Zest for Life: the Inside-Out Benefits of Citrus

citrus martiniPerfectly packaged by nature and ripe for the picking, citrus fruits are a deliciously fragrant source of goodness—for health and home, body and spirit.

C+ for nutritional content

Citrus fruits are a well-known supplier of vitamin C, but these tangy fruits also provide a crate-load of nutrients, including
•calcium
•copper
•folate
•magnesium
•niacin
•phytochemicals

The health benefits of citrus go well beyond the prevention of scurvy. A source of carbohydrates, citrus provides an easy source of energy for our cells.

An orange provides dietary fibre, including pectin and cellulose, as well as a fibre-like component called lignin. Fibre helps to slow digestion, promoting satiety and reducing the rate of glucose uptake into cells. One medium orange provides 3 grams of the recommended 25 to 30 grams of daily fibre.

Beautiful skin from the inside

Packing plenty of nutrients in every bite, it’s hardly surprising that citrus foods are a fabulous source of internal skin care. Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation, which provides the foundation for healthy skin. In a 2007 study, higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a reduced risk of developing wrinkles in middle-aged American women.

Another study showed that taking vitamins C and E for three months helped to reduce DNA damage in skin, thus protecting skin from cancers caused by exposure to UVB sunlight.

Topical solutions

Several types of Korean citrus essential oils have been proven effective against common human skin pathogenic micro-organisms, including several types of acne-promoting bacteria and yeast strains. These citrus oils exhibited anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

A small 2008 study showed that applying a topical formulation of 15 percent L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), 1 percent alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and 0.5 percent ferulic acid protected human skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Researchers cautioned this topical formulation is not a sunscreen, and would be most effective when used in conjunction with a sunscreen.

Citrus for overall health

Stroke risk
In 2012 the Nurses’ Health Study (US) found that women who consumed the most citrus fruit had a reduced risk of ischemic stroke. The flavanone content of citrus fruit may also protect the heart. Further research is required in this area.

Liver love
Limonoids in citrus fruits were shown to increase the activity of detoxifying enzymes in the liver, stomach, and intestines, which may produce a protective effect against some types of cancer.

Animal studies suggest that juice of the Moro blood orange helps to reduce weight gain and fat accumulation, and plays a role in the prevention of fatty liver disease.

Weight loss
The infamous grapefruit diet notwithstanding, research backs the slimming potential of citrus. Many studies involving citrus have been performed on mice, but a 2012 review of human studies found that bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) extract increased metabolic rate and energy expenditure when bitter orange extract products were taken for six to 12 weeks. More research is required to establish safety parameters for these products.

A relaxing two-for-one bonus, weekly aromatherapy massage helped to reduce abdominal subcutaneous fat and waist circumference in postmenopausal women. Subjects had weekly massage sessions for six weeks, and performed self-massage, using a combination of grapefruit oil and other oils.

Citrus for the senses

Citrus essential oils are derived by cold-pressing citrus peels. The oils are widely used in aromatherapy, cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps.

While there is much concern about the long-term health consequences of chemical preservatives such as parabens used in personal care products, citrus essential oils are a natural way to prevent the growth of pathogenic fungi. They’re a perfectly safe addition to formulations you use on and in your body.

Essential oil tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using citrus essential oils:
•Before using a citrus oil, or any essential oil, it must be diluted with a carrier oil.
•Photosensitivity increases when using orange, lemon, lime, bergamot, and angelica citrus essential oils. Do not apply before heading into the sun.
•If you’re pregnant, only use essential oils on the advice of an aromatherapist or health care practitioner.
•Do not ingest essential oils.

Make-at-home citrus clean

Kitchen and bathroom cleaner

Add the rind of a grapefruit, lemon, or orange to a Mason jar. Fill it with water and screw on the lid. Let sit for a few days, then pour 1/2 cup (125 mL) of liquid into a spray bottle and top up with water.

Glass cleaner

Add 1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda to the spray bottle of kitchen and bathroom cleaner (see above).

Tub and tile cleaner

Scrub tub and tiles with grapefruit rind and sea salt.

Lime remover

Apply straight lemon juice to lime deposits.

Furniture polish

Mix one part lemon juice with two parts olive oil, and apply with a soft cloth.

DIY vegetable cleaning solution

By combining lemon juice with vinegar, you can create a simple bacterial wash for vegetables. Leave the 1:1 solution of lemon juice and vinegar on lettuce, carrots, or other fruits and veggies for 30 minutes to reduce the number of salmonella bacteria to an undetectable level.

Citrus for beauty

Look for citrus fruits in natural and organic beauty products available at your local natural health retailer.

Lemon juice

This natural astringent opens pores and balances pH for those of us with oily skin. It also adds shine to hair. Look for lemon juice in skin toners or astringents and in hair care products.

Lemon zest

Its fresh citric acid neutralizes bacteria on the skin’s surface. Look for it in body scrubs and lotions.

Orange zest

Citric acid in orange peel also works to neutralize bacteria on the skin’s surface, which is especially helpful for those of us with oily or combination skin. Orange zest adds a fresh twist to body scrubs and lotions.

By Lisa Petty
First published in Alive

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