Why oranges are good for you

Make the most of citrus season and grab unwaxed organic varieties for flavour and nutrition.

The zesty, citrus whiff of oranges freshens up the January kitchen, drawing a line under heavy celebratory food, and lighting up the virtuous, but enticing path to a lighter, healthier diet. With the European citrus season in full swing, the art is choosing fruits that haven’t been chemically waxed in preparation for storage and so retain some of their just-picked freshness.

Avoid the hard, immature fruits that are inflicted on the UK market, and home in on those that are softer, with matt, untreated, fungicide-free skins. Sicilian blood oranges (moro, tarocco), with their sumptuous purple juice, are the cream of the crop, and in my experience, rarely waxed with pesticides, because they are generally sold out within a couple of months. But any organic oranges will also have a soft skin and, with a bit of luck, some of that tree-ripe fragrance.

oranges peel pith segment health

Why are oranges good for me?

They contain prodigious amounts of vitamin C, which protects the immune system and disarms free radicals that cause cell damage. Their abundant folate reduces levels of homocysteine, the cardiovascular risk factor, which can build up in our blood, while their store of potassium helps lower blood pressure. It’s best to eat them whole: the papery pith contains valuable plant compounds (hesperidin, naringenin, limonene) that add to their antioxidant properties, along with soluble fibre, which slows down the absorption of fruit sugar in the bloodstream.

Where to buy and what to pay

Oranges cost as little as 20p a piece, but for softer, tree-ripe fruits that peel easily and are a treat to eat, you’ll need to pay 50-65p. If you get through a lot, a whole box from a greengrocer will work out significantly cheaper.