Everyone knows that fruits are good for us. But it turns out that citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, grapefruits – might be even better for us than most. According to nutritionists Dr Sarah Brewer and Juliette Kellow, citrus fruits are the key to stay young and living long.In their book, “Eat Better, Live Longer: Understand What Your Body Needs to Stay Healthy”, they recommend eating at least one orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime a day. Dr Brewer said: “Citrus fruits contain antioxidant polyphenols and vitamin C which protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Vitamin C helps to lower cholesterol levels by promoting the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids. Antioxidants in general also lower cholesterol by protecting circulating LDL (bad cholesterol) particles from oxidation so they return to the liver for recycling rather than contributing to furring up of the arteries.” Sophie Bertrand, Registered Associate Nutritionist at Rhitrition, said: “Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is needed for normal growth and development. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water meaning that leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through urine.” Sophie continued: “Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to block some of the damage caused by free radicals. The buildup of free radicals over time is believed to contribute to the ageing process. “The body is not able to make vitamin C on its own, and it does not store vitamin C, therefore it is important that we include vitamin C rich foods in our daily diet.” So, what’s the big deal about citrus fruits?Wrinkles: There are three antioxidants that have been proven to decrease and protect skin damage – selenium, vitamin E and vitamin C. All of them are readily available in pricey serums and creams but they’re also pretty easy to include in your daily diet (at a fraction of the price). You can get selenium from Brazil nuts, fish (particularly tuna) and most meats, while vitamin E is mostly found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. But it’s vitamin C – the stuff found in citrus fruit – that can be used to make collagen, which is the stuff which helps to repair skin tissue and make our skin look smoother. “Skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C, where it stimulates collagen synthesis and provides antioxidant protection against UV-induced photodamage,” Dr Brewer explained. “When ultraviolet light strikes the skin, it sets up an inflammatory reaction that damages skin cells and can lead to skin that’s dry, inelastic, thickened, yellow, scaly, mottled and wrinkled with a leathery texture. The anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin C help to protect skin during UV exposure and stimulates the production of new collagen. Diet should always come first. Preclinical studies suggest that a citrus-based juice drink can ‘potentially prevent oxidative stress-induced premature skin ageing’. A 2015 study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, applied a vitamin C and a placebo solution on people’s faces for 60 days. Scientists found that topically applied vitamin C is “highly efficient as a rejuvenation therapy, inducing significant collagen synthesis in all age groups with minimal side effects”. The effect is most noticeable in people aged 20-35, but they still found a significant improvement across all ages. It’s not a new thing; experts have been discussing vitamin C as a possible skin remedy since the 1930s when it was discovered as a remedy for scurvy. In a review on the role of vitamin C and skin health by scientists from the University of Otago and Zespri International, they say that: “Good skin health is positively associated with fruit and vegetable intake in a number of well-executed intervention studies. The active component in the fruit and vegetables responsible for the observed benefit is unidentified, and the effect is likely to be multi-factorial, although vitamin C status is closely aligned with fruit and vegetable intake. Signs of ageing in human skin can be ameliorated through the provision of vitamin C. A number of studies support this…(and) the provision of vitamin C to the skin greatly assists wound healing and minimises raised scar formation. This has been demonstrated in numerous clinical studies in humans and animals.” Dr Brewer says that when vitamin C levels are low, you can put it on your skin – but that doesn’t mean you can go around squeezing juice onto your face. “It needs to be correctly formulated as vitamin is water soluble and needs to be provided in a lipid-soluble form for significant penetration. I can recommend Replenish Collagen Boosting Serum from Healthspan.” Topical vitamin C derivatives also help to decrease melanin synthesis and are used to reduce skin hyperpigmentation such as age spots.Heart disease: In 2015, Danish scientists analysed data from 100,000 Danish people and looked at their dietary patterns. They found that those who ate more fruit and veg had a 15 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who never ate them. They also had a 20 per cent lower risk of early death from all causes. The study found that those who had the highest levels of vitamin C in their blood had the lowest risk of heart disease and early death.Cholesterol: Vitamin C is a very strong antioxidant, which helps to product against LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and can help to prevent atherosclerosis – which is where plaque builds up inside your arteries. In 13 randomised controlled trials published between 1970 and 2007, people with high cholesterol were given vitamin C supplements for between three and 24 weeks. Scientists found that having at least 500mg/d of the stuff for a minimum of four weeks can “result in a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations”.Cancer: No one is saying that oranges cure cancer but very high doses of vitamin C, when injected directly into patients, has been found to be effective in fighting cancer. As yet we don’t know how much vitamin C you’d need to eat for it to be effective and we also don’t know whether taking vitamin C supplements would be safe for current cancer patients. Nevertheless, Dr Brewer and Kellow said: “Numerous studies show diets high in citrus fruits protect against many diseases, including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, cataracts, and diabetes. “The evidence suggests citrus fruits may help reduce the risk of cancer of the oesophagus, mouth, larynx, pharynx, and stomach by 40-50 per cent. The protective nutrients of citrus fruits – fibre, vitamin C, potassium, folate and flavonoids – are located in different parts.”But before you start chugging down a load of OJ, you might want to step away from the juicer. “Some people believe that juices are the best way to consume the vitamin, however,r juicing a fruit, strips it of its fibre content. Eating the whole fruit will ensure you get the nutrients as well as the fibre which has been linked to helping maintain a health gut micro biome. It is also common for people to drink lemon water for its perceived benefits however there is nothing magical about this drink, in fact, it may have a damaging effect on your tooth enamel when consumed daily. Serious side effects from too much vitamin C are very rare, as the body cannot store the vitamin. However, it is possible that excessive amounts may lead to stomach upset.” The peel is also said to contain more antioxidants than the juice so they recommend grating zest into our food to add both flavouring and nutrients. Dr Brewer again: ” Peel is good and is where the poyphenols are most concentrated as they protect the fruit from sun damage and pest attack. I add lemon, lime and orange zest as well as juice whenever a recipe calls for juice (and often when it doesn’t too).”Photo Credit: Getty
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