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Squeeze Some Sunshine

Eat more citrus this winter

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Squeeze Some Sunshine

While citrus is most known for its cold-fighting vitamin C, it has a multitude of other health benefits. Try these citrus recipes and keep healthy this winter.

Have you ever wondered why an apple turns brown after you cut it in half? But cut any citrus fruit in half and it remains virtually unchanged. The difference is the high level of ascorbic acid and other antioxidants in the citrus; they protect it from oxidation—like natural rustproofing.

In the same way, eating more citrus fruits can protect your body and keep it healthy, especially in winter.

While citrus is most commonly known as a source of cold-fighting vitamin C, most citrus fruits also contain a generous amount of vitamins and minerals that are essential for normal growth, development, and overall nutritional well-being. They include potassium, folate, calcium, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and a variety of phytochemicals.

Low-cal choices

In addition, citrus contains no fat or sodium, and no cholesterol. The average caloric value of fresh citrus is also low. A medium orange contains only 60 to 80 kcal; a grapefruit, 90 kcal; and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice, only 4 kcal.

Citrus also contains other biologically active, non-nutrient compounds (phytochemicals) that can help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Most citrus fruits contain more than 170 of these good-for-you plant chemicals to help achieve optimal immune and general health, aiding in prevention of osteoporosis, kidney stones, mental function, asthma, and more.

Organic is best

Few Canadians eat citrus fruits daily, though. Even among Canadians who know citrus is good for them, consumption is often very low. Perhaps perception of high cost or high exposure to pesticides used in growing the fruits affects our food choices. Citrus fruits grown organically are excellent choices, even though those grown conventionally show pesticide exposure in a mid-range count compared to a lot of other produce.

However, the most direct influencing factors are always availability, taste, and price. Yet in other nations where income levels are low, people consume more fresh citrus than in Canada.

Over the past few decades, the shift in consumer preferences toward healthier, more convenient products has contributed to a growth in demand for citrus. 

Citrus 101

At the store 

  • Citrus fruits are usually ripe when picked, so they’re ready to eat when you buy them; look for bright, colourful skins. 
  • Don’t worry if your oranges are showing some green on the skin; regreening is a natural process that occurs in warm weather but doesn’t affect the taste.
  • Small imperfections on the skin are normal and do not indicate the quality of the fruit. However, avoid citrus that is heavily bruised, mushy, or has soft spots. 
  • Leave behind citrus that is withered, wrinkled, or obviously dry. 
  • Be cautious about rough, thick skins—they may indicate a small, dry fruit inside. 
  • Heavy, thin-skinned citrus tends to be juicier than thick-skinned ones. 
  • Give citrus fruit a quick sniff; it should have a faint but sweet fragrance.

In the kitchen 

  • Citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature from several days to a week. To store longer, keep them refrigerated for up to six weeks.
  • Store fragile citrus such as mandarins and tangerines in a cool place other than the refrigerator, where they may be damaged by the intense cold.
  • To increase flavour, leave refrigerated fruit at room temperature for several minutes before eating.
  • Before cutting into the fruit, wash and scrub the skin to remove environmental residues and possible toxins.
  • If using citrus peel or zest, first knead the citrus fruit gently to release its essential oils and increase flavour.
  • If you’re juicing the fruit, use the palm of your hand to press it down on a counter and roll it back and forth several times. This breaks the inner skins and releases more juice.
  • If you want perfect slices for garnish, peel the fruit and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Avoid using metal utensils when cooking with citrus, the utensil can react and change the flavour of your dish.

Citrus Recipes

Canadians don’t consume enough citrus. So, in order to increase citrus in your diet, here is an entire citrus menu. Each course—from soup to dessert—is made with citrus fruit. Salut! To your health!

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