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Paula Przywojski: January is National Citrus Month

Paula Przywojski: January is National Citrus Month

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January brings cold temperatures and the peak season for citrus. Grown best in colder weather, citrus hits its prime now, making January the perfect time for National Citrus Month.

Lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruit, tangerines and pomelos are just a few of the juicy fruits classified as citrus. Like tangerines, clementines are a type of mandarin. They look similar to tangerine fruit, but they’re not quite the same. Tangerines and clementines are the second largest cultivated group of citrus fruit after sweet oranges (which include larger sized varieties like navel and blood oranges). Both tangerines and clementines are sweet and easy to peel. Clementines look similar to tangerines, but they’re a little smaller, and their skins are brighter, shinier and smoother. They’re even sweeter in flavor. You may see them in the store, where they’re packaged as Cuties or Halos, but these are marketing names – they are still clementine oranges.

Citrus fruits earn their classification because they contain flavonoids, which are thought to have anti-cancer properties. This means these fruits are not only juicy and refreshing, but they are also extremely healthful. Citrus also has many other health benefits, including containing lots of fiber and vitamin C as well as other vitamins and minerals. It’s always best to eat the whole fruit versus the juice, as juice doesn’t have any fiber. Fiber makes you feel fuller longer. We use more energy to digest whole fruit vs juice too. Citrus fruits are naturally low in calories, fat free, high in water content and contain less than 60 calories per serving.

What might be the first thing many people think of when they hear the word “grapefruit?” Weight loss. The so-called “grapefruit diet” implies that the fruit has some sort of fat-melting property that actually enhances weight loss.

While this is not the case, it is true that grapefruit can be an important part of a sensible weight loss plan. In a single serving, grapefruit calories come out to just 52, and the water and fiber content of the fruit help you to feel full.

Grapefruit and certain other citrus fruits, such as Seville oranges, can interfere with several kinds of prescription medications. Many drugs are broken down (metabolized) with the help of a vital enzyme called CYP3A4 in the small intestine. Grapefruit juice can block the action of CYP3A4, so instead of being metabolized, more of the drug enters the blood and stays in the body longer. The result: too much drug in your body.

The severity of the interaction can be different depending on the person, the drug, and the amount of grapefruit or grapefruit juice you drink. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider and read any information provided with your prescription or OTC drug to find out.

Citrus fruits can be incorporated into your everyday diet during National Citrus Month by adding slices of citrus to salads, eating the fruits on their own as a snack, or prepare a citrus salsa for Super Bowl Sunday or trying some of the Mayo Clinic staff recipes below.

Citrus Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 16

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup rice wine vinegarMayo Clinic Staff

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

3 fluid ounces agave nectar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Zest of ½ a lemon

Zest of ½ an orange

Juice from 1 orange

Directions Place all ingredients in a mason jar. Place a cover on the jar and shake until all the ingredients are well blended. Place dressing in the refrigerator and chill for 24 hours. Dressing will last for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Per serving (2 Tablespoons): Calories 145, Fat 14 g, Monounsaturated fat 10 g, Saturated fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 95 mg, Carbohydrate 7 g

Orange Quinoa Salad

Serves 10

2 fluid ounces orange juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon agave nectar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 cups quinoa, cooked (or 1 cup dry)

½ cup green onions

½ cup dried cranberries or cherries

1 (15 oz.) can mandarin oranges, canned in juice, drained; can also use 2 clementine peeled and sectioned.

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

For the dressing, combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well-blended. Prepare quinoa as directed on package. Remove from heat and cool. When cooled, add onions, dried fruit, oranges, and dressing and mix gently until combined.

Per serving (½ cup): Calories 145, Fat 5 g, Saturated fat 0.5 g, Monounsaturated fat 3 g, Polyunsaturated fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 65 mg, Carbohydrate 24 mg, Fiber 2 g, Protein 3 g

Citrus Salad

Serves 4

2 oranges

1 red grapefruit

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Sweetener, as desired

4 cups spring greens

2 tablespoons nuts (Ex. Peanuts, walnuts, sliced almonds, pecans, etc.)

Directions: Peel and section the oranges and grapefruit. In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange juice, olive oil and vinegar. Add sweetener to taste. Pour the mixture over the fruit segments and toss gently to coat evenly. To serve, divide the spring greens among individual plates. Top each with the fruit and dressing mixture and sprinkle each with 1/2 tablespoon nuts. Serve immediately.

Per serving: Calories 166, Fat 10 g, Saturated fat 1 g, Monounsaturated fat 6 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 7 mg, Carbohydrate 19 g, Fiber 4 g, Protein 2 g

Paula Przywojski is a Registered Dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System

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