The calendar may say Spring is here, but it still feels very much like winter. The vegetable garden in the back yard, newly planted with lettuce, spinach and kale seeds, is under several inches of snow.
Despite the lingering cold weather, this time of year I start yearning for fresher, lighter meals – dinners with less meat, and more good stuff that grows above ground. My body just knows it’s Spring.
So what do I reach for when dinner needs to be freshened up, but the garden is still asleep?
Grocery stores have mounds of pink and red grapefruits, navel and blood oranges, tangerines and tangelos. Adding sections of these juicy, sunny fruits to a meal not only brightens it up with a burst of flavor, it adds a host of beneficial compounds way beyond vitamin C.
This fruit, primarily known for its vitamin C content (about 63 grams per medium orange,) contains more than 170 cancer-fighting phytochemicals and 60 flavonoids.
Phytochemicals called limonoids are abundant in citrus fruits. It’s what gives lemon and orange peels the fresh and spicy scent we love. You may already know that limonoids have antifungal and antibacterial properties, but did you know they may even fight cancers?
In lab studies on animals and with human cells, citrus limonoids have been shown to fight many different kinds of cancer, including breast, lung, skin and colon cancer.
Another polyphenol found in oranges is called hesperidin. It strengthens the capillaries and has anti-inflammatory properties. Combined with vitamin C, it helps protect the heart and fight infections, can help lower high-blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol.
Remember the grapefruit diet? While much maligned, there was a study done in 2006 that gives it some support. Turns out eating ½ a grapefruit before meals each day may actually help you lose weight.
In this study, researchers split 91 obese participants into 4 groups. One group got grapefruit capsules and apple juice, the second received grapefruit juice and a placebo capsule, the third group was given half a grapefruit 3 times a day before meals with a placebo capsule, and the unsuspecting fourth group got the placebo and apple juice.
Here’s how the weight loss stacked up after 12 weeks:
- Placebo/Apple Juice Group: 0.72 lbs
- Grapefruit Capsule Group: 2.4 lbs
- Grapefruit Juice Group: 2.8 lbs
- Grapefruit Half Group: 3.5 lbs
That’s not too shabby! Combine grapefruit with a nutrient-dense diet, and you could generate some significant weight loss in just 3 short months.
But there was an exciting bonus: Every single person in the 3 grapefruit groups experienced an improvement in insulin resistance. This means their bodies were better able to regulate blood sugar.
If you would like to add grapefruit to your diet, you’re better off eating the whole fruit rather than the juice. And pick the red ones. They have more lycopene than white grapefruit, which has been associated with reduced risk of some cancers. Red grapefruit has also been shown to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol .
Caution: If you are on medications for the following conditions, you should not drink grapefruit juice: allergies (like Allegra,) high blood pressure, epilepsy, and high cholesterol (Zocor, Lipitor, etc.) Also, if you have trouble with kidney stones, steer clear of grapefruit juice which raises your risk.
Ready to brighten up some meals with citrus? Click the link to get a recipe.