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A Story of CrackSense Fruits: All About Citrus

Making a lemonade, peeling an orange or reaching out for some other citrus fruits are some of the first things people do when feeling sick or under the weather. These colourful and refreshing fruits can support our immune system. Citrus are delicious and an important part of a balanced diet. This class of fruits includes lemons, oranges, grapefruit and limes, but other hybrids and varieties, like clementines, mandarines, pomelo and tangerines, as well. Keep reading to learn more about the history of citruses, their benefits on human health, and other interesting facts.

Origins and History of Citrus

It is believed that citrus fruits originated from tropical regions of Asia and the Malay Archipelago. From these areas, they spread all around the world. Experts assume that the first member of the citrus family was introduced to Europe around 310 B.C. According to mosaics found on the territory of the Roman Empire, we can conclude that lemons and oranges were grown even in ancient times, at least in Italy. The name for these fruits comes from the Romans, who called them Citrus. Eventually, other regions with suitable climates for citruses started cultivating this kind of fruit, as well. For example, countries like Spain and other tropical places did their part to bring citrus to other lands, including the Americas. Today, citruses are important fruit crops harvested across south Europe and many other parts of the world. Citrus fruits have been used for medical purposes and to combat illness, skin conditions, intestinal ailments and scurvy for many centuries. They were even used as an antiseptic during times of plague and sometimes as an antidote to poison. That is how powerful citrus is!

Components of Citrus Fruits and Health Benefits

Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, and all other variations of citrus fruits contain components that are very powerful in fighting diseases and boosting the immune system. The nutrients and phytochemicals that help people improve their overall health are vitamin C, flavonoids, and dietary fiber.

  • Citrus fruits are particularly rich in vitamin C. In fact, just one medium orange provides the daily requirement of vitamin C. This vitamin is important for the good functioning of the human body, especially when it comes to the immune system. Vitamin C can help to reduce the duration and severity of colds. Furthermore, it is an antioxidant and can protect human cells against the effects of free radicals and fight inflammation. As an antioxidant vitamin C may slow down the ageing, and makes the skin smooth and elastic. By reducing inflammation, vitamin C may prevent or delay heart diseases and even some types of cancer. The human body needs vitamin C for forming and maintaining healthy bones, skin, connective tissues and blood vessels. However, the benefits of citrus fruits extend beyond a singular nutrient. 
  • Flavonoids are plant-based nutrients, also known as phytonutrients. They are responsible for the plant’s bright colour and the typical aroma. Flavonoids are one of the reasons citrus fruits are considered to have remedy qualities. Similarly to vitamin C, these phytonutrients protect the cells against the damage of free radicals. Therefore, they have therapeutic benefits against neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, especially arteriosclerosis, cancer and diabetes. Citrus flavonoids can lower arterial blood pressure, increase insulin secretion and sensitivity, and decrease insulin resistance. Finally, flavonoids in citrus can regulate gut bacteria (microbiome) composition, thus improving gastrointestinal inflammation and overall health. 
  • There are two types of Dietary Fibre, soluble and insoluble fibre, which can be found in citrus fruits. Dietary fibres have many benefits. They can lower cholesterol, reduce cardiovascular diseases, improve glucose control, and help food move more efficiently through the digestive system.

Citrus fruits contain many other nutrients, minerals and vitamins, including both glycaemic and non-glycaemic carbohydrates (sugars and fibre), potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and a variety of phytochemicals.

A Story of CrackSense Fruits All About Citrus
Source: freepik.com

Tips for Consuming More Citrus

Although important for a balanced diet, consuming citrus can be challenging sometimes. The most obvious way to consume citrus is to take one piece of fruit, peel and eat it. But if you do not like the taste of citrus fruits and you are struggling to eat the recommended daily intake, take into consideration some useful tips and try being a bit more creative.

  •  Add citrus fruits to your favourite salads and salad dressing. Use lemon instead of vinegar, grapefruit if you like a bitter taste or a bit of orange juice if you like a combination of sweet and sour.
  • Citrus, especially lemons, pair nicely with fish and are a good addition to siders like salsa.
  • Freshly squeezed juice is full of vitamins, refreshing and always a good choice for consuming different citruses at the same time.

A slice or two of your favourite citruses can be added to water. You can also add cucumber slices, spearmint leaves and some ginger to add even more flavour.

Addressing the phenomenon of fruit cracking

Despite knowing all the benefits of citrus, there are some cases when people have valid reasons not to eat citrus fruits. For example, if the fruit is spoiled or cracked. Its taste is not good, and people are afraid of the imposing threats to human health. Cracked fruit may undergo faster spoilage due to increased exposure to air and moisture, resulting in a loss of nutritional value and flavour. It is not necessarily damaging to human health, but it may pose some risks depending on the circumstances. Cracks can become entry points for bacteria, moulds, and other pathogens, which could be the cause of some illnesses.

However, beyond consumer preferences, fruit cracking is a significant challenge for farmers, reducing fruit marketability and impacting yields.  Cracking in citrus crops can cause yield losses of 10% to 35%, typically beginning with slight skin discolouration. The reasons behind fruit cracking and the interaction between the climatic factors, management, and temporal fruit development are still not fully understood. The incidence of fruit cracking is affected by several key factors, including rapid moisture fluctuations, varietal susceptibility and nutrient imbalance. We believe that it is time for a change, so CrackSense project will collect data on fruit cracking and provide solutions for such phenomenon, focusing mainly on citruses, cherries, pomegranates and table grapes.

Conclusion

Journey through the origins, history, and components of citrus fruits highlighted their significance in human health. The sweetness of oranges, the bitterness of grapefruits, and the refreshing taste of lemons have made people consume citrus fruits since ancient times. As we have seen, there are multiple ways to add citrus to your meals, so you have no excuse to avoid fruits beneficial for your health!

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