Citrus fruits are well-known for their signature scent and flavor. But in addition to bringing a tangy taste to dishes and desserts, citrus fruits are also brimming with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
In fact, recent research has found that these citrusy superfoods could offer a range of impressive health benefits. From fighting cancer growth to combating kidney stones, there are many reasons to consider squeezing a few more citrus fruits into your daily routine.
So is apple a citrus fruit? What are the different types of oranges? And why should you start serving up more citrus fruits? This article will take an in-depth look at this flavorful family of fruits, including the benefits, side effects, and some simple recipes to help you get started.
What Are Citrus Fruits?
Citrus fruits are a group of fruits that belong to the Rutaceae, or rue, family. These fruits are derived from flowering citrus trees and shrubs, which are native throughout many parts of Asia and Australia and cultivated around the world.
From familiar citrus fruits names like lemons and limes to less common varieties like the citron and pomelo, these fruits are notable for their thick rind and unique flavor, which can range from sour to sweet.
Although the exact nutrition profile can vary a bit, citrus fruits are typically high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. In addition to adding a pop of flavor to smoothies, sauces and side dishes, they are also commonly used to make juices, jams and marmalades.
There are many familiar ingredients on the citrus fruits list, including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit. However, there are several others that may not be quite as well-known, such as the tangelo, kumquat and yuzu fruit.
Here are 17 of the top citrus fruits:
- Bitter orange
- Blood orange
- Buddha’s hand
- Mandarin orange
- Seville oranges
- Ugli fruit
- Yuzu fruit
Rich in fiber, antioxidants and a wealth of micronutrients, studies show that enjoying a serving or two of citrus fruits each day could improve everything from digestive health to brain function. Keep reading for a few of the top citrus fruits health benefits.
1. Supports Digestive Health
Citrus fruit is high in fiber, a type of indigestible carbohydrate that can help boost gut health. In addition to adding bulk to the stool to prevent constipation, fiber has been shown to improve several other aspects of digestive health as well. In particular, studies show that increasing your intake of fiber could protect against conditions like hemorrhoids, acid reflux and diverticulitis.
Not only that, but citrus fruits also contain specific types of fiber that act as prebiotics, including pectin. Prebiotics help fuel the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can impact everything from inflammation to nutrient absorption and beyond.
2. Protects Against Kidney Stones
Kidney stones occur when hard mineral deposits form in the inner lining of the kidneys, causing symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting and blood in the urine. Although there are several different types and causes of kidney stones, they often occur when citrate levels in the urine become too low.
Some research has found that citrus fruits can help increase levels of citrate in the urine to prevent the formation of kidney stones. What’s more, studies also show that eating higher amounts of citrus fruits could be tied to a lower risk of developing kidney stones over time.
3. Combats Cancer Cell Growth
Citrus fruits are jam-packed with antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that fight oxidative stress to protect against cell damage. Antioxidants are thought to play a central role in health and disease, with some research showing that they could aid in the prevention of many chronic conditions, including cancer.
Multiple studies have found that incorporating more citrus fruits into your diet could be linked to a lower risk of certain types of cancer. A 2015 meta-analysis published in Medicine, for example, found that increased citrus fruit intake is associated with a lower risk of esophageal cancer.
Meanwhile, other research has tied citrus fruit consumption to a lower risk of lung, stomach, breast and pancreatic cancers as well.
4. Improves Brain Function
Many of the antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols found in citrus fruits have been shown to boost brain function and decrease cognitive decline. In fact, a 2016 review out of Italy even noted that citrus flavonoids could potentially offer protection against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Although more research is needed to evaluate the effects of citrus fruits on these specific conditions, one study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that older adults who drank orange juice daily for eight weeks experienced improvements in brain function compared to a control group.
Similarly, another study found that eating more citrus fruit was associated with enhanced cognitive performance in over 2,000 older adults.
5. Boosts Weight Loss
Citrus fruits are low in calories yet brimming with fiber, making them a great choice if you’re looking to lose weight. Most types of citrus fruit are especially rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that has been shown to promote satiety and curb cravings to support weight loss.
Interestingly enough, a 2015 study in PLoS Medicine monitored the diets of over 133,000 men and women for up to 24 years and found that increased consumption of citrus fruits was tied to a decreased risk of weight gain over time. Meanwhile, other studies also show that citrus fruit extracts could help prevent weight gain and fat accumulation in animals.
6. Promotes Heart Health
As one of the leading causes of death worldwide, heart health is a major concern for millions around the globe. Fortunately, making a few simple switches to your diet can reduce several risk factors of heart disease and help optimize heart health.
One review conducted by Oxford University, for instance, found that grapefruit could help decrease levels of systolic blood pressure, which may help protect against heart disease and stroke.
Other research suggests that some of the compounds found in citrus fruits could help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Related: Hesperidin: The Citrus Bioflavonoid that Supports the Brain & Heart
Risks and Side Effects
Although citrus fruits have been associated with a long list of benefits, it’s important to remember that not all forms of fruit are created equal. Fruit juice, in particular, contains a highly concentrated amount of sugar and is lacking much of the fiber found in whole fruits.
Compared to whole fruit, fruit juice is also significantly higher in calories, which can contribute to weight gain. Therefore, it’s best to opt for whole fruit over fruit juice whenever possible to maximize the potential health benefits.
Citrus fruits also contain a much higher amount of citric acid than non-citrus fruit, which can erode tooth enamel over time and increase the risk of developing cavities. For this reason, it’s important to keep your intake in moderation and enjoy with a variety of other fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.
Certain types of fruit may also interact with medications. Specifically, grapefruit, tangelos and Seville oranges contain a chemical known as furanocoumarin, which can block the activity of a specific enzyme needed to break down some medications such as statins and benzodiazepines.
If you are taking any prescription medications, be sure to talk to a trusted healthcare professional before consuming these citrus fruits to prevent interactions.
Related: Lime Water Benefits for Skin Health, Heart Health and Weight Loss
Citrus fruits are great for adding a punch of citrusy flavor to salads, sauces and side dishes. Alternatively, you can also use them to zest up baked goods, juices, smoothies and more.
Ready to start including more citrus fruits in your diet? Here are a few tasty recipes to help get you started:
- Orange Tahini Dressing
- Kale and Pink Grapefruit Salad
- Healthy Key Lime Pie
- Clementine & Five-Spice Chicken
- Orange Carrot Ginger Juice
- The official citrus fruits meaning includes any fruit in the rue family of plants. These fruits generally have a thick rind and unique flavor that ranges from sour to sweet.
- A few of the ingredients on the list of citrus fruits and vegetables include oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and tangerines, among others.
- Studies show that these fruits may help improve digestive health, boost brain function, increase weight loss, combat cancer cell growth, prevent kidney stones and enhance heart health.
- However, they may also contribute to cavities if consumed in high amounts and some types can interfere with certain medications.
- Additionally, whole fruits should be prioritized over fruits juice, as juices are generally higher in calories and sugar but lower in fiber.
- Besides enjoying citrus fruits as a simple snack on the go, try adding these fruits to desserts, salads, side dishes and smoothies.