WORDS: CINDY BOTTOMLEY
It’s that time of the year. A time to bring out the winter woollies and sip hot chocolate more often and even a time to wander into your local supermarket only to spot pyramids of bright citrus fruit peeking up between the usual veggies.
That can be something of a cheerful reminder that it’s also time to up our intake of immune strengthening vitamins to fight off the usual seasonal colds and flu.
Vitamin C is the main one – and when we think of vitamin C, we think of…a tablet!
We’d like to think we’re not a nation of pill poppers and that most people actually visualise a perfect orange or even a big glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
With that in mind, it’s not difficult to increase your intake of citrus fruits. You’re making a healthy choice as citrus is full of immune strengthening goodness – from the main feature, Vitamin C, to folate, thiamine, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Plus, they contain flavonoids and carotenoids – these are powerful antioxidants which also boost the immune system.
The goodness is not just limited to the fruit. The skin contains limonene-an oil which can help treat some types of cancer. They aid digestion and can relieve constipation and, as you know, a happy gut makes a happy body.
But there are a lot of people who want the benefits but don’t want the mess and fuss of peeling and cutting fresh fruit, especially citrus as it tends to be very juicy. They prefer the convenience of grabbing a carton of orange, grapefruit, lemon or naartjie juice from their local store.
A JUICY PROBLEM
A lot of the fruit juices that you find clustered on supermarket shelves are not all they are made out to be. Instead, many cartons or bottles are filled with additives and preservatives – or even mixed with other juices or water and juice pulp, salt and loads of sugar.
To further complicate matters, they are often heated, sometimes twice, to kill off any bacteria and mould. But this process can also destroy the very nutrients you are hoping to gain by drinking fruit juices in the first place. At the end of the day, you land up with a flavourful juice with nothing really beneficial in it.
So, what’s the best way to reap the benefits of these vital fruits? Eat them whole or juice them yourself.
For people who don’t like the mess of peeling an orange, then naartjies are a good choice.
Eat fruit that is in season or even look for fruit that is sold at markets or green grocers rather than larger supermarkets as they might have spent less time in cold storage. Farm fresh fruit has also usually been able to ripen on the tree and is not only more flavourful but contains more vitamins and minerals.
If, for some reason, you have no option but to buy the prepacked store variety of juice, then check that it is pure and unsweetened. Read labels and don’t be put off by slightly higher prices for pure juices.
COOKING WITH CITRUS
Citrus fruits are especially good to cook with as they enhance the flavour of almost all vegetable, meat and dessert dishes. A squeeze of orange is fantastic in butternut soup, for example.
But the way we cook with them does make a difference. I honestly usually use them fresh with a good squeeze into various types of dishes once the cooking process is done in order to ensure that I keep the vitamins and minerals intact.
If it’s flavour you are after, then cook as needed for your particular dish, just don’t expect to get all your daily nutrient requirements from the cooked fruit. Also remember, that including the grated rind can add plenty of flavour to a dish.
Another little tip that’s worth remembering is that you can freeze citrus fruits so you can have them available all year round for recipes. For example, you can store lemon or orange juice in ice trays and then just pop a cube into a dish when needed.
The juice of citrus fruit also makes a great natural salad dressing and half a grapefruit is always a good start to breakfast.
But try not to store citrus fruits for too long in the freezer as the vitamins and minerals can start to deteriorate.
So, as you’re warming up by the fire this winter, remember to stock up on fresh citrus. Include them in everything culinary. Eat them whole, juice them, squeeze them into your tea, drizzle them over your food, the uses are endless.
And if you’re looking to lift your mood, put the oils in your diffuser. These fruits are certainly a superfood in my book.