Oranges are the sweetest citrus fruit, which is probably why orange trees are the most commonly bred fruit trees in the world. People first started cultivating oranges in China in 2500 BC. From there, oranges spread to India; Romans then brought the fruit over to Europe.

The Italian Christopher Columbus in turn took oranges with him to Haiti, while another early New World settler, Ponce De Leon, planted the first American oranges in Florida. This rich history is partially why oranges are Florida's official state fruit, but another reason is that they just taste so flippin' good!

Since oranges are high in natural sugars, they're a great way to get your energy up and indulge your sweet tooth without going for any of the icky processed stuff. The high polyphenol and fiber content of oranges also balances this sugar out, meaning that the fruit still has a low glycemic index.

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A small orange will cost you about 45 calories, a medium size orange has about 60, and even a large orange contains only about 90. Oranges also offer over 100 percent of your daily recommended Vitamin C, which can reduce your risk of colon cancer, help your body make collagen, protect your cells from damage, and boost your immune system.

The citric acid in oranges can help prevent kidney stones, and both vitamin C and citric acid can improve your body's absorption of iron—so it's a good idea to eat your oranges with iron-rich food! Other nutrients found in oranges include calcium, vitamin A, folate, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and copper.

Contrary to popular belief, the peel of an orange is as edible as the rest of it. It contains even more vitamin C and fiber than the flesh, along with several other healthy phytochemicals! These include polymethoxylated flavones, which may be more effective at lowering cholesterol levels than some medications.

However, if you do plan on eating your orange peels, it may be a good idea to spring for the organic variety to avoid pesticide residue. If you can't stomach a whole peel, you can still get some of the benefits by at least eating the inner white part or using orange zest as an ingredient—such as in the Sweet and Sour Chicken and Citrus Fish recipes below.

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Oranges should be picked when they're at their ripest, since they will not continue to ripen after they've been plucked. You should also wait until you're ready to eat or use an orange to start peeling it; Vitamin C decays quickly when exposed to air.

You may want to think twice about oranges if you're on beta-blockers to avoid an overload of potassium, since both the medication and the fruit can increase your blood potassium levels. You should also consider avoiding them if you're prone to acid reflux (heartburn).

On the other hand, orange juice is one thing everyone needs to be wary of. It contains much less fiber and way more sugar than oranges themselves, and most commercial varieties of orange juice contain extra sugar and other dangerous additives.

So stick to the good old-fashioned fruit! Grab them for breakfast or a mid-morning snack, throw them into a fruit or savory salad, or harness their power in the tasty recipes below!

Orange Cabbage Salad with Chicken

Ingredients

  • 100 grams of chicken
  • 1/2 head of any kind of cabbage
  • One orange (3 tablespoons of juice and remaining orange sliced or in segments)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar  
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos  
  • Pinch of fresh or powdered ginger
  • Dash of cayenne (optional)  
  • Stevia to taste (optional)  
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Directions

Marinate strips or chunks of chicken in apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and spices. Cook thoroughly, browning slightly. Prepare dressing with 3 tablespoons of orange juice, Bragg’s, stevia, black pepper, salt and cayenne. You may add extra apple cider vinegar if desired. Shred cabbage into coleslaw consistency and toss lightly with dressing. Allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes or overnight. Top with chicken and orange slices. Makes one serving (1 vegetable, 1 protein, 1 fruit).

Phase 3/Maintenance modifications

Add a drizzle of olive or sesame oil, and top with sliced almonds or sesame seeds.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients

  • 100 grams chicken breast  
  • 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 lemon with rind  
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon lemon and/or orange zest
  • Dash of garlic powder  
  • Dash of onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce  
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Stevia to taste

Directions

In a frying pan or small saucepan, place oranges and lemons in water and boil until pulp comes out of the rind. Remove rinds from the water and scrape out the remaining pulp and juice with a spoon. Add spices, onion, and stevia to taste. Add chicken and cook until liquid is reduced by approximately half and desired consistency is achieved. Add onion and garlic powders to act as slight thickening agents. Serve hot and garnish with lemon. Makes 1 serving (1 protein, 1 fruit).

Phase 3 modifications

Add a small amount of fresh pineapple, bell pepper, and chopped mushrooms.

Citrus Fish

Ingredients

  • 100 grams white fish
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice  
  • Lemon and orange zest to taste  
  • Lemon and orange slices  
  • Chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Stevia to taste

Directions

Mix lemon juice with zest and a little stevia. Baste fish with mixture and top with salt, pepper, and the lemon and orange slices. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on the barbeque or in the oven at 350 degrees. Cook fish for 5-10 minutes or until fish is thoroughly cooked. Serve with lemon and top with parsley. Makes one serving (1 protein, 1 fruit).

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