When life gives you lemons… studies suggest you’re likely to enjoy a greater zest for life

‘C’ stands for citrus, but also for the essential vitamin that these fruits provide in abundance. And if the value of vitamin C is sometimes a little overstated by those who believe it can prevent the common cold, medical science does seem to confirm that sufficient doses can help reduce the duration and severity of winter infections (according the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). These brightly coloured fruits are also bursting with minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as natural antioxidants. And every member of the citrus family offers its own distinct boost to health. 

GRAPEFRUIT: It’s not to everyone’s taste, but to dismiss the daddy of the citrus family is to throw away a great source of flavonoids. These plant compounds are especially good for the heart, and a recent American study on patients recovering from bypass surgery found that antioxidant-rich red grapefruit helped to lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and restore healthy cardiac function.

LEMONS: Sure, they contain enough acid to turn your face inside out with the bitterness, but lemons actually produce alkaline responses in body fluids, helping to balance out pH levels. They are especially kind to the liver – dissolving uric acid and liquefying bile. Urologists love lemons because they work so well against kidney stones, forming urinary citrate, which prevents crystals from developing. Lemon juice and oil flushes toxins and bacteria from skin 
and hair too, hence its presence in so many beauty products.

LIMES: These little green friends are well known for saving sailors and soldiers from scurvy over the centuries, consumed by the barrel in the general absence of vitamin C on long voyages and marches into battle. Even today, some employers dispense limes as standard to workers in polluted industrial environments like mines and foundries. The peel and pulp are especially rich in polyphenols and terpenes with antioxidant, antibacterial and disinfectant properties.

MANDARINS: Often regarded as the frivolous little brother to the orange, the mandarin is obviously sweeter and easier to peel, but contains most of the same health-giving properties (albeit in smaller doses) than its bigger, rounder sibling. Even so, it packs quite a punch in terms of the phytochemical synephrine. According to a study by the US Department of Agriculture, certain strains of mandarin provide more of that natural decongestant than any over-the-counter 
pill that you might buy when you’re feeling bunged up.

ORANGES: So robust that they have a whole colour named after them, oranges contain so much juice that they offer one of the biggest gram-for-gram doses of vitamin C of any citrus fruit. They give a big hit of fibre too – about 3g in a medium-sized (145g) orange. Most of that is soluble and helps to lower cholesterol, as well as regulating glucose levels. The insoluble fibre ends up in the gut, where it aids digestion and does its bit to keep us regular.