Blood oranges are known for their color, but it’s what inside that makes them unique among citrus fruits. The exact origins of blood oranges aren’t known, although they are believed to have come from either China or the Mediterranean region, where they still flourish today.
Red fleshed (or blood) oranges (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck) are loaded with antioxidants. Their unique profile, in fact, is what produces that gorgeous red coloring.
- The red pigment comes from a compound (bioflavonoid) called anthocyanin.
- It is present in both the skin and flesh of blood oranges.
That red color develops in the fruit along with the warm days and cool nights of the Mediterranean and Asian regions where they grow.
What does antioxidant really mean?
A review of available studies shows that blood oranges have a particularly potent level of antioxidant activity. Along with anthocyanins, blood oranges are rich in other compounds, such as polyphenols, flavanones, hydroxycinnamic acids, and ascorbic acid.
The cells in our bodies are subject to a certain amount of what is called oxidative stress. In an ongoing process, cells are damaged, and in turn, they create a cascade of damage through even more healthy cells. Our bodies can maintain a balance, but aging and other factors can reduce our ability to fight cellular degradation.
- Antioxidants help our bodies to reduce or even eliminate that damage.
As such, they may be able to help protect against conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer.
Consumption of blood oranges, and anthocyanins in particular, has been associated with many health benefits in research studies.
- Anticancer: The protective effects of anthocyanins may reduce the risk of the oxidative damage that can lead to cancerous changes in the body’s cells.
- Anti-diabetic: It may work to improve the body’s control of blood sugars. Consumption has been associated with enhanced insulin sensitivity.
- Heart-protective: It can reduce inflammation, and can improve the function of blood vessels. It has also been associated with a decrease in the “bad” fats, along with total cholesterol, in mice.
How does it work?
The research is still ongoing. One theory is that flavonoids help to regulate the way cells function by working with the signals that create cascades of effects.
- Many of these properties are also present in the juice only, but studies generally show that’s only true of fresh juice. Over time, its biochemical properties change.
- Researchers believe that the effect of bioflavonoids works because, in plants, they exist alongside each other. In other words, the answer to good health lies in a balanced diet – with a healthy dose of blood oranges – rather than consuming supplements of a specific antioxidant.