Beat winter with vitamin-rich citrus

Want to arm yourself for winter the natural way? As Coles Group Nutritionist and practising dietitian Kim Tikellis explains, natural vitamin C in citrus fruits helps boost immunity.

A flat lay shot of citrus fruit

Consider citrus fruits “insurance for your wellbeing”.

Mother nature may be sending winter chills our way, but there is an upside: winter is the best time for citrus fruits, naturally packed with antioxidant vitamin C to help boost immunity. Think about antioxidants as insurance for your wellbeing. In addition to immunity, vitamin C can enhance iron absorption and promote wound healing*. For this reason, citrus fruits were historically included in the cargo for exploration ships to maintain the health of sailors on long journeys overseas.

Fruits are important sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre for good health. Fruits, and veggies too, are nutrient-dense and include plant phytochemicals, such as antioxidants. These power foods are low in fat and kilojoules for healthy weight maintenance**.

Simply by enjoying more fresh fruit and veggies, you can boost your intake for heart health and help preserve your eyesight***. All fruit contains antioxidants but citrus, kiwifruit and berries are rich sources. 

For best results, follow the Government Australian dietary guidelines which recommend five serves of veggies and two serves of fruit each day. One serve of fruit is around half a cup, equal to a medium orange or two kiwifruits. The key is to enjoy a variety of fruit and veggies of all colours to ensure a good intake of naturally occurring nutrients.   

And here are my two top tips: 

• When the kids come home from school hungry, offer them fruit first as a positive healthy habit. 

• Vitamin C in freshly squeezed orange juice deteriorates quickly so always squeeze and drink on demand.

Your guide to citrus – did you know…

Green kiwifruit 

  • A single kiwifruit provides 100% of daily vitamin C needs to help boost immunity.
  • Both green or gold kiwifruit can add zing to fresh apple slices, fruit salad or smoothies.
  • Despite their small size kiwifruit packs a nutritional punch and is rich in dietary fibre, potassium and vitamin C.

And… Kiwifruit contains enzymes which digest proteins - a teaspoonful can tenderise meat.

Grapefruit

  • Tart grapefruit adds flavour to toasted muesli for a vitamin C breakfast boost.
  • Grapefruit varies in cultivar and colour: generally redder varieties of grapefruit are sweeter and naturally contain more vitamin A plus antioxidant lycopene than paler grapefruit.
  • Grapefruit makes excellent marmalade as the peel is naturally high in pectin for gelling.

And… Grapefruit hangs in clusters on trees, like grapes, hence its name.

Lemons 

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice into green tea for a boost of natural antioxidants.
  • Add a generous squeeze of acidic lemon juice to freshly steamed broccoli to balance flavour, a top tip for young children to enjoy green veggies.
  • A squeeze of lemon juice can prevent browning on a cut banana, avocado or apple – the natural antioxidants in lemon juice slow down the browning enzyme reaction.

And… Lemon zest contains natural plant essential oils such as aromatic citrus terpenes and citral – these are released on grating lemon peel.

Mandarins

  • Terrific for school lunchboxes, Vitamin C helps boost immunity.
  • Sweet mandarins have a fragrant aromatic flavour loved by kids and adults alike.
  • Like most fruits, mandarins have only a trace of fat and are low in kilojoules or calories.

And… Each mandarin comes from a single flower on the tree.

Navel oranges

  • Sweet navel oranges are rich in natural antioxidant vitamin C.
  • Orange varieties can be sweet or bitter: Navel oranges are sweet and seedless, goodfor eating or juicing, while bitter oranges are higher in pectin, suitable for marmalade or cooking.
  • Top fresh Navel orange segments with toasted almonds, Greek yoghurt and cinnamon for a nourishing dessert.

And... Oranges contain gut-healthy soluble fibre plus potassium, good for nerve and muscle function.

References:

* https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx 
FSANZ – FSC Pre-Approved health claims, Food Standards Code. Schedule 4 – Nutrition, health & related claims.
Vitamin C:
- Contributes to iron absorption from food
- Contributes to the normal immune system function
Wound healing:
- Contributes to normal collagen formation for skin; normal blood vessel structure & function; normal connective tissue structure & function.

**Australian Dietary Guidelines n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf (www.eatforhealth.gov.au)
- There are many nutritional, societal, culinary and environmental reasons to ensure that vegetables, including legumes/beans, and fruit are a major component of Australian dietary patterns. These foods are nutrient dense, relatively low in energy (kilojoules) and are good sources of minerals and vitamins (such as magnesium, vitamin C and folate), dietary fibre and a range of phytochemicals including carotenoids (pre Vitamin A).

*** FSANZ – FSC Pre-Approved health claims, Food Standards Code. Schedule 4 – Nutrition, health & related claims.
Increased intake of fruit & vegetables reduces risk of coronary heart disease.
Food must contain > 90% fruit of veg content by weight.

† www.eatforhealth.gov.au

‡ FSANZ – FSC Pre-Approved health claims, Food Standards Code. Schedule 4 – Nutrition, health & related claims. 
Vitamin C contributes to the normal immune system function.