored in the refrigerator but be careful they do not freeze because they can become bitter and spoil.
Tangerines are another plentiful and special treat during the winter months. They taste wonderful this time of year. A very popular type of tangerine is the Clementine which is easy to peel and separate into slices. At this time of year tangerines are often sold in a bag of about 24 small fruit – if you pay $5 for the bag, then you are only paying about 21 cents per fruit. What a great deal!
Here are few ideas for including these tasty citrus fruits into your diet each day:
- Pack a couple of tangerines in your purse or school bag for an afternoon snack.
- Peel and dip tangerines, oranges, and/or grapefruit in flavored low-fat yogurt.
- Add citrus fruit slices to coleslaw, green salads or even chicken salad.
- Sprinkle a grapefruit half with brown sugar and cinnamon. Broil the grapefruit until sugar starts to bubble then enjoy!
The possibilities are endless so be sure to take advantage of these healthy choices for meals and snacks. For more information on this or any other nutrition topic, please contact your local Cooperative Extension Office of the LSU AgCenter or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/rapides.