How to Get More Citrus in Your Diet

Cut citrus fruits on a wooden tabletop

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The most popular way to eat citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruits, is in a glass of juice, especially at breakfast. It seems that the association of orange juice and grapefruit juice as breakfast foods is so strong that people don't think about eating them for the rest of the day.

But they are an excellent option for eating throughout the day because citrus fruits are relatively inexpensive, nutritious, and available year-round. 

Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, phytochemicals, and fiber. The most popular citrus fruit is the orange, usually served as orange juice in the morning. Lemons, limes, and grapefruits are very low in calories. Oranges, tangelos, and tangerines have a few more calories, but they're still not high in calories. 

Citrus fruits vary in their amount of sourness. Lemons and limes are very sour, so it isn't easy to eat them by themselves. Grapefruits aren't quite as sour, but it's common to serve grapefruits with a bit of sugar. Oranges and tangerines are very sweet.

Selecting, Storing, and Preparing Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits should be firm and feel slightly heavy for their size when you pick them up. Choose fruits that aren't blemished and have intact peels.

Most citrus is easy to store because you can keep them at room temperature as long as the skins are intact. Once peeled or sliced, you should store the flesh in the refrigerator. Eat them within 3 to 4 days.

Peel your oranges and separate the sections. You can also prepare grapefruit this way, and some prefer to add sugar or another sweetener to cut the bitterness. You can also use oranges and grapefruit in recipes or serve the juice as a beverage.

Note that when you buy grapefruit juice, it usually has added sugars. Read the ingredients list to see what it contains.

Ideas to Increase Citrus Fruit Intake

Most people need to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, so eating oranges a few days per week is an excellent way to meet that need. Here are some tips for getting more oranges into your diet:

  • Add slices of lemon or lime to sparkling or plain water.
  • Keep seedless oranges in a fruit bowl (up to 4 or 5 days with the peels intact) for easy grab-and-go snacks.
  • Make vitamin-rich frozen snacks by freezing orange juice in molds or small paper cups with wooden sticks.
  • Peel an orange, slice the sections in half and add them to a fresh salad.
  • Place orange slices in a small plastic container and pack with the rest of a bagged lunch.
  • Sprinkle brown sugar on top of grapefruit slices and broil them in the oven
  • Tangerines and clementines are perfect for kids because they're easy to peel and very sweet.
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  • USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 28, released September 2015; revised May 2016).

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.