Oranges and Tangerines: Natural Weight-Loss Foods

When you want to lose weight, a crucial strategy is to avoid sugar at all costs. So what better way to appease that sweet tooth than a naturally sweet substitute?

Oranges and tangerines are staples of American diets, and fortunately, they fit nicely into a fat-fighting diet; they are sweet enough to satisfy as snacks and desserts, making them wonderful substitutes for high-calorie sweets.


Health Benefits

Oranges are most famous, of course, for their vitamin C. One orange provides 134 percent of the RDA. That's particularly important for smokers, who may require twice as much vitamin C as nonsmokers to help ward off the development of lung cancer. For women in their childbearing years, oranges are a great source of folic acid, known to help prevent neural-tube birth defects.

The humble orange contains more than 150 different phytochemicals, and more than 60 of them are flavonoids. Flavonoids protect blood vessels, decrease inflammation, and are strong antioxidants. The polyphenol phytochemicals are antioxidants, and they help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Currently, polyphenols are being examined for their role in memory and other brain functions. Another group of phytochemicals, flavanones, especially one called herperidin, may decrease inflammation, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels. Herperidin is found in the inner white pulp of the orange, so eat as much of the white membrane as your taste buds will tolerate.

Tangerines only have a third as much vitamin C and folic acid as oranges, but they provide three times as much cancer-fighting vitamin A.


Selection and Storage

Oranges are one of the few fruits abundant in winter. There are more than 100 varieties in all, but your supermarket probably carries only a few. The California navels, with their telltale "belly-buttons," easy-to-peel thick skins, and easy-to-segment flesh with no annoying seeds, are the favorite eating oranges. The Valencias, pride of Florida, are the premier juice oranges. Mandarin oranges are small and sweet with thin skins and easily sectioned segments. Tangerines are a popular type of mandarin. For all varieties, select firm fruit heavy for its size, indicating juiciness. Green color and blemishes are fine. Refrigerated, most varieties, except mandarins, will keep for two weeks.


Preparation and Serving Tips

For fruit salads, choose seedless oranges or tangerines, such as navels or canned mandarins. Use orange juice to make marinades or nonfat sauces and dressings. Or blend with a banana and skim milk for a delicious, low-fat shake. Top a spinach salad with orange chunks and you're well on your way to eating 2 cups of fruit and 21/2 cups of vegetables, as the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend.

So the next time your sweet tooth starts aching for something, reach for that orange. Next time you hit the scale, you'll be glad you did.


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