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Prairie Fare: An Orange a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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Some researchers have rated oranges higher than apples in their power to “keep the doctor away.”

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, I’m going to have an orange,” my teenage daughter noted as she passed by me on her way to the kitchen sink.

“That’s good. There’s a plastic orange peeler in the drawer,” I said.

I was pleased that she knew she should wash her hands and then rinse the whole fruit under running water before peeling it.

I had prepared a simple lunch consisting of vegetable soup, crackers, cheese, deli meat and milk. She added the missing food group, fruit.

“My hands are going to smell like an orange. This white stuff is hard to remove,” she said as she scored the rind with the peeler.

“The white part is called the albedo or pith. It’s a good source of fiber such as pectin,” I added.

“Albedo is a strange word,” she said as she divided the orange into segments. She was humoring me with her interest during my impromptu fruit lesson. She popped a segment in her mouth and deemed it “delicious” and “juicy.”

Navel and Valencia oranges are the most commonly available varieties in our region. My daughter was eating a navel orange, which has a “belly button” on one end. Navel oranges appear as though another tiny orange is beginning to grow on the end opposite the stem. Navel oranges are seedless, easily peeled and in good supply from January through March.

Valencia oranges have seeds and abundant juice. While they usually are associated with the summer months, you often can buy them from February through October.

Most oranges get their characteristic color from carotenoid pigments. The orange peel or rind is called the flavedo, and contains flavorful, essential oils. Some recipes, such as those for marmalades, call for the orange zest (grated peel). The zest adds flavor to recipes.

If you aren’t expecting it, the color of some oranges may surprise you when you slice them. Blood or Moro oranges have burgundy-colored flesh. The dark red comes from the anthocyanin pigments they contain. Anthocyanins act as antioxidant compounds that may help fight cancer and other diseases.

Oranges are rich in nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium. Some researchers have rated oranges higher than apples in their power to “keep the doctor away.” Researchers have shown that oranges and other citrus fruits may play a role in preventing heart disease and cancer.

At only 80 calories per medium-sized fruit, oranges are a nutritional bargain and portable snack. One orange provides a full day’s supply of vitamin C, which our body uses to build collagen to keep our skin healthy, among its many functions.

Vitamin C is known as ascorbic acid, which means “no scurvy.” Scurvy is a now-rare disease that results from a vitamin C deficiency. During long voyages, early sailors experienced aching joints, skin breakdown and bleeding gums. When they ate citrus fruits on their voyages, they no longer suffered from the disease. Therefore, they became known as “limeys.”

Are you eating about 2 cups of fruit per day? Eating more whole fruit is one of the nutrition recommendations from While drinking juice may seem easier, whole fruits and vegetables offer the fiber advantage. As a result of their fiber content, we may feel full more readily when we eat whole fruit, compared with drinking juice.

Here’s a colorful salad recipe that is rich in vitamins A and C. You can add your favorite dressing or try the provided dressing recipe. For more information and recipes, check out the Prairie Fare blog at

Spinach and Orange Salad

4 c. fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces

3 oranges, peeled and sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 c. raisins or dried cranberries

1/4 c. slivered almonds

Pepper (optional)


1/4 c. canola or olive oil

1/4 c. vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. tarragon or parsley flakes

1 tsp. grated orange peel

Combine salad ingredients. Combine dressing ingredients in a separate container. Just before serving, add dressing to the salad and toss.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 240 calories, 11 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of protein, 22 g of carbohydrate, 4 g of fiber and 25 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Jan 17, 2013

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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