Posted On Aug 05, 2012
By: Ivette Figueroa
“Citrus” is a common term that refers to a large category of flowering plants that are cultivated for their fruit. You know the ones, those sweet, brightly colored and sometimes tangy oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes and tangerines that we all love to squeeze for their juice?
For centuries, citrus fruits have been featured in the diets and medical practices of different cultures. Because they are packed with vitamin C, says author Natalie Savona (Wonderfoods), “citrus fruits give a boost to the immune system.” They also contain bioflavonoids, potent antioxidants that are important for the health of blood vessels, “so they have an impact on the cardiovascular system and help deter varicose veins.”
But while it’s common practice to turn citrus into juice for drinking or cooking, eating those oranges, grapefruits and tangerines in their whole-food form is actually more nutritious. This is especially true when it comes to juice you can buy versus eating the fruit whole. “If you look at fresh fruits that you’ve juiced at home, you include almost all of it, including the pulp. But companies take some of this out in order to make it more attractive to market,” says Nicholas Gillitt Ph.D. director at the Dole Nutrition Research Lab. “One can try to add back the things that they got rid of and it will improve it, but there is no substitute for fresh fruit.”
JUICE VS. PULP
One of the big reasons why eating citrus whole is better for you than juicing it is the pulp—the white, stringy part of the fruit that is the primary source of its fiber and flavonoids. “Fiber is extremely important to human health—I think it’s one of the most underestimated nutrients that people need to get into their diets,” says Gillitt. Fiber basically cleans out the gastrointestinal tract by scrubbing it as it passes through. “Fiber has two functions: To bulk up the food as it passes
through the digestive system (giving it more consistency so you become regular in your bowel movements) and to provide soluble fiber that reduces cholesterol absorption,” he says.
Because it weighs down the digestive tract without being absorbed, the fiber found in citrus pulp is also recommended for those who are trying to lose weight, since it slows down the process of digestion and actually makes you feel full longer.
And though many commercial products say “pulp added” on their labels, the “pulp added” is usually not the same as in the original fruit and it’s highly unlikely to be added back in the same amount removed. e end result is a less nutritious product. So keep your food whole, especially when it comes to citrus.
Citrus pulp contains chemicals produced by the plants to guard
against viral, bacterial and fungal invasions. “One of the main
functions of the peel and pulp of fruit is the protection of the plant
itself. They contain all the chemicals that the plant uses to protect
itself,” says researcher Nicholas Gillitt Ph.D. Scientific studies have
shown that these chemicals have an inherent ability to modify the
body’s reaction to allergens, viruses and carcinogens. They’ve also
shown anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activity.