Today I am continuing my series, Dr. Monique’s Favorite Food ABCs. The foods that are on this list are here because of both their contributions to mouth-watering dishes as well their health benefits. So far we have discussed the following:
- A for avocado
- B for beans
- C for cilantro
- D for dairy replacements
- E is for egg substitutes
- F for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
- G for ginger and garlic
- H for herbs
- I for Indian Spices
- J for jackfruit
- K for Kale
- L for Lentils
- M for Maple Syrup
- N for Nuts
O for Oranges: Honestly, I feel like I’m not even trying with this one. I mean, what’s not to like about oranges? They are sweet, juicy, and seem to always be in season. Citrus fruits even have their own handy packaging (just be sure to rinse them off before peeling them). For this discussion, oranges are holding it down for the entire citrus family, which includes lemon, limes, grapefruits, and pomelos, which are the largest member of the citrus family. Lemons and limes can be used in a variety of dishes to add depths of flavor including marinates, seafood, dessert, etc. Seriously, what is a cup of hot tea or a glass of water without a lemon wedge for added taste?
Citrus fruits, in addition to just being downlight juicy and delicious, range in taste from sweet to tart. They have tons of health benefits and multiple reasons to be featured prominently in one’s diet. As are many of the items on my ABC favorites list, citrus fruits are rich in fiber. They are also very high in vitamin C, which by now you have learned is an antioxidant. Vitamin C helps decrease the signs of aging and helps support your immune system. Vitamin C also helps in the absorption of iron, so people who are anemic are encouraged to increase their citrus intake for this reason, and wash down their iron pills with a glass of OJ.
The high fiber content helps your digestive track work optimally and prevents constipation. You can also eat these fruits guilt-free because they are low in calories. They also contain other beneficial plant chemicals (“phytochemicals”) that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. They may help prevent cancer and protect your heart as well. They also may decrease your risk of kidney stones.
True story about fruit juice: When my son was young, my mother was concerned that he wouldn’t drink fruit juice. Interestingly, my son only ever drank formula, and then as he got older, milk and water. Somehow, my son intuitively knew that drinking juices that are high in sugar are actually not good for kids. Like so many people, my mother thought that as a child he needed to drink juice in order to be healthy. Despite my reassurances to her that he was fine without drinking juice, she still was very concerned about this. However, drinking fruit juice can increase the risk for cavities as well as weight gain in children. Even 100% fruit juices are not ideal because you don’t get the fiber as you would from eating the fruit itself.
Although citrus fruits are ubiquitous, they are not meant for everyone. Those who should avoid citrus are people who suffer from GERD (or acid reflux) because citrus can aggravate those symptoms. The other warning about citrus fruit you need to know about is that grapefruit can interact with certain medications, specifically cholesterol-lowering medications, as well as some blood pressure and allergy medications. If you are a grapefruit juice drinker, be sure to discuss with your doctor what medications you should be cautious about.
Lastly, don’t throw those rinds away just yet! Grab a Microplane or a box grater (using the small grater side) and get busy making a tablespoon or 3 of fresh citrus zest. Zest is easily obtained from the rind of citrus fruits. By using these gadgets to take off just the colored part of the rind you can add so much flavor to your food. You want to be careful not to grate it too deeply (to the white part) because that can be bitter and not taste good. Zest also has health benefits, since it contains antioxidants and is good for your immune system, a healthy heart, and may even have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
Here is my recipe for Homemade Orange Juice made with kiwi, cantaloupe, ginger, gala apples, and navel oranges. I simply combined them in my newest kitchen appliance, my juicer, and made this delicious, freshly squeezed juice from scratch. Be sure to post a pic and tag me @physicianinthekitchen if you make this recipe.
See you in the kitchen!
For this and other mouth-watering vegan recipes grab your autographed copy of Doc Fix My Plate! The Physician In The Kitchen’s Prescriptions For Your Healthy Meal Makeover here.
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