Oranges: Nutrition Facts about Oranges & Its History and Health Benefits

graeme weatherston

What do you really know about oranges? The scientific name for the sweet citrus fruit we all know and love is citrus x-sinensis. It’s actually a berry called a hesperidium—which means it has a tough skin and the fruit comes in sections—and it grows on an evergreen tree.

An orange can grow and hang on its tree for a long time. If an orange isn’t picked, it can last, still edible, all the way until the next growing season! They are named for their appetizing, bold color, but oranges naturally grow green. They do not turn orange unless they are exposed to cool weather.

By the time they turn their characteristic orange color, they’re usually getting a little old. And if they are left on the tree long enough, they’ll turn green again. Many growers pick the oranges when they are still green and dye them. Other ways to make them orange include exposing them to ethylene gas or washing them with harsh soaps.

The Origin of Oranges

The history of oranges dates back to 2500 BC in China. They were sour fruits then, and not much pursued by other cultures. The name came from Sanskrit “narangah.” It’s likely that growers sweetened them by interbreeding them with tangerines and pomelos—all citrus fruit can be cross-cultivated. Eventually the Romans grew curious and imported them. Oranges spread very slowly into Spain, Sicily, and into Africa. Columbus brought them to America on his famous voyage.

The American Natives became fond of them, and by the early 1500s, the Portuguese were planting sweet oranges in Brazil, which is the top orange producer today. It grows twice as many oranges as its closest competitor, the United States. And the US grows twice as many as its closest competitor, Mexico.

Orange You Glad You Asked…

orange by suat eman

A Brazilian monk in 1820 discovered that one of their orange trees had mutated. It produced oranges in twin pairs—when they were separated, there was an opening that looked like a belly button. These were the first navel oranges. Because they were also seedless, the only way to grow more was through cuttings. A few cuttings were shipped to Riverside, California, in 1870, and the California navel orange industry was born.

Valencia oranges are the sweetest oranges and yield the best juice. Blood oranges grow to a deeper shade, prompted by cool weather just like a regular orange, and offer dark juice.

Bitter oranges comprise their own species, the citrus aurantium. You may have heard of it as today’s replacement for ephedra in weight-loss products. It does have stimulant and appetite-suppressing qualities, but it also causes high blood pressure just like ephedra. Seville oranges are sweeter, but still tart, varieties of the bitter orange.

All orange peels contain essential oils, used for both flavoring and perfume. Orange oil is environmentally friendly, and people love its fresh scent in household cleaners, but it’s also been found useful to terminate termite infestations.

Gorge on an Orange

orange by Manel

When you eat an orange, you’ll find lots more in it than vitamin C. Let’s not forget to mention, however, that one large orange, weighing in at 85 calories, has 160% of your daily recommended allowance of this essential nutrient!

Vitamin C is something our bodies cannot manufacture, and we need it to produce the collagen that keeps our cells and body tissues glued together. It protects you from illnesses such as the common cold, and high doses will help heal bruises and cuts. Many people believe it can fight cancer or cardiovascular illness, but some of that is still being studied. It also has effective antioxidant properties.

Its sugars are simple carbohydrates. Other oranges nutrition facts include their helping of 8% of your daily necessary vitamin A, 7% of your calcium, 17% of your fiber, and a full complement of the B vitamins including folates. Oranges contain a high amount of water, which aids in digestion along with the fiber. If you’re taking an iron supplement, increase your intake of vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron. Make oranges or orange juice—unsweetened and natural—part of your daily habit.