I’ll Drink To That
Do you enjoy orange juice for breakfast? How about grapefruit juice? Most people are aware that citrus juice can be a good source of vitamin C. Many are also aware that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient; we’ve got to have it to be healthy, and we can’t make it ourselves, so it must come from dietary sources. In fact, it’s so important that most animals—other than humans and apes—are able to make their own vitamin C, to ensure a steady supply of this vital nutrient.
For us, it’s important to eat vitamin C-rich foods regularly. That’s where plant foods shine. Vitamin C is present in everything from rose hips (a particularly rich source), to all forms of citrus, to less obvious foods, like cauliflower, garlic, onion, and spinach.
Despite its reputation as the “go-to” source for vitamin C, citrus fruits are actually middle of the pack in terms of vitamin C content. Blackcurrant, for example, contains about 200 milligrams of vitamin C per serving, while the same amount of grapefruit supplies just 30 milligrams. For perspective, the North American Dietary Reference Intake recommendation for an adult is 90 milligrams per day. Getting more than 2,000 milligrams per day puts a person at risk for gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea, although some fans of vitamin C regularly take that much supplemental vitamin C, or more.
So citrus fruit is an okay source of vitamin C, but it’s hardly a superfruit based on its vitamin C content alone. Nevertheless, citrus juice is also packed with antioxidants (including ascorbic acid). Which brings me to some news about the antioxidant value of citrus.
Spanish researchers revealed recently that they’ve developed a new method for calculating the antioxidant value of a given food. According to these experts, we’ve been underestimating the antioxidant power of citrus juice all along. Multiply current values by ten, they say, to get a more accurate picture of citrus fruit’s antioxidant potency.
This may mean little to the average consumer, but it’s an intriguing finding that dieticians and health authorities should note when making decisions about nutrition in the future. Of course, antioxidants are compounds that help the body combat oxidative stress—a process associated with the onset and progression of everything from disease to aging. Most nutritionists believe that diets higher in antioxidants are linked to better general health and a stronger immune system. Indeed. many disease conditions are marked by notably low antioxidant status, suggesting that there’s a greater demand for antioxidants in the body, or fewer being consumed in the diet.
J. Álvarez, S. Pastoriza, R. Alonso-Olalla, C. Delgado-Andrade, J.A. Rufián-Henares. Nutritional and physicochemical characteristic of commercial Spanish citrus juices. Food Chemistry, 2014; 164: 396 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.05.047