The orange is the fruit of a tree originated in China and has been cultivated for millennia. The orange has a thick and rough skin and contains a juicy and the flesh is separated in quarters, themselves protected by a very fine skin. The orange has long been, until the beginning of the twentieth century, a rare and expensive product which was consumed only at Christmas. It is now one of the most important fruits traded worldwide. The main producers are Brazil, the United States, Mexico, India, Spain, China, Iran, Italy, Egypt and Indonesia. Two large groups of oranges exist: the sweet orange and the bitter orange.
History of the orange
The term “orange”, to designate the fruit, appeared in the 13th century. It comes from the Arabic narandj, itself borrowed from the Sanskrit nagaranga, whose meaning is “beloved fruit of the elephants”.
The orange tree originates from Southeast Asia, home of the citrus genus, but it is not known when exactly it was domesticated. According to a text dating back to 2 200 years before our era, it was already known in China at that time. Like many other plants which also served in medicine, it followed the Silk Road to Europe, crossing the Middle East where it had find a climate adapted to its needs. From there it reached southern Europe, probably in the first centuries of our era, although there is no trace of its culture on this continent until the fifteenth century. Certainly, its real expansion in southern Europe comes the Portuguese, who brought it back from Asia. Thanks to an intense selection work and the development of new cultivation methods, the orange of Portugal will become the standard of quality and reference throughout Europe. Its popularity was such in the Arab countries, it was stopped calling it narandj to call it bortugal, a name which is still attached to it.
At the time of the Age of Discovery, the orange will cross the Atlantic with the bitter orange, lime, lemon and citron. Seeds were sowed in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and in Florida. From the mid-16th century, in America, flourishing orchards were found in all the places suitable for growing citrus.
Today, the orange is the most cultivated fruit tree in the world. Until the 1920s, its fruit were mainly consumed in fresh condition. Then, the juice was marketed, rich in vitamin C, and in a few decades the consumption of the latter has far exceed orange juice than the fruit. In the United States, 40% of the orange production now goes to the preparation of frozen concentrate juice. The sub products of this transformation which are essential oil, pectin, candied bark, pulp have found many uses in the food industry.
The orange for health
The orange is the fruit of the sun. Its pulp and juice contain an exceptional amount of vitamin C. It contains many antioxidant compounds that would play a role in the prevention of certain types of cancer, among others.
The benefits of orange
Cancer (prevention). Several studies have shown the consumption of citrus, including orange, would be related to the prevention of certain types of cancers such as esophageal, stomach, colon, mouth and pharynx cancer. According to one of the study, moderate consumption of citrus fruits (1 to 4 servings per week) would reduce the risk of cancers related to the gastrointestinal tract and the upper part of the respiratory system. In the case of pancreatic cancer, the studies remain however contreversial.
A population study suggests the daily consumption of citrus fruit coupled with a high consumption of green tea (1 cup and more per day) would be associated with a greater decrease in cancer appearances.
Cancer (slowing progression). Antioxidant compounds contained in citrus fruits (limonoids) have shown anticancer in vitro effects or on animal models. They could reduce the proliferation of cancer cells, breast, stomach, lung, mouth, and colon.
Cardiovascular diseases. Two studies showed that vitamin C, consumed daily in the form of orange juice, reduced the blood fats oxidation and delayed the oxidative process, both of the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. It was also found in animals thanks to vitamin C, some citrus juice would also have the property to prevent the development of atherosclerosis.
Cerebral vascular diseases. A study in Finland showed people with high amounts of hesperetin, an antioxidant compound abundant in orange, would have less risk of suffering from cerebrovascular disease (including strokes) or thrombosis. The orange would be one of the foods demonstrating the largest association with the decrease in the incidence of cerebrovascular disease.
Hypercholesterolemia. A study showed daily consumption of concentrated orange juice (750 ml or 3 cups and more) led to a decrease in LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) among hypercholesterolemic patients.
Inflammation. Several studies have shown that the flavonoids of citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory properties. Based on the results of an observational study, the risks of suffering from an inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, would be higher among people who consume little vitamin C.
Other. Among other observed effects, 2 compounds present in citrus fruits (limonine and nomiline) inhibit the replication of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), in addition to inhibiting the protease activity of the virus. In addition, the nomiline and other citrus limonoid would improve the immune system among animals. These results are promising but have not been the subject of controlled clinical studies. It is therefore impossible for the moment to transpose these effects among humans. According to a study conducted among women, the consumption of 2 cups (500 ml) of orange juice per day could reduce the risk of urinary lithiasis. Finally, various studies indicate orange juice provides phytochemicals in sufficient quantity to bring several interesting health effects in general.
Several prospective and epidemiological studies revealed that high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other chronic diseases.
What does orange contain?
Orange juice has a high antioxidant content, of which 56% to 77% would come from vitamin C. The consumption of orange juice would increase the concentration of vitamin C in the blood and thus contribute to the decrease of oxidative stress. This would help to prevent some chronic health problems. On the other hand, researchers observed that a low intake of orange and other vitamin C rich fruits would contribute to a good pulmonary function among some children.
The orange contains different types of flavonoids. These antioxidant compounds make it possible to neutralize free radicals of the body and thus prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. The hesperetin is the main flavonoid of orange. It is found in large quantities in the white part of the skin and membranes of the fruit, as well as in smaller concentration in the juice and seeds.
Naringenin is also a flavonoid in orange, but orange juice would contain about 5 times less naringenin than hesperetin. It should be noted concentrated orange juice would contain more flavonoids than fresh orange juice, due to industrial crushing methods using the entire fruit.
Regular consumption of orange juice or grapefruit juice could have many beneficial health effects. Indeed, according to various studies conducted among humans and animals, hesperetin and its metabolites could inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, improve endothelial function (elasticity of blood vessels), decrease blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood cholesterol. Among humans, researchers have observed inverse links between the consumption of flavonoids and the incidence of chronicle diseases. Finally, the flavonoids of citrus fruits possess anti-inflammatory properties. They inhibit the synthesis and activity of some mediators involved in inflammation (arachidonic acid derivatives, prostaglandins E2, F2 and thromboxanes A2).
The main limonoids of citrus fruits are limonine and nomilie. They are mainly found in the seeds, but also in the juice. According to their type, they can taste nothing or produce a bitter taste of the fruit. Limonine, as well as other limonoids present in citrus juices, would have, according to some studies, the property of lowering blood cholesterol among animals.
These compounds would possess a certain antioxidant capacity. They could also lead to apoptosis of cancerous neuroblastic cells (embryonic nerve cells, then differentiated into neurons). Other studies suggest citrus limonoids may prevent certain types of cancer among animals. For example, obacunone, a type of limonoid, has been found to be effective in reducing the incidence of colon tumours and in reducing the number of mouth tumors. However, there is currently no data on a similar effect among humans. The synergistic action of several limonoids between them, or with other compounds (such as flavonoids), could accentuate their action on cancer cells.
The orange contains significant amounts of different carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. The orange juice also contains, but in less quantity than the whole fruit. The consumption of foods rich in carotenoids would be linked to a lower risk of suffering from several diseases; for example, cancer and cardiovascular diseases (although some studies on the subject are contreversial). Oranges and mandarins also contain beta-cryptozanthin. An epidemiological study showed the higher the consumption of this type of carotenoid, the lower the risk of suffering from inflammatory disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis). The authors indicate to take advantage of this preventive effect, an increase of one glass (about 250 ml) of orange juice per day would be sufficient.
As the citric acid concentration of orange juice was high (about 10 mg per gram of juice), its consumption alkalinize urine. According to one study, the consumption of 2 cups (500 ml) of orange juice caused a 24-hour alkalinity of urine among women. Orange juice could be effective in reducing the risk of urinary lithiasis.
Vitamin C gets lost with time
Once the container is opened, the refrigerated orange juice (whether concentrated or not) loses about 2% of its vitamin C content by day. It is therefore preferable to consume it in the week following its opening in order to make the most of its properties.
In addition, refrigerated orange juice should ideally be consumed from 3 to 4 weeks before the expiration date on the package. In fact, its vitamin C content is then nearly 40% higher than at the time of the expiration date.
Finally, the freshly squeezed orange juice would better preserve its contents into phenolic compounds, including flavonoids, than the frozen orange juice.
You should avoid consuming orange or its juice, along with antacids. Indeed, several citrus fruits increase the absorption of the aluminium contained in the antacids. It is better to space for 3 hours the taking of antacids and citrus fruits or their juices.
Orange and its juice should also be avoided among people with gastro-esophageal reflux, peptic esophagitis and hiatus hernia (acute phase of these diseases). These fruits may cause irritation of the mucous membrane of the esophagus or cause epigastric burns.
Choice and conservation
While they were once offered only in winter, oranges are found year-round, including the fruits of bitter varieties. Among the sweet oranges, one finds, according to the seasons and the origin:
The Valencia orange, with sweet and juicy flesh, which is used mainly for the preparation of juice.
The orange navel, which takes its name from the bulge it bears at the base and resembles a navel. Its sweet flesh contains few seeds and it gives the best zest. This is the one people consume the most.
The orange navel Cara Cara, which has all the characteristics of the previous orange. In addition to having a flesh whose color goes from the dark pink to the red.
The Orange Hamlin, of small size, with acidic and fragrant flavor, and with pale flesh.
The orange pineapple, with an acidic flavor characterized by a light pineapple scent, contains many seeds. It’s pretty rare.
The blood orange is divided into two types. The pure blood has large red blood spots scattered in the bark and flesh. The half-blood has the orange bark spotted with red. It usually has few seeds.
Oranges from organic farming are found in natural products stores and in some large grocery shops. The choice is often limited, but the quality and exceptional flavor are usually found.
Whichever type is selected, choose heavy fruit for their size with a smooth, firm, shiny, solid, colorful and free of soft skin. Attention to oranges with very thick skin, signs that the flesh may be scarce and not very juicy.
Refrigerator. The fruit keeps up to 1 month in the refrigerator, in a closed container or 1 week at room temperature.
Dried. Dry the zest and keep it in an opaque, airtight container.
Ecology and environment
In order to produce the oranges without defects required by the consumer, the citrus must use a chemical battery. This explains why fresh fruits are much more treated than processing fruit (juice).
But the consumer, especially the European, also wants little or no processed fruit. In Morocco, where 50% to 60% of citrus production is destined for export, a new method has been experimented for several years. This technique consists at the appropriate time adding insects whose role is to limit insect populations. The chemical intervention is only as a last resort. Similar experiences are being conducted in the United States and Australia. The results indicate that if, in the first few years, the insect pests remain very numerous, after 3 or 4 years, farmers manage to maintain their populations below the threshold level.
The researchers from Morocco also found that, despite the initial costs and requirements, this approach had made substantial savings in material, labor and plant protection products. At the end of the fourth year, the costs of the latter were only one-third of what they were originally. As for the fruits, they had no traces of residue. This approach requires qualified personnel, a good knowledge of insects, both predatory and auxiliary, and a continuous presence at the orchard. In addition, pesticides used in the event of absolute necessity must be safe for auxiliary insects, such as those in the beetle family eating the eggs or larvae of many pests.
Untreated fruits are sold under the label “organic culture”.