Orange Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Oranges

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Oranges are round citrus fruits with juicy flesh and pebbled orange skin. Most people think of them as an excellent source of vitamin C (and they are), but oranges offer a lot more—like calcium, potassium, fiber, and folate—making them a nutritious option. Plus they're easy to find, eat, store, and cook with.

Oranges can be sweet or bitter. Sweet oranges, such as Valencia, navel (a seedless variety), and blood oranges, are available all year, though their peak season is from December to April.

Bitter oranges, such as Seville and bergamot, are used primarily for the essential oils found in their zest or skin . For example, oil of bergamot gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive flavor. Fun fact: Christopher Columbus brought the first orange seeds and seedlings to the New World on his second voyage in 1493.

Orange Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is for one medium orange 2-5/8" in diameter (131g) and is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 62
  • Fat: 0.16g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 15.4g
  • Fiber: 3.1g
  • Sugars: 12.2g
  • Protein: 1.2g
  • Vitamin C: 69.7mg
  • Potassium: 237mg
  • Calcium: 52.4mg

Carbs

One medium orange, about the size of a tennis ball, contains 62 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Keep in mind that larger portions will contain more calories and carbs (for example, a large orange, 3-1/16" in diameter, has about 87 calories and 22 carbs).

Even though the carbs in oranges come from simple sugars, whole oranges are also a good source of fiber and contain no added sugar. That means the glycemic effect of oranges is minimal. The estimated glycemic index for one orange is about 40, meaning it doesn't raise your blood sugar quickly.

Fats

The fresh fruit contains virtually no fats and is cholesterol-free.

Protein

Oranges also have a minimal amount of protein. You should include other protein sources in your diet to meet your daily needs.

Vitamins and Minerals

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, packing in more than a day's worth of this immune-boosting nutrient in one small serving. Oranges also provide bone-strengthening calcium, along with potassium and the B vitamins thiamin (B1) and folate (B9). A medium orange also contains more than half the amount of potassium found in one medium (118g) banana.

Health Benefits

The nutrients found in whole oranges deliver many preventative health benefits.

Promotes Heart Health

Oranges are rich in fiber, providing 16% of your daily needs with just one medium-sized orange. Besides keeping you regular, dietary fiber delivers a slew of other benefits, from helping you maintain a healthy weight to lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Oranges also contain phytonutrients that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Offers Antioxidant Properties

The vitamin C that is plentiful in oranges is a powerful antioxidant. It's important in the production of the proteins necessary for keeping skin youthful. Vitamin C also plays a role in protect cells from damage, cell repair, and wound healing.

Helps Lower Blood Pressure

Oranges are a good source of vitamin C and potassium, both of which can help to lower blood pressure. 

Lowers Risk of Cataracts

Oranges contain thiamin, one of the B vitamins—about 8% of the daily value for adult women and 6% for adult men. Some studies suggest that people with the highest intakes of thiamin are at a decreased risk of developing cataracts.

Helps Prevent Birth Defects

Folate is another B vitamin found in oranges. Known as folic acid in its synthetic form, folate is important in fetal development. Adequate intake can prevent neural tube defects, so women who are pregnant or trying to conceive need to get lots of folate in the diet (and/or take folic acid supplements).

Allergies

Citrus fruits, including oranges, don't commonly cause allergic reactions. When they do, the symptoms are usually mild and involve irritation and itching of the mouth. Anaphylaxis is rare.

Adverse Effects

Citrus fruits can be strong photosensitizers, substances that create sensitivity to light. Wash hands thoroughly after handling the juice and peels when you're going to be exposed to the sun. Unlike grapefruit and other citrus fruits that contain furanocoumarins, the culprit behind "the grapefruit juice effect," sweet oranges like navel and Valencia don't contain these substances, which can cause potentially dangerous interactions with some drugs. 

Varieties

In the U.S., the most common orange varieties are navel and Valencia, which is often used to make juice. Blood oranges are a sweet type of orange with rough, reddish skin and streaked blood-red colored flesh. They can be eaten raw, juiced, or used in salads and sauces. Clementines, tangerines, mandarins, and satsumas are related citrus fruits that are also orange in color and provide similar nutritional benefits.

When It's Best

Oranges are available year-round but are freshest in the U.S. in winter. To choose an orange, look for fruits that feel plump and heavy for their size. The heavier the fruit, the juicier it will be. An orange should have unblemished skin that's free of nicks. Don't be afraid of oranges that have a green rind, as the color of the skin depends on weather conditions, not ripeness or taste.

You can also test for freshness by smelling an orange: If it doesn't smell like orange, move on to the next one.

Storage and Safety

Oranges don't ripen much after they've been picked, so keeping unpeeled, whole fruits in the fridge can help them last for a few weeks as opposed to about a week on the counter. Once peeled and/or sectioned, keep orange slices in the fridge. Wrapped tightly or sealed in an air-tight container, they'll last about three to four days.

How to Prepare

Eat oranges raw or add them to salads, sauces, or desserts. Grate or julienne the zest for sauces or garnish. Their sweet flavor and beautiful coloring can add some pizzazz to a simple chicken or fish dish.

Start your morning with a few orange slices to accompany your egg dish, or slice one up into chunks and add it to your yogurt or salad. Use the juice to make low-calorie, flavorful sauces and marinades.

The peel is edible, and—like the fruit itself—is actually a good source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium. You can also eat the pith, the stringy white stuff between the peel and the fruit; it, too, is high in fiber and vitamin C. 

Fresh oranges provide more fiber and nutrients than orange juice. Rather than drinking juice, which can add excess calories and sugar to your diet and raise blood sugar rapidly, eat the whole fruit. Use a freshly squeezed squirt of orange juice to add flavor to meats, water, and vegetables.

Recipes

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