You’re craving something juicy, something tangy, something sweet, maybe even something a little tart… what satisfies all these qualities? How about some citrus fruit! Citrus fruits are delicious and aesthetically pleasing with their bright outer rinds. However, these fruits are more than meets the eye; they also provide a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and daily fiber with beneficial phytochemicals to boot! Let’s compare the nutrients between two of the most popular citrus fruits, oranges, and grapefruits.


Oranges, the fruit named after the color of its skin, is sweet tasting with a thin rind and a diameter of about two to three inches.  In just two to three inches though, these babies pack a nutritional punch.  One orange offers over 170 different phytonutrients and more than 60 different flavonoids!  With numbers like those, oranges are loaded with anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and blood clot inhibiting properties.  The phytonutrients in oranges are specifically called polyphenols which specialize in additional anti-allergenic, and anti-viral effects.  There’s also research being conducted studying the possible connection between polyphenols and brain function such as learning and memory.

Aside from its tantalizing fruit, the peels themselves are nutritious as well! Compounds called polymethoxylated flavones (PMFs) are found in citrus peels.  PMFs have the potential to lower cholesterol more effectively than some prescription drugs and without the side effects! Not only do PMFs lower LDL cholesterol, bad cholesterol, but this study addresses the potential for PMFs to raise HDL cholesterol, good cholesterol.  While all citrus fruits have PMFs, only oranges and tangerines contain the most common and abundant PMFs, tangeretin and nobiletin.  To reap these benefits, try grating a tablespoon or so of the peel into different dishes for zesty flavoring. And that’s not all; check out the list of great nutrients below.

Top 7 nutrients from one medium orange (131 g):

  • 116% Daily Value of Vitamin C
  • 13% Daily Value of Fiber
  • 10% Daily Value of Folate
  • 7% Daily Value of Vitamin B1
  • 7% Daily Value of Potassium
  • 6% Daily Value of Vitamin A
  • 5% Daily Value of Calcium

All citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C but oranges definitely reign as king of the C. As an essential part of a healthy diet, make sure to snack some oranges to maintain proper levels of this nutrient.  Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body, disarming free radicals and preventing cell damage to ward off cancer risk. Vitamin C is also vital for the proper functioning of a healthy immune system; perhaps its biggest claim to fame is inhibiting the common cold.  Without vitamin C, you can suffer from low energy, depressed mood, and irritability so be sure to try out some of these great recipes to ensure you’re getting enough of the good stuff!


Grapefruit was named after the way it grows in clusters on trees, which resembles the way grapes grow. Among citrus fruits, grapefruits are tarter and larger than others, with a diameter of around four to six inches. Try to shop for grapefruit that have thin peels which usually indicates juicier flesh.  Also, go for grapefruit that is ripe.  When fruit is ripe, it offers its highest antioxidant concentration. There are many seed and seedless varieties of grapefruit including white/blond, pink, and ruby red.  However, not all types of grapefruit contain the same nutritional benefits. For instance, ruby red grapefruit tends to be twice as advantageous as white and pink grapefruit in the health department.

Like oranges, grapefruits also hold many protective polyphenols and phytonutrients such as the carotenoid lycopene. Lycopene is the compound that gives the “ruby” color to a ruby red grapefruit (again, not found in white grapefruits). Lycopene is known for its anti-tumor effects thanks to its capacity to help fight oxygen free radicals from damaging cells.  Specifically, lycopene may greatly reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer and there are studies being conducted about its synergistic protective response when paired with green tea.

Furthermore, grapefruits contain phytonutrients called limonoids which inhibit tumor formation by promoting the body’s detoxification system.  Limonoids best help to fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lungs, breasts, stomach, and colon.  What makes limonoids so great and natural anti-carcinogens is that the body can readily absorb and utilize them for long periods of time.  Anti-carcinogen phenols in green tea and chocolate remain active in the body just for four to six hours after consumption but the limonoids in grapefruit remain active for a whopping 24 hours after consumption.  More benefits to come; check out the nutrient list!

Top 7 nutrients for one-half of a grapefruit (128 g):

  • 73% Daily Value of Vitamin C
  • 24% Daily Value of Vitamin A
  • 6% Daily Value of Fiber
  • 5% Daily Value of Potassium
  • 4% Daily Value o Vitamin B5
  • 3% Daily Value of Vitamin B1
  • 3% Daily Value of Magnesium

Although grapefruit is low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals, the consumption of grapefruit can be deadly when mixed with medications.  Be careful and find out more about this unfortunate combination here.  If you’re not affected by the medication warning, grapefruit is a great part of a wholesome diet.  Try out a few recipes!

Both citrus fruits have a lot to offer and with their sweet tang, it’s hard to choose between one and the other! Keep in mind that oranges do have a bit more vitamin C to spare but no reason to completely shun its fellow citrus fruits.  There have been positive effects associated with ALL citrus fruits in studies relating to arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes thanks to citrus’ many carotenoids.  As low-fat, nutrient-rich foods with a low glycemic index, citrus fruits should be at the top of everyone’s fresh snack favorites!

Image Source: USDA/Flickr