What’s the Low Down on Blood Oranges? Some Bloody Good Stuff!Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Lately, my husband has been bringing home lots of blood oranges. In the past, he would bring home regular oranges such as Valencia or Navel oranges. And when I inquired why the change, his response was simply that blood oranges are good for my health. So I decided to give them a try. And let’s just say, I’m glad I did! Now when I visit my local farmers’ market, I purchase blood oranges.
The beautiful, ruby reddish color of the blood orange’s flesh is very enticing, and you can’t beat it’s naturally sweet, delicious taste with a hint of raspberry. Since they are currently in season, blood oranges are now a fruit I usually keep in my home for snacking purposes.
Of course, I became curious about the blood red color of this orange.
Turns out that the color of blood oranges is due to their high content of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants and able to bind to heavy metals, like mercury, and help remove them from the body. They are natural plant pigments that give many other fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. You might recall that sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins as well. With blood oranges, anthocyanins develop “...when these citrus fruits ripen during warm days tempered with cooler nights,” according to one source.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), potential health benefits of anthocyanins include “antiangiogenesis [which involves preventing the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow], prevention of CVD [cardiovascular disease], anticancer, antidiabetes, improved visual health, anti-obesity, antimicrobial, and neuroprotection.”
Essentially, the “bloodiness” (redness) of a blood orange depends on the season, when they are harvested and the variety of the blood orange.
There are three main types of blood oranges:
- Moro. Most highly colored of the blood oranges. Has a sweet, tart flavor. Said to be native to somewhere in the Mediterranean region. “The word Moro may be traced to the Moorish influence in the Mediterranean region during the 8th century. Originally a term used to describe the indigenous people of Africa, Moro became a common word used to describe something with dark pigmentation. The red-tinged citrus quickly adopted this same nomenclature,” according to one source.
- Tarocco. Believed to be native to Italy. Very sweet (said to be the sweetest of the blood oranges), but the flesh is not always very red.
- Sanguinello. Native to Spain. Sweet-tasting, usually with a red-streaked flesh.
Blood oranges are not available year round, so you need to take advantage! In general, the blood orange season runs from December through May, however, “...the exact months vary depending on what type of blood orange you're buying,” according to this report.
(You can also buy blood orange essential oil and use it for aromatherapy purposes and for a natural cleaning solution when mixed with water, however, it is best to consult your dermatologist or a competent healthcare professional before applying it directly to your skin. Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ, so you want to be very mindful of what you are putting on your skin).
Just like “regular old oranges,” blood oranges are also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, folate, potassium and other vitamins and minerals essential to our overall health. Blood oranges are pretty much nutritionally identical to regular oranges, but blood oranges have that very rich anthocyanin content.
Furthermore, there is some evidence that blood oranges may help with maintaining a healthy weight. “Researchers compared the anti-obesity effects of blood oranges to regular sweet oranges and found that the anthocyanin content of blood oranges led to less weight gain and body fat increase, even when subjects consumed the same number of calories,” according to this source.
Another thing to keep in mind is that blood oranges are said to be less acidic than regular oranges, which may be better for people who suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux.
Tips for picking out your blood oranges?
You want to pick blood oranges that are heavier in weight. Avoid ones that have soft, white patches on the rind, and make sure to smell the orange to make sure it is fragrant. Store your blood oranges in the refrigerator in order to give them a longer shelf life.
Ways to use blood oranges?
Since blood oranges are so naturally delicious, making juice with them or simply eating them by the slice is great. You can also throw blood orange wedges over a spinach salad or make marinades with these gems.
I’m not much of a drinker (and if you are, you should drink in moderation), but blood orange juice is a great cocktail mixer or a nice way to spruce up a glass of prosecco. Check out this blood orange margarita recipe.
Precautions with blood oranges?
Overall, blood oranges appear to be very safe to eat, however, if you have any existing health issues, are pregnant or breastfeeding or are taking any medications, it is highly recommended you seek the advice of a competent healthcare professional regarding what foods you should include in your diet.
Have you tried blood oranges? What do you think? Please join the conversation.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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