Lauren Rabaino

If you haven’t already noticed, it is the middle of cold and flu season, the perfect time to load up on extra vitamins and minerals to prevent getting sick. Isn’t it ironic that oranges and other citrus fruits are also at peak season? Why not make the most out of this time of year by stocking up on extra vitamin C to help ward off a possible cold?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 90 milligrams for adult males and 75 milligrams for adult females. One navel orange will provide 92 percent of the needed vitamin C for males and 110 percent for females. Oranges also contain sufficient amounts of calcium, potassium, thiamin, niacin and magnesium. They help the body absorb iron and calcium, aid in wound healing, and contribute to brain function. The most important compounds in oranges have been shown to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol and to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. At about $1 per pound, what’s not to like?

Ascorbic acid, commonly known as vitamin C, is known to be extremely important for the body’s manufacturing of collagen, the protein responsible for keeping cells, muscles, and bones connected. A lack of collagen causes the cells of the tiniest blood vessels to separate, resulting in the bleeding gums and red splotches characteristic of scurvy. Not the sexiest of the nutrient deficiencies.

Since vitamin C can neutralize free radicals, it can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Vitamin C, which is also vital for the proper function of a healthy immune system, is good for preventing colds. Consuming vitamin C supplements does not provide the same protective benefits as drinking a glass of orange juice. Skip the vitamin C-fortified bottled drinks and enjoy a glass of real juice. Studies have shown citrus appears to offer a significant decrease of certain cancers by 50 percent.

Citrus fruits are protective against becoming overweight and obese. Fiber can also help out by keeping blood sugar levels under control, which make oranges a healthy snack for people with diabetes. High amounts of vitamin C in the diet may also prevent peptic ulcers. Do you ever need a little extra help with a nasty hangover? Large doses of vitamin C will break down alcoholic substances more rapidly in the body.

Orange juice is the most nutrient-packed fruit juice. One eight-ounce serving provides 110 calories and contains all the vitamin C you need in a day. Organic oranges have up to 30 percent more vitamin C than conventional oranges, so try to buy them when you can. The concentration of vitamin C in orange pulp is twice that found in the peel and ten times that found in the juice. Bottom line: eat the pulp and buy high pulp juice. The Journal of American Dietetic Association reports that frozen orange juice concentrates contain significantly more vitamin C than the ready-to-drink cartons. The pasteurization and packaging processes destroys vitamin C. Also, once a container of any type is opened, vitamin C in both types of orange juice decrease by about 2 percent a day. Frozen concentrates are also much less expensive, giving you one more reason to buy the frozen stuff.

So you aren’t crazy about oranges? Well, if this article isn’t convincing you to eat more oranges, you can also find high levels of vitamin C in red berries, kiwis, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach and juices made from guava and grapefruit. Bell peppers are an extremely good source of vitamin C, with over 300 milligrams in each pepper. The body eliminates vitamin C in about 12 hours, so distribute your intake throughout the day. The peel contains a powerful compound called limonene, which helps detoxify the body of carcinogens. We typically throw it away, but why not try it in cooking? Here is a recipe that uses both the peel and the orange. Now, orange you glad you read this column?

Orange-Honey Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/3 cup honey

Grated peel of 1 navel orange

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice from navel orange

1/2 cup skim milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 naval oranges, peeled, sectioned and drained

1 tablespoon sugar

To make:

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine the egg, honey, orange peel, orange juice, milk and oil; add to dry ingredients all at once. Stir quickly until dry ingredients are just moistened but have a lumpy appearance.

Spoon batter into 16 paper-lined 2-1/2 x 1-1/4-inch muffin cups, filling about two-thirds full. Place one orange section on top of each muffin and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400-degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Recipe makes 16 muffins.

Sarah Bailey is a nutrition senior, a Mustang Daily nutrition columnist and a member of PULSE. E-mail her your questions at slbailey@calpoly.edu.

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