While it’s popularly said that an apple may keep the doctor away, oranges are an impressive fruit containing a list of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals for overall wellbeing. Eaten whole or drunk in juice form, the fruit contains enough vitamin C (40mg from a small orange) to meet the recommended daily intake of 30mg, as suggested by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Oranges are also relatively low in calories — a small fruit contains 45 calories with no cholesterol or sodium. Each orange contains more than 170 phytochemicals (biologically active compounds with disease preventive properties), and over 60 flavonoids (plant compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties). Oranges can help to:

1. Control Blood Sugar

Oranges have a glycaemic index (GI) of 40 — anything under 55 is considered low. The fruit only causes a slow rise in blood sugar — ideal for people with Type 2 diabetes. But eat the fruit as the juice contains a comparatively higher amount of sugar which can cause tooth decay. Its high acid content can also wear away tooth enamel if consumed in excess.

2. Protect the Skin

Beta-carotene, the pigment that gives the orange’s flesh and skin its rich hue, is an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damage and free radicals (toxic molecules). The vitamin C in oranges stimulates the production of collagen (that gives skin strength and structure), and aids in the replacement of dead skin cells.

3. Promote Eye Health

Oranges are rich in carotenoid compounds which are converted to vitamin A that helps prevent macular degeneration.

4. Boost Immune System

The high vitamin C content promotes the production of white blood cells in the body, which boosts the immune system.

5. Relieve Constipation

Oranges are full of dietary fibre which stimulates digestive juices and ensures regular bowel movement.

6. Reduce Risk of Stroke

The American Heart Association reported that eating higher amounts of flavanones (a type of flavonoid) found in citrus fruits, including oranges and grapefruit, may lower ischemic stroke risk by 19 per cent.

7. Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in oranges, helps to regulate high blood pressure while magnesium helps maintain blood pressure. Potassium also aids in combating the blood pressure-raising effects of a high sodium diet, as it promotes vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels, which in turn decreases blood pressure).

Since oranges are high in soluble fibre, they also help to reduce cholesterol. A 2010 study in Nutrition Research reported that drinking orange juice for 60 days decreased low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol”) in people with high cholesterol.

8. Maintain a Healthy Heart

A small orange contains 237mg of potassium, an electrolyte mineral critical to ensuring the heart maintains a steady rhythm. Oranges contain choline which is also good for the heart. They are also high in folate, which is beneficial in lowering levels of homocysteine, a cardiovascular risk factor.

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The Choice Is Yours

A freshly cut orange on a chopping board

Mandarin oranges play a significant part during Chinese New Year (CNY). They are eaten and exchanged as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. Originally cultivated in China and Japan, mandarin oranges are now grown in countries such as Brazil and Spain. There are 11 types available, with the more popular varieties being the lukan (milder flavour with rough, loose skin), ponkan (plump with a juicy texture and sweet, tangy taste) and tangerine (less acidic with glossy, rough skin).

Like the mandarin, the kumquat (“kum” is “gold” in Cantonese, while “quat” sounds like the Cantonese word for “good luck”) is a favourite fruit during CNY. Its shape and size resembles a large olive, and is the only citrus that you can eat whole — skin and all.

Other types of oranges widely consumed in Singapore all year round are the common orange and the navel orange. The common orange, among them the Valencia or Hamlin species, are sweeter and used for juicing. The navel orange is also sweet and juicy, and identified by the navel-like protrusion at one end.

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Orange Overload

A young lady holding on to her tummy while sitting on the couch

One too many of this fruit can put you at risk of:

1. Pain from Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Heartburn

High-acid fruits, including oranges, can aggravate this condition. Citrus fruits will not increase the amount of acid in the stomach, but their naturally high acid content could intensify the pain you experience when you have heartburn.

2. Constipation

If you do not normally have much fibre in your diet, increasing your intake too quickly could give you constipation. A large orange has about 4.4gms of fibre. If you eat three of them in one day, you will get nearly 13gms of fibre — almost half of the 28gms recommended for a 2,000-calorie diet. Depending on your diet, consuming too many oranges can overload your system.

3. Diarrhoea and Abdominal Cramps

Fibre may lead to diarrhoea instead of constipation, or on top of constipation. If you have stomach cramps, or if your gut is making gurgling sounds, your stools might be very loose. Consume oranges in moderation, and pair them with other fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains for a balanced diet.

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