The unique foods of Greece and their health benefits:
Orange (Citrus sinensis)
ORIGIN AND TRAITSWhether a healthy nutrition enthusiast or a plain consumer, everybody knows that vitamins are an essential element to look for in a diet. As for vitamin C, the source it is most related to is, without a doubt, the orange. A glass of orange juice as a part of breakfast meals is a healthy boost for the day or even acts as a prevention for the common cold. In any part of the world, orange is the answer, no matter the given question.
As for Greece where the annual production reaches 900.000 tons, 1/3 of which is exported, the country finds itself among the top worldwide producers. Orange trees mainly prosper in the regions of Argolis and Arta, while Laconia stands out not only as the leading region but also because the Laconian oranges mature faster and have a distinct sweet taste.
Dominant in the southwest of the Peloponnese, oranges are an integral part of the local cuisine, giving a sweet taste to anything they are added in. From salads and main courses such as sausages and syglino (smoked pork) to orange pies, spoon sweets and jams, oranges are a protagonist both in the Greek cuisine and economy.
In Greece the most common varieties are Valencia, oranges from Chios, Arta, Sultani of Fodele, Sanguine and Merlin oranges.
BENEFITS AND HEALING PROPERTIES
Containing over 170 phytonutrients and more than 60 flavonoids, orange has a primary antioxidant action and is rightfully considered to be one of the healthiest fruits. A good source of fiber and pectin, oranges seem to reduce fat absorption, help maintain a healthy weight and cholesterol levels. Esperidine, in particular, has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol while promoting a good function of the cardiovascular system.
Esperidine, which is a flavonoid found mostly in the inner bark of the fruit, along with Vitamin C help reduce the risk of thrombosis. Potassium and magnesium, on the other hand, protect against hypertension.
Vitamin C stimulates the production of antibodies and white blood cells which help strengthen the immune system, protecting against infections. Increased intake of vitamin C is said to aid in the prevention of the common cold or even reduce the symptoms of viruses.
Antioxidants contained in oranges protect the skin from free radicals, which are considered the leading cause of ageing, while vitamin C promotes collagen synthesis.
USE AND DOSAGE
Oranges are among the healthiest fruits that can easily be found and consumed as raw fruits or in a juice. It is preferable to consume them plain or in a fruit salad, while if you opt for a glass of juice remember to drink it directly as vitamin C is rapidly oxidized by oxygen and light.
Oranges, which belong to the citrus species, are widely used in both cooking and pastry (fruit, juice and zest). They can easily be added to breakfast meals or consumed as a snack along with a handful of nuts. Moreover, in main courses, oranges are a sweet and cool addition in salads and meat dishes.
Oranges are also a staple in pastry, as they are a key ingredient in pies, cakes, sorbets, creams and in Greece they are a popular spoon sweet. The essential oils found in the skin of the fruit are also used in the production of numerous liqueurs such as Cointreau.
It does not matter how you choose to consume oranges as the options are endless, just get some and start experimenting! Remember that in room temperature oranges can withstand a few days while in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
RESEARCH AND INTERNATIONAL INTEREST
As oranges are an easily accessible source of nutrients and vitamins they have frequently been the center of scientific research.
As published in an article by Christine Economos, Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Medford, Massachusetts, “It is well established that citrus and citrus products are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber (non-starch polysaccharides) that are essential for normal growth and development and overall nutritional well-being.”