Bitter Orange Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Oranges

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) is a type of orange often used to make orange marmalade. Oil extracted from its outer peelis used in essential oils and teas.

Also known as Seville orange or bigarade orange, bitter orange lives up to its name as one of the most tart and pungent citrus fruits. It is low in fat and a great source of vitamin C.

Bitter Orange Nutrition Facts

One small bitter orange (100g) provides 37 to 66 calories, 0.6 to 1g of protein, 9.7 to 15.2g of carbohydrates, and trace amounts of fat. Bitter orange is an excellent source of vitamin C, also supplying a good amount of vitamin A, phosphorus, iron, and calcium.

The nutrition information on bitter orange is scarce and not currently available from the USDA. The following is provided by Purdue University's horticulture department.

  • Calories: 37 to 66
  • Fat: 0 to 0.1g
  • Sodium: Not available
  • Carbohydrates: 9.7 to 15.2g
  • Fiber: 0.4g
  • Sugars: Not available
  • Protein: 0.6 to 1g
  • Vitamin C: 45 to 90mg
  • Vitamin A: 290mcg
  • Phosphorus: 12mg
  • Calcium: 18 to 50mg
  • Iron: 0.2mg

Carbs

In 100 grams of bitter orange (which is about the size of a small orange), there are roughly 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrate. This includes just under a half gram of fiber. Sugar content is not readily available for bitter orange, but it likely contains some natural fructose, as do most fruits.

Fats

Bitter orange provides essentially no fat. That makes this fruit a good option if you're monitoring your fat intake, such as when following a low-fat diet.

Protein

There is less than 1 gram of protein in 100 grams of bitter orange. However, scientists have identified 78 different proteins in bitter orange leaves, which are often used for their medicinal effects.

Vitamins and Minerals

Bitter orange is high in vitamin C, providing 45 to 90 milligrams per small fruit. Bitter orange also contains some vitamin A, phosphorus, calcium, and iron.

Calories

A small orange (100 grams) contains between 37 and 66 calories. This makes it slightly less than a regular orange, which provides around 73 calories in a medium-sized fruit (140 grams).

Summary

Bitter orange offers a high dose of vitamin C, while also being lower in calories and containing very little fat (if any at all). It also contains other healthful nutrients and supplies the body with a bit of fiber.

Health Benefits

Alternative practitioners use bitter orange oils, extracts, and supplements for a variety of health purposes. Some of these are supported by research. Consuming the fresh fruit may also provide some benefits.

Treats Fungal Infections

Bitter orange is considered to be effective for several skin issues, including ringworm and athlete's foot. One study demonstrated that, when applied topically, bitter orange can reduce fungal growth by 96.43%.

As an added bonus, there are very few (if any) noted negative side effects when applying bitter orange externally. This suggests that it can be used with little risk.

Promotes Skin Health

Vitamin C is a precursor to collagen, making it essential for skin integrity and repair. At 45 to 90 milligrams per serving, fresh bitter orange offers 50% to 100% of the daily requirements for vitamin C.

May Support Weight Loss

Bitter orange has shown promising effects for weight loss, especially when combined with caffeine. Its active ingredient p-synephrine is a known stimulant and has demonstrated increases in metabolic rate and energy expenditure when used over a 6- to 12-week period.

Aids in Diabetes Management

A 2017 study from Nigeria showed that citrus essential oil effectively inhibits the enzymes α-amylase and α-glucosidase, both of which are linked to diabetes (and hypertension). This effect is not limited to bitter orange; lemon and grapefruit oils show similar results.

Prevents Some Cancers

Bitter orange also contains several flavonoid compounds with antioxidant effects, including hesperidin and limonene. By inducing apoptosis, hesperidin inhibits the viability of ovarian cancer cells and limonene modulates the genes that contribute to liver cancer development.

Although not a substitute for evidence-based cancer therapy, further studies on bitter orange may produce innovative supplementary treatment options.

Allergies

Allergies to citrus fruits like bitter orange can involve a cross-reactivity with pollen or other plants. Symptoms of orange allergies may include vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea.

If you have a known allergy to citrus foods, it's probably best to avoid bitter orange products. See an allergist for testing if you suspect that you have a food allergy.

Adverse Effects

Bitter orange juice is considered as safe to drink as any other citrus fruit juice (as long as it is not consumed in excess). Far less is known about the long-term safety of bitter orange extracts and supplements.

Because the synephrine in bitter orange acts as a mild stimulant, combining it with other stimulants (like caffeine) may trigger dangerous side effects. These can include:

  • Jitters
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sun sensitivity (including increased sunburn risk)

The overuse of supplements, whether for weight loss or athletic performance, may also trigger abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), lightheadedness, fainting, and other potentially severe symptoms. Bitter orange is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Bitter orange may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a class of antidepressants, by increasing their concentration in the blood and, with it, the risk of side effects. It also appears to break down benzodiazepine sedatives, making them far less effective.

While some experts have suggested that bitter orange may have as many drug interactions as grapefruit, its effects don't appear to be as strong. Check with your doctor to be sure. People who are pregnant and breastfeeding should avoid bitter orange products because their effects are unknown and have not been proven safe.

Varieties

There are several varieties of bitter orange, including the "normal" group, "aberrant" group, and the "bittersweet" group. The normal group describes large and seedy fruits that are high in pectin. Specifically, the Oklawaha originated in the U.S. and is commonly used to make marmalade.

Within the aberrant group is the Daidai (or Taitai), a popular variety in China and Japan. This acidic fruit has a thick peel and lots of seeds. Darker and sweeter varieties, such as Paraguay and Karna, are found in the bittersweet group.

For medicinal purposes, bitter orange is typically sold as a tablet, gel cap, or extract. Herbalists often sell powdered bitter orange peel to mix in topical creams and ointments.

There are no standardized prescribing recommendations for bitter orange. As a general rule, if you decide to use any supplement, do not exceed the recommended dose on the product label.

When It's Best

Bitter oranges can be bought fresh in grocery stores (usually as Seville oranges). If you cannot find them locally, there are online suppliers that offer to ship. Seville orange juice is also sometimes sold either in fresh or pasteurized forms.

Bitter orange extracts and supplements can be found in health food and vitamin supplement stores, as well as online. Bitter orange essential oils can be purchased at many of the same outlets.

Storage and Food Safety

Bitter orange supplements should be stored according to the instructions listed on the particular product. Be mindful of expiration dates.

If you purchase fresh bitter oranges, treat them as you would other fresh produce. Wash the fruit under running water before cutting into it. Once cut, store bitter orange slices in the refrigerator in an airtight container and use them within a few days.

How to Prepare

Bitter orange has had many versatile uses in global cuisine. In Mexico, it is sliced in half and served with salt and a slice of chili pepper. Bitter orange juice is used to flavor fish and meat in Spain, and used like vinegar in the Yucatan.

Egyptians even ferment bitter orange to make wine. In England, Scotland, and South Africa, marmalade is made from bitter orange. Bitter orange oil is used all over the world to flavor liqueur, chewing gum, ice cream, gelatin, and candy.

Even if you don't prepare it yourself, there's a chance you'll come across bitter orange in products you already purchase.

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11 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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