You might turn to citrus fruits for a bit of comfort and a vitamin C boost when you have a cold, but these juicy gems also can be daily assets to your cardiovascular health, helping reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
Top 3 reasons to choose citrus:
1) Studies suggest the nutrients in citrus fruits help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
2) A splash of citrus can flavor soups, stews, and veggies more healthfully than salt.
3) Stores sell so many kinds of citrus, you can eat a different fruit each day of the week.
Read on for tips on drug interactions with citrus, the types of citrus, juicing tips, and citrus recipes.
Interaction Between Grapefruit and Medications
While we love citrus, there can be some challenges to eating or drinking these sweet-tart fruits. Grapefruit juice can interfere with some people's ability to break down some medications, including
-- Statins (for cholesterol)
-- Certain antiarrhythmic drugs
-- Some calcium-channel blockers (for blood pressure)
This may increase the drugs' side effects, such as more muscle pain with certain statins, says Kathy Zaiken, PharmD, RPh, at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston. Grapefruit can interact even if you ingest it several hours apart from medications. An occasional grapefruit or 8 ounces of juice may not be a problem, but some people are more sensitive to it.
Easy Ways to Get More Citrus in Your Diet
-- Season your veggies: Skip the butter and salt. Simply squeeze fresh lemon juice over steamed asparagus, broccoli, and green beans. Try fresh lime juice on corn.
-- Marinate meat: Lemon juice partners with many meats and fish, and lime juice adds flavor to chicken breasts.
-- Limit the heat: A squeeze of citrus juice adds a spark of flavor to low-sodium soups and stews. Add it just before serving (overcooking can destroy the flavor).
-- Freeze the juice: Stock up when your supermarket has a good price on lemons or limes. Squeeze the juice and freeze in ice cube trays for use in recipes.
-- Save the zest: Before squeezing citrus fruit or eating it, grate the rind and freeze the zest. Add to recipes as needed; no need to thaw.
-- Flavor a vinaigrette: Replace part of the vinegar or oil in homemade salad dressing with citrus juice.
-- Stop browning: Keep banana, peach, and apple slices looking fresh by dipping them in any type of citrus juice. Use lemon juice on cut avocados and artichokes.
-- Add pulp to recipes: Use pulp from fresh-squeezed juice to add soluble fiber to baked goods and sauces.
7 Citrus Fruits to Try
Not sure that funny-looking citrus fruit is something you want to bring home? Find out what you could be missing, along with tips from Lance Walheim, a California citrus grower and author.
About: Is the size of a large olive. Most common variety has an oblong shape, although some varieties are round.
Flavor: Unlike other citrus fruits, peel is typically eaten with the flesh. Rind is sweet and flesh is tart.
Best Uses: Wash and eat whole, slice and use in salads, dip in dark chocolate, use in jam, add to stuffing, or use as a dessert garnish.
2. Ugli/Uniq Fruit
About: About the size of a grapefruit but with a bumpy rind and a large core that makes it feel light for its size.
Flavor: Delicious and juicy, with flavor somewhere between a mandarin orange and a grapefruit.
Best Uses: Simply cut in half and spoon out the segments. Or use in any dish in place of a grapefruit or orange.
3. Blood Orange
About: Has ruby-red flesh and juice, hinting at its anthocyanin antioxidants. Some varieties have a red blush on the rind.
Flavor: Flavor is mix of sweet and sour but more acidic than standard oranges. In their prime, taste like berries.
Best Uses: Eat fresh, add to salad, or use as a garnish. The red color of the juice shines in homemade sorbet.
About: Likely a parent of the grapefruit but at least twice as large. Varieties available with white (yellow) or pink flesh.
Flavor: Generally sweeter and less juicy than grapefruit. Best flavor when rind's greenish cast turns yellow.
Best Uses: Membrane around each segment is bitter, so remove it. Add peeled segments to salads. Tasty in Asian-inspired dishes.
5. Mandarin Orange
About: Many new varieties, some branded with names such as Cuties. These small fruits peel easily, and some are seedless.
Flavor: Delightfully flavorful and sweet, with less acid than most citrus fruits. (And with just 40 calories each, it's a weight-wise treat!)
Best Uses: Simply peel and eat or use segments on salad, in gelatin, or to top a cake. Juice is a good marinade for chicken and pork.
6. Sweet Lime
About: Is thought to be a cross between a Mexican lime and a sweet lemon. Has few seeds. Popular in the Middle East and India.
Flavor: Juicy but not acidic, so might seem bland. Are sweet and tasty when picked at their peak.
Best Uses: Use in ethnic recipes, as well as in marmalade, as a cocktail garnish, or for a refreshing limeade.
About: Most common variety is a cross between a tangerine (a type of mandarin) and a grapefruit. Some varieties have a prominent neck.
Flavor: Flavor is rich -- like a mandarin orange -- but tart, especially when picked early. Juicy.
Best Uses: Delicious simply peeled, on salads, or as a garnish for fish or chicken. The peel is tasty candied.
Cardio Benefits of Citrus
Studies suggest citrus fruits might help:
1) Slow atherosclerosis. Citrus is rich in natural plant substances called polyphenols, which, along with vitamin C, could keep arteries flexible and slow atherosclerosis, says Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a researcher at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
2) Lower blood pressure. :Several studies have shown people with higher blood levels of vitamin C have lower blood pressure," says Gladys Block, Ph.D., professor emeritus at University of California, Berkeley.
3) Boost HDL cholesterol. A small four-week study found that drinking 24 ounces of orange juice daily raised HDL (good) cholesterol 21 percent in people with high cholesterol.
4) Lower LDL cholesterol. People eating a red grapefruit daily decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol 20 percent, and white grapefruit eaters dropped LDL 10 percent in 30 days. Grapefruit abstainers had no LDL change.
Benefits of Oranges over Orange Juice
"You get a lot more poylphenol [antioxidants] from a whole orange than from orange juice," says chemist Joe Vinson, Ph.D., at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. But if you prefer the convenience of juice, citrus is one of your best options.
Compared to other popular 100-percent-fruit juices (apple, grape, pineapple, and prune), citrus has more nutrients per calorie, according to scientific analysis by Gail Rampersaud, M.S., R.D., at University of Florida in Gainesville. Just 8 ounces of orange juice has as much potassium as a banana. Citrus juice from concentrate is generally as nutritious as nonconcentrate juice.
Whole orange: 62 calories; 237 mg potassium; 3 g fiber; 70 mg vitamin C; 39 mcg folate
Orange juice (8 ounces): 110 calories, 473 mg potassium, 0.5 g fiber; 82 mg vitamin C; 45 mcg folate
Tips for Juicing Your Citrus Fruits
Get the most juice from fresh citrus fruits with these tips:
-- Start with enough fruit: You'll get about 3-4 tablespoons of juice from a lemon or lime and 1/4-1/2 cup from an orange. Florida Valencias are ideal for juicing.
-- Warm it up: You'll squeeze more juice if the fruit is at room temperature. Put it in hot water to warm it quickly. Then roll it on a hard surface with the palm of your hand to break up the segments.
-- Keep it covered: The vitamin C in juice can be destroyed by oxygen. Keep fresh-squeezed juice in a tightly closed glass container to slow vitamin C loss.
-- Drink it soon: Squeeze citrus juice just before consuming. It can develop an odd flavor and lose nutrients when stored in the refrigerator longer than 24 hours.
-- Squeeze what you need: For just a few drops of juice, use a toothpick to poke a hole in the fruit, then squeeze. Use a toothpick to plug the hole, and refrigerate.
Tools for Juicing Your Citrus Fruits
You can squeeze citrus with your hands to get the juice, but the job will be easier with the gadgets shown here.
1. Reamer: This low-tech, high-yield citrus tool does a great job of extracting all the juice from the fruit. The tool fits over a catch jar and strains out the seeds and pulp, making the job much neater.
2. Squeezer: For very little drawer space, you can keep this squeezer on hand for a quick juicing job. Simply squeeze the top and bottom pieces together to release juice into a waiting bowl.
3. Zester: When a recipe calls for shredded peel or zest (the terms are used interchangeably), pull out a zester. Rub it across the peel of the fruit, removing only the colored part.
4. Peeler: This just-for-looks tool creates long strips of peel from lemons, oranges, and limes. Use it to create dramatic ribbons to decorate holiday platters and to float in punches.
Grilled Salmon with Citrus Salsa
A fresh citrus salsa brings tang to omega-3-rich salmon in this grilled recipe. Enjoy it for less than 300 calories.
Mixed Citrus Salad
Deliciously zippy pink or red grapefruit crown a light salad in this citrus recipe. We've included a recipe for a light citrus-Dijon dressing that you can use here or on other favorite salads.
Fresh Fruit with Citrus Mint Dressing
Sweet honey, flavorful orange juice, and snipped fresh mint jazz up assorted citrus sections in this basic side dish that you can whip up in minutes.
Citrus Trifle with Orange Custard
This delightful, low-calorie dessert features orange peel, orange juice, citrus fruit sections, and, if you like, a kumquat topper. Rich in vitamin C, the light and fresh trifle can be made ahead and chilled for up to six hours.