Do Oranges Reduce Cholesterol?: Cholesterol, Vitamin C, and Oranges

Oranges are a tasty and multipurpose fruit with characteristics that can help lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. Although oranges have no cholesterol, they do have qualities that can reduce cholesterol in the human body and improve one’s cardiovascular health.

Antioxidants in Oranges, Including Vitamin C and Flavonoids

cholesterol antioxidant

The strength of an antioxidant substance in the human body is measured by its ORAC value. (ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.) Oranges have an ORAC value of 2,103, which is a moderate antioxidant level. As you can see in the graph, oranges (or any other citrus fruit) do not rank in the list of the top ten antioxidant foods, but rather has a medium level of antioxidant power.

The antioxidant that oranges and other citrus have the most of is Vitamin C. One hundred grams of orange (about one small orange with a diameter of 2.38 inches or 6 cm) has 53.2 mg of Vitamin C. This translates into 89% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C in a diet of 2,000 calories a day. (See the nutritional data in the tables below.) This vitamin has had many positive health benefits attributed to it, but in the context of a web site centered on cholesterol, I will keep to its cardiovascular merits.

Vitamin C has had two major beneficial impacts on the circulatory system attributed to it in research studies. Most important, a relationship has been found between consumption of Vitamin C and lower mortality levels from cardiovascular disease. In addition, in people with high blood serum cholesterol levels and whose tissues are not completely saturated with cholesterol, Vitamin C has been shown to have the effect of lowering total cholesterol in the bloodstream [1].

Oranges also contain a class of antioxidants called polyphenols, of which flavonoids are a type. Ordinary orange juice is 69 on the list of the one hundred foods highest in polyphenols, while blood orange juice stands at 64 [2].

Flavonoids (and other polyphenols) have had a variety of benefits for the circulatory system ascribed to them. Several studies have found a relationship between intake of polyphenols and a lower rate of death from cardiovascular disease [3]. In addition, the intake of flavonoids was shown to be associated with a lower risk of heart attack [4].

A study specifically on the value of orange juice found that people with moderately high levels of cholesterol who drank orange juice (750 milliliters a day) increased their levels of HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) [5]. HDL cholesterol is the beneficial type of cholesterol that has been shown to help counteract atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol and other fatty substances on artery walls.

Orange Fiber

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Oranges contain 2.4 grams of fiber per 100 grams of fruit. This amounts to 10% of the daily recommended intake of fiber in a 2,000 calorie diet. As this graph shows, this level does not place oranges in the top ten list of fruits highest in fiber. It is a moderate level of fiber.

But 62% of the fiber in oranges is soluble in water. This is significant because the amount of soluble fiber people eat has been demonstrated to lower cholesterol. Specifically, many research studies have shown soluble fiber to reduce the level of LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol” that has been shown to play a significant role in arterial blockage) in the blood serum without lowering the level of HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) [6]. Eating oranges can help to reduce your bad cholesterol level.

My Favorite Ways to Eat and Drink Oranges

Oranges are best consumed raw, since they will lose some of their nutrient value when cooked. I most enjoy eating them raw, slice by slice. Oranges are very good in cottage cheese and in yogurt, as part of a healthful breakfast. Of course, orange juice is commonly enjoyed at breakfast time. But oranges are an ingredient in a wide variety of sweet and savory recipes, as well. Orange chicken is perhaps the most renowned, but oranges or orange juice are found in ham glazes, in recipes for poultry and pork and fish, corned beef and cabbage, sweet potato casserole, marinades, sauces, salsas, and many delicious salads. Of course, desserts are where oranges most frequently find their place, in such delights as sweet breads, cakes, and cobblers. Oranges are delectable in smoothies and are an ingredient in many punch and mixed drink recipes.

Macronutrients And Cholesterol In Oranges

Component
Amount
% Daily Value*
Calories
47
Protein
.94 g
2%
Carbohydrate
11.75 g
4%
Fat
.12 g
0%
Fiber
2.4 g
10%
Sugar
9.35 g
Water
86.75 g
Ash
.44

*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Fat Types In Oranges

Fat Type
Amount
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
.01
0%
Monosaturated Fat
.02 g

*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Vitamins In Oranges

Vitamin
Amount
% Daily Value*
Vitamin C
53.2 mg
89%
Vitamin E
.18 mg
1%
Vitamin A – IU
225 IU
5%
Vitamin D – IU
0 IU
0%
Thiamin – B1
.09 mg
6%
Riboflavin – B2
.04 mg
2%
Niacin – B3
.28 mg
1%
Vitamin B6
.06 mg
3%
Vitamin B12
0 mcg
0%
Folic Acid
0 mg
Food Folate
30 mg

*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Minerals in Oranges

Mineral
Amount
% Daily Value*
Calcium
40 mg
4%
Magnesium
10 mg
3%
Iron
.1 mg
1%
Zinc
.07 mg
0%
Sodium
0 mg
0%
Phosphorus
14 mg
1%
Potassium
181 mg
5%
Manganese
.03 mg
1%
Copper
.05 mg
2%
Selenium
.5 mg
1%

*The daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Works Referenced

[1] Simon, JA. “Vitamin C and Cardiovascular Disease: a Review.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 11, no. 2 (April 1992): 107-125

[2] Pérez-Jiménez J., Neveu V., Vos, F., and Scalbert A. “Identification of the 100 Richest Dietary Sources of Polyphenols: an Application of the Phenol-Explorer Database.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64, no. 3s (2010): S112-S120.

[3] Badimon, L., Vilahur, G. and Padro, T. “Nutraceuticals and Atherosclerosis: Human Trials.” Cardiovascular Therapeutics 28, no. 4 (August 2010): 207-209. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-5922.2010.00189.x

[4] Hirvonen T, Pietinen P, Virtanen M, et al. “Intake of Flavonols And Flavones and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Male Smokers.” Epidemiology 12 (2001): 62–67.

[5] Kurowska, E. M., Spence J. D., et al. “HDL-Cholesterol-Raising Effect of Orange Juice in Subjects with Hypercholesterolemia.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72, no. 5 (November 2000): 1095-1100.

[6] Glore, S., van Treeck, D., Knehans, A., and Guild M. “Soluble Fiber and Serum Lipids: A Literature Review.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 94, no. 4 (April 1994): 425-436.

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