Offering Oranges

Oranges (specifically, sweet oranges) are the fruits of the citrus species Citrus × sinensis. Oranges are hybrids, possibly between pomelos (Citrus maxima) and tangerines (Citrus reticulata). They share the genus Citrus with lemonsgrapefruits, limes, pomelos, and tangerines (mandarin oranges). The fruit is a modified berry with tough, leathery rind called a hesperidium. Like other citrus fruits, their peels contain many volatile oil glands in pits. Their inner flesh is composed of eight to ten segments, called carpels, made up of juice-filled vesicles that are actually specialized hair cells. Along with other citrus fruits, they are members of the Rutaceae family, which is one of only two plant families that produce a class of phytochemicals called limonoids. Limonoids mainly function an herbivore deterrent. They are responsible for the bitter taste of citrus peels, and, when consumed, act as a growth inhibitor, and even as a natural insecticide. Limonoids also have an array of potential health benefits to humans. Certain limonoid compounds appear to have anti-cancer properties.

Probably originating in Southeast Asia, oranges were already cultivated in China as far back as 2500 BC. They grew  in the region from southern China to Indonesia from which they spread to northeastern India, and perhaps southeastern Asia (formerly Indochina).

Although Renaissance paintings show oranges on the table in paintings of The Last Supper, oranges were not cultivated in the Middle East until sometime around the 9th century.

In Europe, citrus fruits, including the bitter orange, which was introduced to Italy by the crusaders in the 11th century, were grown widely in the south for medicinal purposes.

Sweet oranges were introduced into Europe after 1450 by the Moorish, Portuguese, and Italian traders and explorers who found them on their voyages to Asia and the Middle East. Sweet oranges were quickly adopted as a table fruit, and wealthy people grew them in private conservatories, called orangeries. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus took seeds of oranges, lemons, and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean.

European voyages in the mid-16th century brought sweet oranges to South America and Mexico. They arrived in Florida in 1565, when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St Augustine. Orange cultivation also started in the 16th century in Cananeia, an island off the São Paulo coast in Brazil.

By 1646, oranges were well known in Europe. The French probably brought them to Louisiana in the 17th century.

Spanish missionaries brought orange trees to Arizona between 1707 and 1710. The Franciscan priest, Father Junipero Serra, brought them to San Diego, California, in 1769. In 1781, Archibald Menzies, the botanist and naturalist on the Vancouver Expedition, collected orange seeds in South Africa, raised the seedlings on board, and gave them to several Hawaiian chiefs in 1792.

An orchard was planted at the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in Los Angeles County around 1804. William Wolfskill (1798–1866), one of the earliest settlers of Los Angeles, secured orange seedlings from the mission and planted them in 1841. Wolfskill sold oranges to gold rush miners. Wolfskill entered into a common-law marriage with Maria de la Luz Valencia, daughter of Ignacio Valencia and Maria Luisa Varela de Valencia. A daughter was born in 1833, and the next year a son.

Soon after the Civil War, Florida’s annual commercial citrus production totaled one million boxes.

Navel oranges, so called because the end of the fruit resembles a belly button, were actually mutations from an orange tree that grew in a Brazilian monastery. The U.S. Department of Agriculture obtained cuttings from this tree and in 1873 sent two or three starter trees to activist Eliza Tibbets and her husband Luther in Riverside, California, to see if they would grow. The whole nation wanted California navel oranges, and with the establishment of the transcontinental railroad in 1877, growers were able to supply them. Riverside became the center of the navel orange business, which soared in the 1880s.

An announcement in the Santa Ana Herald in 1886 proclaimed that “in the Wolfskill orchard is a new orange, which promises to become a great favorite with the growers.” This was the Valencia, a summer orange that would thrive only in California.

Production in Florida climbed to more than five million boxes by 1893. With the development of improved means of transportation, new markets were opened in the northeastern United States and demand for the refreshing, healthy benefits of Florida citrus started to expand slowly. That year, in California, farmers formed the Southern California Fruit Exchange to more effectively market their citrus; the cooperative is now known as Sunkist Growers.

The Great Freeze of 1894-95 ruined many of the groves throughout Florida. Production dropped to a mere 147 thousand boxes in 1895. As a result, growers began their gradual move to locations farther south in the state.

Before the 20th century, oranges were very expensive and therefore they were not regularly consumed, but rather eaten on special holidays such as Christmas. In 1906, California farmers lobbied for a research facility to help them grow a better crop. The resulting Citrus Experiment Station became the foundation of the University of California, Riverside. Oranges, which had been grown throughout Hawaii in the 19th century, were virtually abandoned after the advent of the Mediterranean fruit fly in 1907. By 1910, the Florida crops had returned to pre-freeze production levels. Oranges were introduced and grown in the Philippines since 1912, but the fruit is generally of low quality because of the warm climate.

Prior to 1920, oranges were mainly considered dessert fruits. The spread of orange-juice drinking, in contrast with eating of the fresh fruit, significantly increased the per capita consumption of oranges. The first commercial shipment of oranges was in 1921.

After more efficient means of transportation were developed, and food processors invented methods for utilizing orange by-products such as citric acid and bioflavonoids, the price of oranges dropped, and they could be consumed on a wide scale, as they are today.

The most important product made from oranges in the United States is frozen concentrated juice, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the crop. Essential oils, pectin, candied peel, and orange marmalade are among the important by-products. Sour, or Seville, oranges are raised especially for making marmalade.  Currently, the countries that are some of the largest commercial producers of oranges include the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, China and Israel. The United States leads in world production, with Florida, alone, having an annual yield of more than 200 million boxes, except when freezes occur which may reduce the crop by 20 or even 40%. California, Texas, and Arizona follow in that order, with much lower production in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. In Brazil, oranges are grown everywhere in the coastal plain and in the highlands but most extensively in the States of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where orange culture rose sharply in the years immediately following World War II and is still advancing. Mexico’s citrus industry is located largely in the 4 southern states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Veracruz. The orange crop is over one million metric tons and Nuevo Leon has 20 modern packing plants, mostly with fumigation facilities. Large quantities of fresh oranges and orange juice concentrate are exported to the United States and small shipments go to East Germany, Canada, and Argentina. However, overproduction has glutted domestic markets and brought down prices and returns to the farmer to such an extent that plantings have declined and growers are switching to grapefruit. Cuba’s crop has become nearly 1/3 as large as that of Florida. Lesser quantities are produced in Puerto Rico, Central America (especially Guatemala), some of the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, and West Africa, where the fruit does not acquire an appealing color but is popular for its quality and sweetness.

In addition to oranges’ phytonutrients, vitamin C and fiber, they are a good source of folate, thiaminepotassiumvitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), and calcium. over 170 different phytochemicals and more than 60 flavonoids, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and blood clot inhibiting properties, as well as strong antioxidant effects.   (for example, cyanidin-3-glucoside, flavanones and carotenoids). For the best DNA protection, skip the vitamin C—fortified bottled drinks and simply eat an organic orange.

Owing to the multitude of vitamin C‘s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Oranges can:

  1. Fight free radicals. Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C: just one orange supplies 116.2% of the daily value for vitamin C. Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in your body, disarming free radicals and preventing damage in the liquid environment both inside and outside cells. The polyphenols so abundant in oranges also have a wide range of antioxidant effects. Geraniol in oranges is also an antioxidant. Limonin, nomilin, and  nomilinic acid in oranges act as active antioxidants and prevent the breakdown of cell DNA. Beta-crpytoxanthin in oranges protects your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Tannic acid in oranges is a powerful antioxidant. Ferulic acid in oranges is a potent antioxidant. Naringenin in oranges has antioxidant effects, and may be useful in reducing oxidative damage to DNA. Narirutin in oranges reduces oxidative damage to DNA. Nobiletin in oranges eradicates free radicals that can lead to cancer, a compromised immune system, and a weakened body that can make it ripe for the development of diabetes.
  2. Support your immune system. Vitamin C, which is also vital for the proper function of a healthy immune system, is good for preventing colds and may be helpful in preventing recurrent ear infections. The healing properties of oranges have been associated with a wide variety of phytochemicals, including citrus flavanones (types of flavonoids that include hesperidin and naringenin), anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acids, and a variety of polyphenols.  The polyphenols so abundant in oranges have a wide range of anti-viral effects. Tannic acid in oranges is a powerful antibacterial that can prevent diarrhea. Narirutin in oranges reduces hepatitis C virus production by infected liver cells.
  3. Protect against cancer.  Inside your cells, free radical damage to your DNA can lead to cancer. Especially in areas of your body where cells are rapidly dividing, such as your digestive system, preventing DNA mutations translates into preventing cancer. That’s why taking in plenty of vitamin C reduces your risk of colon cancer. Oranges also may reduce your risk of cancer in your mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, and stomach. The vitamin C in oranges reduces your risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacterium responsible for causing stomach cancer. Limonoids, including limonin, nomilin, and nomilinic acid in oranges prevent the breakdown of cell DNA and fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach, and colon. Your body can readily absorb and use the very long-acting limonin that is present in oranges in about the same amount as vitamin C, in the form of limonin glucoside, in which limonin is attached to a sugar (glucose) molecule. Your body easily digests limonin glucoside, breaking off the sugar and releasing limonin, which can last for up to 24 hours in your body. The fiber in oranges can bind cancer-causing chemicals and keep them away from cells of your colon, providing yet another line of protection from colon cancer. Beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid in oranges, may significantly lower your risk of developing lung cancer. The polyphenols in oranges have a wide range of anti-proliferative and anti-carcinogenic effects. Geraniol in oranges is being studied for its abilities to suppress tumor growth. Tannic acid in oranges is a powerful antimutagenic that may prevent cancer. Ferulic acid in oranges may also prevent cancer. Apigenin in oranges is a very potent anti-cancer compound.
  4. Protect against cardiovascular disease. If the cholesterol in your blood becomes oxidized by free radicals, it is able to stick to your artery walls, building up in plaques that may eventually grow large enough to impede or fully block blood flow, or rupture to cause a heart attack or stroke. Because vitamin C can neutralize free radicals, it can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. The folate in oranges also offers protection against cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of the cardiovascular risk factor, homocysteine. Thiamine in oranges supports proper heart function. The potassium in oranges helps lower blood pressure, protecting against stroke and cardiac arrhythmias. The carotenoids and flavonoids in oranges also help protect you against cardiovascular disease. A flavanone in oranges, herperidin, can lower high blood pressure as well as cholesterol. Hesperidin in oranges strengthens your blood vessels and and helps prevent hemorrhoids, bruising, and varicose veins. Naringenin in oranges may be useful in preventing heart disease. Nobiletin in oranges prevents the build-up of arterial plaque which causes heart disease and stroke.
  5. Fight chronic inflammationFree radical damage to cellular structures and other molecules can result in painful inflammation, as your body tries to clean up and repair the damage. The vitamin C in oranges prevents the free radical damage that triggers chronic inflammation, and also reduces the severity of inflammatory conditions, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. The polyphenols in oranges have anti-inflammatory effects. A flavanone in oranges, herperidin, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Naringenin in oranges has anti-inflammatory effects.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. As low fat, nutrient-rich foods with a low glycemic index, oranges can protect you against overweight and obesity, conditions which increase your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke, and exacerbate symptoms of other conditions like arthritis. Naringenin in oranges may be useful in preventing obesity. Narirutin in oranges fights the obesity effects of a high-fat diet.
  7. Lower cholesterol. A single orange provides 12.5% of the daily value for fiber, which reduces high cholesterol levels, and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB)  is a structural protein that is part of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol molecule and is needed for LDL production, transport and binding. Your liver cells produce less Apo B when exposed to limonin in oranges, which translates to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Phytochemicals in orange peels called polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs), including tangeretin, nobiletin, hesperidin, and naringin, may lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs, and without side effects. Grate a tablespoon or so of the peel from a well-scrubbed organic orange each day and use it to flavor tea, salads, salad dressings, soups, hot oatmeal, buckwheat, or rice to achieve some cholesterol-lowering benefits. PMFs may work like statin drugs, by inhibiting the synthesis of cholesterol and triglycerides inside your liver. A flavanone in oranges, herperidin, can also lower cholesterol. Nomilin and nomilinic acid in oranges may reduce cholesterol, and inhibit the production of cholesterol compounds in the liver. Ferulic acid in oranges reduces blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Narirutin in oranges inhibits the secretion of very-low-density lipoprotein and lowers plasma and hepatic cholesterol concentrations.
  8. Regulate blood sugar. The fiber in oranges can keep blood sugar levels under control. In addition, the natural fruit sugar in oranges, fructose, can help to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating. Tannic acid in oranges may prevent diabetes. Ferulic acid in oranges may help treat diabetes. Naringenin in oranges may be useful in preventing type 2 diabetes. Nobiletin in oranges prevents the build-up of fat in the liver and the subsequent over productive of insulin due to increasing glucose in the blood.
  9. Prevent kidney stones. Oranges and orange juice increase your urinary pH value and citric acid excretion, significantly decreasing your risk of forming calcium oxalate kidney stones.
  10. Help prevent ulcers. The vitamin C in oranges reduces your risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacterium responsible for causing stomach ulcers.
  11. Protect against arthritis. The carotenoids zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin in oranges lower your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory polyarthritis.
  12. Keep your skin looking young.  Hesperidin and rutin in oranges works together with vitamin C to maintain healthy collagen, which prevents sagging and wrinkling of your skin. Ferulic acid in oranges protects your skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh Raw Oranges



Daily Value

vitamin C

53.2 mg



2.4 g



30 µg



0.1 mg



181 mg


vitamin A

225 IU



40 mg



11.7 g


pantothenic acid

0.3 mg


vitamin B6

0.1 mg



10 mg



0.04 mg






0.9 g



0.045 mg



0.3 mg


vitamin E

0.2 mg



0.1 mg



0.1 mg



0.1 g



0.025 mg



0 mg



0 mg


Beta cryptoxanthin

116 µg


116 µg

Beta carotene

71 µg

Alpha carotene

11 µg

Oranges are available year-round. The peak season for navel oranges in November through June.

Buy organic oranges, and don’t worry if they’re not solid orange in color. Choose oranges that have smoothly textured skin and are firm and heavy for their size. These will have a higher juice content than those that are either spongy or lighter in weight. In general, oranges that are smaller will be juicier than those that are larger in size, as will those with thinner skins. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened oranges.  Avoid those that have soft spots or traces of mold.

Store oranges either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will generally last the same amount of time, two weeks, with either method, and will retain nearly the same level of their vitamin content. The best way to store oranges is loose rather than wrapped in a plastic bag, because if they’re exposed to moisture, they can easily develop mold.

Place freshly squeezed orange juice in ice cube trays until frozen, and then store them in plastic bags in the freezer. Store dried orange zest in a cool, dry place in an airtight glass container.

Before cutting or peeling an orange, wash the skin so that any dirt or bacteria on the surface will not be transferred to the fruit. Cut in half horizontally through the center. Cut the sections into halves or thirds, depending upon your personal preference.

You can easily peel thin-skinned oranges with your fingers. For easy peeling of the thicker-skinned varieties, first cut a small section of the peel from the top of the orange. You can then make four longitudinal cuts from top to bottom and peel away these sections of skin, or starting at the top, peel the orange in a spiral fashion.

Oranges, like most citrus fruits, will produce more juice when warmer, so always juice them when they are at room temperature. Rolling the orange under the palm of your hand on a flat surface will also help to extract more juice. Use a juicer or squeeze the oranges by hand.

For orange zest, make sure that you use an orange that is organically grown, as most conventionally grown fruits have pesticide residues on their skins and may be artificially colored. After washing and drying the orange, use a zester, paring knife, or vegetable peeler to remove the zest, which is the orange part of the peel. You can then more finely chop or dice the zest if necessary.

Oranges pair well with allspice, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, mace, and rosemary.

To enjoy oranges:

  • Eat oranges as a snack: just peel and enjoy or slice and enjoy
  • Freeze 100% orange juice in a paper cup with a popsicle stick or spoon
  • Make a fruit spritzer by mixing 100% orange juice and sparkling water
  • Toss peeled orange segments into green salads
  • Use oranges in a fruit relish, such as my Raw CranApple Relish
  • Orange segments, fennel, and cooked or canned beets make an exciting salad
  • For a refreshing salad, combine fennelonions, oranges, and peppermint leaves
  • Serve a colorful salad of fennelorange, cherry tomatoespumpkin seeds, and parsley leaves
  • Gently simmer sweet potatoes or winter squash with orange segments and ginger in orange juice, and sprinkle with walnuts just before serving
  • Use orange peel or orange zest to flavor cooked carrots or squash
  • Squeeze a little fresh orange juice on kale

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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