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January 13, 2012 at 9:21 AMComments: 7 Faves: 1

Can Clementines Fight Cancer?

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

Have you noticed the cartons of clementine “cuties” or bags of navel oranges filling up the produce section of your local grocer? Believe it or not, we are actually in the prime of the citrus season and these juicy orbs are ripe for the picking! Have you loaded them into your own shopping cart? If not, I hope this blog will convince you to do so! :)

DID YOU KNOW: Vitamin C is an Antioxidant!

Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C (as are bell peppers, broccoli, papaya, strawberries, pineapple…) and a fair amount of research has linked this nutrient with a unique cancer fighting ability. Science indicates that vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, has the ability to counteract the disease-causing free radicals running throughout your body and also prevent inflammation. Thus, vitamin C (and clementines) reduces your risk of cancer, particularly stomach cancer.

Confused about the whole antioxidant/free radical thing? Here's an analogy I like to use which makes the whole idea a lot more simple:

Let’s say that our body is a fresh slice of apple and the air/environment is the free radical influence it faces. Allowed to sit out exposed to the air (or free radicals), an apple slice (or body) will turn brown and essentially, slowly begin to break down. This is exactly what free radicals do to our DNA -  bad news because each time our DNA is damaged it must reproduce and each time it reproduces we are increasing the odds that it will reproduce into a cancerous form. HOWEVER, if we were to splash the slice with a touch of lemon juice(antioxidants), it will stay looking good for a lot longer.

The Health Benefits of Clementine Oranges

What makes this citrus fruit even more beneficial is the fact that it comes loaded with phytonutrients, including flavonoids, which may also help to reduce your risk of cancer.

The flavonoid, herperidin, may be the most important of all as research indicates that it may not only reduce inflammation (which helps to prevent cancer) but it can also help to lower cholesterol levels. Certainly good news for the countless Americans with high cholesterol level as it is easier than ever to squeeze a tasty clementine into your daily routine!

There is a catch with herperidin however - it is primarily found in the white pulp and orange peel rather than the tasty orange segments themselves. Therefore in order to acquire the health benefits of the flavonoids you will need to loosen up when it comes to pulling off each and every strand of pulp from your oranges before eating them and perhaps grate a bit of colorful zest into your oatmeal or salads.

Of course the science of nutrition is still young and we continue to learn every single day as new research debuts. In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed several major trials and found that vitamin C supplements did not make a bit of difference in all but 1 of the trials. As a dietitian, this is one reason I focus on foods. Whole food is made available to us in the amounts Mother Nature created for us, amounts that have thus far proven to be far safer than supplements. However even good things can turn bad when we eat too much of them.

How Much Citrus Do I Need to Eat In Order To Get The Benefits?

To reduce inflammation in your own body, all you need is a single serving of citrus each day to make a healthy difference.

You can incorporate citrus into your diet by topping your salmon off with this delicious lime-citrus salsa, pouring a small glass of 100% orange juice, or simply tossing an orange into your bag as your nutritiously individually wrapped snack for the day. However you choose to enjoy your oranges, I must point out that while a glass of orange juice is certainly a more nutritious option than a glass of soda, if you have accesses to a fresh orange, by all means, go with the orange.

If orange juice is as key to your morning meal as nut butter is for me, I encourage you to explore the amount you actually drink each day.

The typical glass at home may hold between 3-4 servings! Unless you are lean and athletic you certainly do not need that much and your body may not tolerate the massive influx of sugar anyway (one cup alone holds 6 teaspoons of sugar!). Measure out one cup the next time you are pouring your morning beverage to help you gain a feel for what this amount actually looks like. The multitude of glass sizes in your cupboard can be misleading.

If you remember nothing else from this post, aim for 1 orange, tangelo, or mineoloa, 1-2 clementines, or a single cup or pure orange juice to fight inflammation and reduce your risk of cancer. And please don’t forget about the colorful pee!

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  • Absolutely love this blog, Jessica! :)

    I find it interesting that the study you mentioned showed that vitamin C supplements did not make a difference. Just more proof that getting nutrients from actual food is better for you. Makes me happy that I chose to drink a glass of orange juice this morning! :)

  • Wonderful post, Jessica! I've been eating at least one clementine per day for the past several weeks now. They are the perfect snack, and so refreshing!

    We recently bought a juicer, so I think I'll be giving that a workout soon. My favorite homemade juice so far is orange-apple-carrot-ginger...I highly, highly recommend it :)

  • My kids (and I) love the clementines this year. They peel so easy, aren't too big, and taste amazing. Some years they're drier. This year, they're bursting. Awesome about the pithy white part, as I always tell the kids that they need to eat that too. I read years ago that it was a good source of soluble fiber of vitamin C, even more so that the juicy part.

  • Oh man... that's my one aversion to citrus fruit - the white parts. I don't like the taste so it takes me FOREVER to peel one. Though oddly - I always prefer the high pulp orange juice. Seems like more of a treat to me that way - like drinking a smoothie rather than drinking a plain ol cup of juice. :)

    Lately, I've found a solution - I just treat ANY citrus fruit I eat like a grapefruit! I slice it in half and spoon out the sections. In fact, my daughter and I have developed a tradition of splitting a citrus fruit with every meal. Mostly, we've been on a grapefruit kick (and no, we don't add sugar!).

    I've been telling everyone about it and how I think it's helped me for the first time in several years, to avoid getting some horrible cold virus. PLUS it's helped me eat less. I've found that it gives my stomach some time to catch up with my brain and figure out it's actually full!

  • You know it's funny I've been drinking orange juice since I was a kid. I always had it on hand when my kids were kids and today I still drink a glass most every morning. However over the years and most recently I've come across in some diets where they say orange juice has too much sugar and if you're dieting you should cut down on sugar (maybe add some water).

    I felt like I was cheating because I was still drinking a cup a day but now I figure it's better to drink one glass of juice then face the alternative - the risk of cancer.

  • Thanks for the feedback, I really do appreciate it!

    Erin, I truly enjoyed hearing about your new dinner ritual with your daughter. That is truly a terrific way to slow down and enjoy your meal, I just love it!

    Elizabeth, when I have the time, I also love catching up with Dr. Oz :) I don't always agree, but he often has terrific advice & I am grateful that he is able to inspire so many of us to live & eat healthier every day.

    Sprouty, that's interesting that you have always enjoyed the pith. I have not heard that the white contains any vitamin C, though it is definitely a great source of fiber! Where did you hear it has vitamin C?

    Nancy, if you are worried about the sugar or calories found in orange juice (or any juice for that matter), I recommend cutting it with sparkling water. It is very refreshing, almost like a mimosa :) Also, on the sugar note, if you are drinking juice daily, it is best to limit it to 1 cup and get the remainder of your fruit for the day from whole fruit sources - that way you will get the fiber and a lesser amount of sugar for less calories.

    Happy to hear so many of you are enjoying citrus this season! The navel oranges are currently overflowing our fruit basket, along with black cherries, Michigan fuji apples, bananas, & grapefruit. Delicious!

  • Any fruit can add life...

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